Saturday, November 08, 2008

Schwarzfahrer (The Black Rider)

By Pepe Donquart, Germany, 1993, 9 minutes 59 seconds
Won the 1993 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film
Source: You Tube

A fact you should know before watching the short, schwarzfahrer in German means literally “fare-dodger”, but also means “black rider”.



This subtlety in the German language comes into play at the end of the film. Schwarzfahrer is about a black man, or schwarzfahrer, who sits down next to an old woman on the tram. The old woman turns out to be a raging bigot who especially dislikes black people and immigrants. She says that black people are lazy, they smell, and are carriers for AIDS. She goes on like this for quite a sometime, all the while the black man ignores her, looks out the window, and eats his snack.

When the time comes for the tram controller to check everyone’s tickets, both the black man and old woman produce theirs. The black man grabs the old woman’s ticket and pops it into his mouth. He chews nonchalantly and then swallows it. The old woman is left with a dumbfounded look on her face, and when the tram controller asks for her ticket she says that the man ate it. The tram controlled swiftly kicks her off of the tram because she is now a schwarzfahrer as well.

I really enjoyed this short film because of the unexpected actions of the black man. I would have expected him to engage the old woman in a verbal debate, or to just ignore her. I did not expect him to eat her ticket, which turns out to be the most effective method to getting rid of her.

Some of the comments after the video on you tube were arguing about the moral of the story. The two conflicts (both in the film and about the film) are basically the same situation. In the film the black man chooses not to engage the woman in an argument but instead eats her ticket so she is thrown off the tram, and solving his problem. The people commenting on the film don’t seem to understand this. These people choose to argue with each other and call each other names, instead of taking a page out of the black man’s book of dealing with difficult people. Though it would be kind of hard to swallow someone’s computer and/or Internet connection. After watching this film I no longer see the point in arguing with someone so set in their ways that they will never change their minds. Save your breath and take action instead.

It would have been pointless and ineffectual for the black man to verbally defend himself against the old woman, just like it is ineffective to call people names across the Internet. Action needs to be taken, but as I said earlier, in the latter case it would be hard.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

A very interesting piece because of the racial tensions that are common between (for lack of a better world) "Old Europe View" and "New Europe View". This old women keeps spouting filth believing her victims of abuse are too ignorant to understand her. (Old Europe) then in the end their is this solidarity assumed among the passengers that do not speak up for her defense of having all seen her ticket destroyed. (new Europe) that there is a community of acceptance that while not vocal but is prevalent. Instead of responding to the hate, society will late the hate die out without taking effort to respond to it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that they let the hate die out instead of taking the effort to respond to it. the first time I saw the short I thought it was genius, getting the old woman off the tram without lifting a finger. But now I think maybe the passengers should have said something to the old woman to make her stop.

Anonymous said...

But if the passengers did speak up, that film wouldn't be interesting. I like it the way it is. it many not be morally right, but it is entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Overall, good film. I checked out the comments at the end of it on youtube, and I see what you mean about the pointless internet arguments. nothing gets accomplished. you can never convince someone the side they are arguing for is wrong by calling them names. people on the internet need to learn this... fast.

Anonymous said...

I love this film. I thought it was so cool how he just ate her ticket. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

very entertaining short. I was suprised no one tried to quiet down the old woman as well, but I see the point that it wouldn't make it interesting if they had. I think though that if I were on the bus, I would have said something. becasue a lot of what she was saying is blatantly false. it would be easy to call her out on it.

Anonymous said...

We would all like to think we would stand up against injustice if the situation arose, but how much of us actually do. Maybe the film isn't really about how to successfully deal with racists people, but how people ignore it instead of stopping it.

Anonymous said...

I agree. It seemed that the passengers didn't want to stand up to the old woman for one reason or another. I think that is the point of the film. It is a comment on how people stay quiet when they shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

I think that is part of it, but the other part is what people said before. that the only effective (and rather entertaining) way to deal with people like that is through an action like eating her ticket effectively kicking her off the tram.

Anonymous said...

you could say people didn't speak up in the black man's defense, but they also didn't speak up for the old woman either. in both cases, maybe someone should have (even if the old woman deserved to get kicked off).

I like the play on words of black rider. It brought the film full circle.

ratheesh said...

കറുത്തവനും ഭൂമിയുടെ അവകാശിയാണ്. അവനും തന്റെ ഇടം ഭൂമിയിൽ ഉണ്ട്. അവനും ജീവിക്കണം. അധിനിവേശത്തിന്റെ പുതിയരൂപം തിരിച്ചറിവിൽ എത്തിക്കാൻ ഈ സിനിമ സംസാരിക്കുന്നു

ratheesh said...

കറുത്തവനും ഭൂമിയുടെ അവകാശിയാണ്. അവനും തന്റെ ഇടം ഭൂമിയിൽ ഉണ്ട്. അവനും ജീവിക്കണം. അധിനിവേശത്തിന്റെ പുതിയരൂപം തിരിച്ചറിവിൽ എത്തിക്കാൻ ഈ സിനിമ സംസാരിക്കുന്നു