Opening 19 Jan 2012
Erwin Strauss (himself), author of How to Start Your Own Country and Basement Nuke: the Consequences of Cheap Weapons of Mass Destruction, encapsulates the premise for his readers: drop out, start a micro-nation, keep a low profile and no one can drop a nuke on them. Whether the six micro-nations we visit read his books is not self-evident.
Established first was the Principality of Sealand in 1967, permanent population two, six miles off the coast of Suffolk, England on a WWII armament tower. Sitting in international waters, a 1958 U.N. Law of the Sea made independence possible. Prince Roy – fisherman and pirate radio broadcaster – bought it so he and his family could live their own lives. Presently, family members fishing sustain the principality.
Next up: Principality of Hutt River, Australia, independent since 1970, permanent population 20. The royalty cater to tourists, perform (knighting) ceremonies, and report there are some 200 diplomats and 30,000 citizens, with more applying i.e. paying everyday. The camera shows us desolate landscape with a lot of junk cars, trucks and farm equipment, and road-kill.
Third story: Federation of Damanhur – Temple of the Pyramid in Piedmont, Italy, independent since 1975, permanent population 1,000. The temple, 30 meters below ground, is fantastic – if the camera had stopped moving we could have seen more. Their university, guided tours, spiritual treatments, tree house village retreat, tourists et al seem to sustain this principality.
Fourth: ZeGG in Belzig, 80 km from Berlin, independent since 1991, permanent population 80. Free Love & Couple’s Love: Established by South African missionaries in 1918, given to the Nazis in 1933, after the war it became an East German Stasis training camp about how to seduce high placed foreign officials’ secretaries. Guesthouses, summer camp, sex-therapy groups, and sex rooms available in the forest and near the sauna – ZeGG sustains itself.
Fifthly: Christiania Free State in Copenhagen, Denmark, independent since 1971, permanent population 1,000. Hand-built housing, an art atelier, sport and youth clubs, info café, hashish and a “pushers” street, political and apolitical, homeless and nonconformist residents. A city within a city, demonstrations outside its boundary often end up inside, with police intervention. How do they sustain themselves?
Lastly: Swimming Cities of Serenissima, Route in 2009 – Ankaran, Slovenia to Venice, Italy, independent since 2006, permanent population 30. Youngish Americans sail three junk-boat-rafts: self-described pirates, artists and rebels who live a “spectacle” lifestyle, they have coursed rivers in the US. Mission Status: health, stable; capital, broke; build the boats, complete; navigate the Adriatic Sea, complete; take Venice today. They do.
Production values: motion graphics quite good, sound good, editing jumpy as is the camera depending on which (of three) cameraman; Alexander Hacke’s original music good. Stylistic approach inconsistent and disorienting; Title cards – nearly non-existent, same type-font used for subtitles, so when dialogue subtitles are also on screen very confusing. Written and directed by Paul Poet. Impression: I cannot conceive why this film was picked-up for cinematic release; Empire Me is better suited for art houses with its limited audience appeal. (Marinell Haegelin)