Festival [fjúžn] challenges prejudice against foreigners

Visitors can enjoy various stories.

Event poster for festival [fjúžn].Event poster for festival [fjúžn]. (Source: Festival [fjúžn])

Almost 170,000 foreigners lived in Slovakia by the end of the year 2021. The number has grown after the war in Ukraine started and refugees crossed the borders. The festival [fjúžn] bring stories of foreigners living in Slovakia closer to visitors.

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After two years of the pandemic, the 17th edition of the festival takes place in cinemas, theatres and community spaces scattered across Bratislava. The festival opens its gates to visitors between September 19 to September 25.

Visitors can enjoy the program on Festival [fjúžn] both in Slovak and in English.

Overcoming differences

The Milan Šimečka Foundation that is behind the festival, aims to educate people on identity, critical thinking or other cultures with fighting discrimination and prejudice against foreigners in Slovakia.

Given that not many Slovaks have a personal experience with people from different cultures, [fjúžn] tries to find a common ground. All that through discussions, theatre, visual arts, music and many more.

“Our latest research has shown that most Slovaks have stand-offish or dismissive opinion towards people from foreign countries. And that applies even towards people from Ukraine that are similar to us [Slovaks] with culture, language and physical features,” explains Veronika Fishbone Vlčková, the head of the Milan Šimečka Foundation. Furthermore, the research shows that personal experience and mutual learning about each other helps to overcome the prejudice.

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Finding a common ground makes it easier to understand that foreigners are part of Slovak society, since they are neighbors, friends, colleagues and in some cases, family members.

Building trusting relationships

This year, relationships are [fjúžn]’s leitmotif.

The festival explores not just an identity of a foreigner living in Slovakia, but also their ways of creating friendships and relationships on trust. Visitors can enjoy this gander in an event Humans of [fjúžn], created by Alžbeta Vrzgula that will take place Slovak National Theatre. The event also marks the launch of [fjúžn].

In Humans of [fjúžn] couples, families and friends allow visitors to take a peek into their personal lives. As visitors step into the intimacy of lives of others, they learn how exhausting and difficult it is to form a proper relationship – with or without social media.

“Many of us struggle to establish deeper connections with other people. And honestly, I don’t know whether social media help this or not,” comments one face of [fjúžn] and part of an event, Samanta Lima – a Brazilian living with her sister and a father in Slovakia for a couple of years.

What to look forward to

Learning about other cultures comes in various options. Whether that is exploring foreign cuisine, basking in the lights of a cinema projection, enjoying stories or bopping to music from across the world, festival [fjúžn] gives you the opportunity to choose your own path.

Hungry visitors can taste foreign meals and snacks in the [fjúžn] zone in Dobrý trh in Bratislava, which offers meals from many cultures. While waiting in line for a tasty treat, visitors can entertain themselves and their children in workshops, exhibitions, music and last but not least, meeting foreigners and talking with them. Another stop to swing by if you crave more food is Pistoriho Palác in Bratislava, which closes the festival on its last day.

Artists explore humanity

Events, for example, reveal the aesthetics of current modern art portraying positive lookouts for future. An international team of twelve artists believe that togetherness matters. An optimistic commentary on what would strong communities, public dialogue, trust and cooperation bring to society can be seen in the exhibition STILL HERE, to be found in the Zichy Gallery.

The festival also brings out the good in a time of hardship – the Ľudstvo (Humanity) exhibition dedicated to the theme of war in Ukraine and volunteers helping the refugees who have crossed Slovak borders. The exhibition questions how long the wave of solidarity towards the refugees can last. It makes an inquiry into changing aggression, hateful opinions, prejudice and rejection towards minorities. Visitors can look for an answer on how hate manipulates politics and vice versa.

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