The low-budget documentary In the Land of Bears (2012) is a certain breaking point in the artistic practice of Nika Autor, an artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Slovenia. She has always been determined to explore growing global social and economic injustice seen through her immediate surroundings. In her previous works she has followed destinies of so called “illegal” immigrants and has dealt with the conditions of local and/or migrant workers who were affected by the ongoing financial crisis. In the Land of Bears thus showcases the brutal reality of migrant workers who were employed in once flourishing construction sector. But all across Europe as well as in Slovenia the bubble has exploded and several major companies were declared bankrupt. The collapse that grew on ever increasing greed and shortsightedness of financial industry first affected the weak and deprivileged, ie the migrant workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina who (even before the crisis) worked for minimal wages but were now left without salaries and any legal protection.
Autor created a brilliant first-hand report of the living and working conditions of the people who were first plundered by corporations and then left behind by the state (of Slovenia). The storyline follows the sacked worker turned activist Armin Salihović who guides the artist with a camera to the modest rooms, containers and overcrowded houses where workers live in poor conditions, physically close but mentally far away from the society which hosts and explores them. Living costs in Slovenia have often exceeded their financial capacity and thus they have been forced into self-marginalisation. By revealing these anomalies of everyday life that the majority of (still) privileged people do not see that the artist points out the inevitability of change as well as she forecasts dystopian future of Europe and the world for its lack of empathy and righteousness. One can therefore only agree with the Hungarian philosopher Gáspár Miklós Tamás who recently stated that “nowadays our notion of nation applies only to the middle class while all the others are not perceived as people; they are perceived only as problems.”
You can find the film In the Land of Bears with English subtitles HERE
“In 2010 and 2011, the huge Slovenian construction sector, which employed more than 70,000 foreign workers, collapsed, leaving behind it debts, halted construction activities and exploited and unpaid workers. Most employed workers came from the territory of former Yugoslavia, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the government silently watched the exploited, underpaid, unpaid and humiliated workers, the accumulation of wealth on one side led to the accumulation of indignation and resistance on the side of the exploited and those struggling against exploitation. Because the competent state bodies, the mass media and the broader public had failed, the self-organisation of workers was inevitable. They demanded better living conditions, the payment of unpaid salaries and social security contributions, equal opportunities, etc. Armin, Aigul and Esad take us through particular stories and specific areas of work (activism and the construction industry), making them general and universal.”