Film: Christiania – 40 Years of Occupation (Robert Lawson, Richard Jackman, 2014, 76’)
Friday 6 March – 19:00
The story of Christiania started in 1971. As a response to the severe housing problems of Copenhagen at the time, some young people squatted an abandoned military basis in an island of the city. And the community founded by the squatters is still working, after more than 40 years.
In this documentary cheerful young and elderly members of the community tell us stories, through which we can gain insight to the island’s history, everyday life and important issues and conflicts of the community. It is impressive to see how they turned the military base into their home, how they are building new flats from caravans in an organic way, and we get an answer to the questions like where they buy everything for their houses if not from Ikea and what they do for a living. Concerning the education of the children the kindergarten teacher gives us an impression. All of these stories are backed with beautiful pictures: ducks by the lake, picnic on the green grass, mural paintings and decorated garbage trucks.
But parallel to this idealistic picture difficulties are arising. The hard-drug problems of the seventies caused a severe crisis but the community finally pushed out the dealers. The police chief of Copenhagen and an officer „in charge of” Christiania is interviewed. While the community has existed for 40 years, conflicts with the police and other authorities arise periodically mostly because of the open hashish trade on the streets, the absolute dominance of community property (especially of flats), the questionable legal situation of the island, or other smaller scale issues like the violation of the Building Code.
Despite the tense situations Christiania lives on! The community of the is-land knows something: even if it is time consuming, the consensus-based decision-making is working, and it makes the decisions legitimate for long term. Their way of fighting with the police, mostly in a non-violent way using the arsenal of humor seems to be an effective strategy. The survival of Christiania is probably due to the commitment of the inhabitants and to the fact that the Danish public has always stood by Christiania when police attacks proliferated. The openness of the surrounding society in periods of peace is also likely to contribute to the blooming of the island.