EUtopia

Two Polish workers die in the fire of a transport company near Brussels. Who is to blame? By unravelling the layers of responsibility, this film exposes the dark reality of the trucking industry and its dividing effects on European politics.

  • Bryan Carter
    Director
  • Bryan Carter
    Writer
  • Bryan Carter
    Producer
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Les Routes de la Discorde
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Genres:
    Investigative
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 2 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 1, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    50,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
    Belgium
  • Country of Filming:
    Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland
  • Language:
    Dutch, English, French, Italian, Polish, Slovak
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
Director Biography - Bryan Carter

Bryan Carter is an independent television journalist and filmmaker. His work focuses mainly on EU politics, labour and human rights.

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Director Statement

April 2012 : dozens of men are sleeping in a rundown warehouse near Brussels. Suddenly, a fire breaks out accidentally, killing two and injuring four others. Authorities soon discover that the victims are Eastern European transport workers, hired by a local company, through a subsidiary office in Poland. One of the deceased, Pawel Lepecki, was a cheerful young man who left behind a fiancée and a loving family.

Fast forward to the present: the company owner is facing prison for human trafficking charges. But is he the only one that must be held accountable for this tragedy? What about the manufacturers, the retailers, the freight forwarders, the politicians?

Shot over three years, in twelve different countries, from desolate parking lots to glossy corporate offices, from the green fields of Italy to the industrial ports of the Netherlands, the film’s quest for answers brings the viewer on a truck ride across Europe’s highways. As the layers of responsibility are gradually revealed, so is the dark reality of the multi-billion euro road freight industry that thrives on greed and exploitation.

A sector that was once romanticised by many as an opportunity for travel and adventure is now only a shadow of itself. The millions of truck drivers roaming across Europe are increasingly frustrated with life on the road, where tighter deadlines and worsening conditions oblige them to drive farther, faster, longer.

Drivers like Sergio, an Italian militant determined to defend his livelihood, even if that means taking his fight to the highest spheres of European politics; Or Viorel, a disillusioned Romanian family man who delivers cargo across a continent he has lost all faith in; And Jimelle, a Filipino trucker who escapes poverty in his home country but quickly discovers another harsh reality in Europe.

Back in Poland, the grieving mother of Pawel believes his death was also the indirect consequence of the economic inequalities splitting the EU between East and West, forcing young workers like her son to leave home in search of a better life.

In the last 20 years, Western European transport companies have used different schemes in order to outsource their activities to Eastern Europe in a quest for cheap labour. It’s commonly called ‘social dumping’. But contrary to widespread beliefs, it didn’t start with the 2004 enlargement to countries of the former Soviet Union. It’s mainly the unintended consequence of a unique project that began on the ashes of World War II and progressively morphed into a single market. Showcasing archive images from 1950 to the 1990s, this film highlights how this collective endeavour, which we now call the European Union, guarantees the freedom to provide services, like transport, but falls short of resolving wage and social inequalities between its Member states.

In reality, one person’s competitive advantage is another person’s unfair competition.

Ultimately, this contradiction creates legal loopholes, inflames debates in the European Parliament, pits truck drivers against one another and fuels the rhetoric of nationalists across Europe.