what is a walkabout?

By the Australian aboriginals there is a temporal dimension, which is suspended between the present and the mythical time of the creation, during which the ancestors have expressed (=created) everything through songs, gestures, words. The aboriginals retrace the ways of the mythical beings - the ancient “Ways of the Songs”, which are visible only to their eyes - repeating the words and the sounds of the ancestors who, during interminable travels through an empty desert continent, made the world exist by singing it. Every stone, every source, every water point, spot of eucalyptuses, represents a concrete trace of a sacred drama: the all continent can be read like a musical score. Things only exist when they are perceived and named. Still today, every baby inherits one section of song for birth’s right. Its strophes are an inalienable private property and they delimit its territory. It has the right to lend them along one “way of the song” and to acquire the right of passage from its neighbors, receiving aid and hospitality. The man who leaves in walkabout (the ritual travel) walks and sings the strophes of its ancestors, without changing neither a word, neither a note. In this way he re-creates the Created. By naming it, he makes the world exist, naming it, he orients himself in the world.


When I read for the first time what the walkabout of the aboriginals is, I immediately thought of me, living in different countries and different towns. I thought of the meaning that I give to the places I have lived in, of the reference points I’ve found there and then lost, of the languages I’ve learned, of terms, words and meanings which bundle in the mind, confusing and enriching the ability to express myself. In the same way the places, the cities, the memories, the ways are overlapped in my memory. How do I orient myself? Where am I going? How coming back? And where to? Is this kind of travel also a ritual one?

project description

documentary project by Patrizia Monzani
estimated running time: 52'
shooting format: DV

The idea is to realise a documentary about a “new” kind of emigrants: those who leave for a short period, and then decide not to go back or postpone the decision from year to year, without being able to explain why. Young well-educated people move and then move again and again, without getting younger.
Like me: I left Italy for a six-month university exchange and stayed more than 4 years in Paris, than I moved to Chemnitz, in Germany, and four years ago to Berlin and now to Barcelona. What happens to our roots, to our lives, in our interpersonal relationships? Has a new social status been born, is it what this new Europe wishes? When can we speak of integration and what does it mean? The fact of being a foreigner seems to grant more freedom, but non-integration is the other face of that freedom… I think that it is fundamental to ask ourselves which kind of changes, in the lives of people and in our society in general, are brought about by this new emigration flux; which kind of integration and enrichment turn out, in terms of thought and culture.
In order to inquire into the various modalities of living in a foreign country, I’ll not just collect and document different experiences (4 or 5 people), but moreover express them in a visual way. I intend to underline the common feelings the characters have about some places, towns, periods of their life, even if they lived in different countries, and they have taken different decisions about leaving, going back or staying where they are (decisions that of course are never definitive ones); but I’m also going to differentiate their worlds and visions of the world in a stylistic form. Places, cities, houses, objects will be present in the interviews and in the filmic narration, but always filtered through the character’s eyes.


Maria – Playing with spaces and objects

Maria is deep and original, always asking herself the reasons of her choices and the meaning of things, always explaining them through images; her way of describing reality gives space to visual experimentations. I intend to let me guide by her imagination in order to express her feelings, fears and choices: I’ll let her walk in a puppet-flat, made of kitsch postcards of the towns of her past and present; I’ll shot images of Berlin and bound them together like in a kaleidoscope.
The places she is living in - towns, countries, flats, but also the objects, are very important to her. I’ll give a life of their own to those objects and places, animating them in stop-motion, at her place as well as outside, on the streets.

“It is very difficult to say where I do feel at home… very difficult. When you have lived in many different places, this is also part of you. I think I’ll never have a home that is really home. I will have a “divided home”, a home but here and there.
“Sometimes I say that I want to go back to Spain, that my roots are there. But actually, I don’t believe in this idea of roots, I feel that I’m near to the Spanish culture, of course because I was born there. It means that’s easier for me to understand what’s going on around me, and it gives me a feeling of stability. On the other hand, when you know everything there is no space for new things, for surprises.
“The world that I still have in Madrid is like a puzzle. When I go back, my place is always there, but I feel like I have another “something” that came out, so my piece doesn’t really fit in the puzzle anymore.
“I feel good in Berlin, it’s a town a like very much, in which I can identify, much more than Paris. But I think that sometimes life is really difficult here. It was sometimes difficult in Paris too, and also in Madrid, of course… I don’t know… there is always something to complain about; it’s the human nature - or maybe just mine. I have the feeling that I live in many different worlds at the same time. In every world there are things that I really appreciate and things that I cannot stand. But I like it; I like this range of possibilities.”

(from a research-interview, originally in French)

Maria comes from Madrid. She moved to Paris for a six months university exchange, with a grant; she just wanted to live abroad for a while. She got a grant and decided to stay. She finished her studies there, and she felt in love with a German guy. After a couple of months in Bologna for an internship she came back to Paris and then soon moved to Berlin with him. Here it was very difficult for her to integrate, she knew only her boyfriend and they spoke French with one another. After a year she got another grant and she learned German. When she had been accepted to a master degree, she discovered to be pregnant. They got a daughter, but split off soon after. Now she has just finished her studies, and she hopes to find a real job, after so many years spent at university, as a curatrix of exhibitions and of film retrospectives. She plans to go back to Madrid in a couple of years, before that her child begins to go to school, but she is very afraid about it. She is now 35.

Elise – Re-creating a world

Elise expresses herself with naïf full-of-colours paintings, which will also be protagonists of the film. Her way of talking is as naïf and dreamy as her works, and I mean to respect it and to value it in the interviews. But she is also a strong and determinate person, making her dreams of leaving always true, looking for the colours of her paintings in reality, with her husband and the two cats fallowing her everywhere.
I’ll enter into her paintings, as if I were entering another world and work on them, moving figures and objects, re-creating a space - “her” space - and animating it, superposing different paintings, recurrent objects and characters. I also intend to work on colour and light, as those elements are very important for her, in order to give a visual form to her impressions and feelings regarding periods of her life and places where she lived.

“The very first time I went to Europe I was sixteen, I went to Holland. I was an exchange student. I just wanna to leave Australia, I just thought that it was really far away from the rest of the world.
“I did this painting when I came to Europe the second time by myself. I felt like I was filling my way around the world blindfolded, because I was just going around with no particular plan. At that point I found myself in Italy. And there I met Serge.
“In Australia during three years we had so many dreams about Europe and how beautiful it is… But it happens to us everywhere… that we have dreams and than leave.
“When we got married and we came here, for the first five years I didn’t call Australia home and I didn’t go back. I met other Australians, and they said I’m going home or I go home every two years and I felt that I didn’t have a home at all, in that time. But when I went back for a couple of months, I realised that it was home, and now I would call it home because I think I will land up there one day. It is very hard to emigrate from another continent and make yourself at home. And I’ve been trying… like from country to country.”
“…you carry yourself around wherever you go, and when you go to bed at night you still have the childhood memories of the bed you used to sleep in.”

(from a research-interview, originally in English and Italian)

Elise comes from Australia and she came to Europe more than ten years ago. She is the youngest of nine children, five women – they all moved away from the continent – and four men – who are still living there. She met Sergio in Italy, they felled in love and she decided to stay. They lived in Venice and in Perugia, but she wanted to finish her studies, so they moved to Melbourne. There she was always dreaming of coming back to Europe and after three years they moved back to the little town near Venice, where Sergio comes from. But she was unhappy there, she couldn’t find a job, she was the only foreigner, she felt lonely. So they moved to Paris, the city of her painter’s dreams. They had no money at all and it was really hard to live there. After three years she found Paris just too expensive and aggressive, even if she had loved it. So they moved to Berlin, because they had friends here. But the German winter is too long and cold; she couldn’t paint with such a grey light. She says that she will go back to Australia when she’ll be older, one day. For the moment, after three years in Berlin, they have just moved to Rome, where she is looking for a job as an English teacher. She is 36.

Lucia – Listening to reality

Lucia finds reality fascinating. She is passionate, lively and optimistic. She finds poeticalness in little things, imagining the stories that hide behind everything and everyone, noticing things others won’t see. I’ll walk with her and take shots of the town, interlacing the interviews with surreal moments, which we will put on stage together. I also intend to work with the sound, mixing different noises, voices, and idioms - of her past and of her present. The appropriation of the space of the present (the city space) and the presence of the past in the places of the present are particularly important to her. And to me.

“When I moved to New York I immediately felt home. I knew nobody, I was alone, I had never been there before but I was so free. I was myself. I had the possibility to be myself, probably for the first time.
“I have never had the same feelings for Berlin. Maybe you can have such feelings only once in your life, or only for one place. I’m very happy I have got the chance to feel like I felt in New York. It’s probably also because of the age, I was 21 when I first arrived there.
“Where do I feel at home? I do feel home where my family is. I could be everywhere on this world and when I’m with the people which are important to me, I’m at home. So I would say that Berlin is actually my home… at the moment.
“When I go back to Spain the first thing I notice is the noise. Noise. Noise. Noise. And people talking at the same time. This makes me always very nervous. I’m happy to be there, but I’m nervous. And moreover I do feel dissociate, because I’m the person that I’m now but at the same time I’m the person I was. Or that I was supposed to be.”

(from a research-interview, originally in Spanish)

Lucia comes from a little village in Spain. She always wanted to leave, and when she was 17 she moved to Madrid. She began university there and got a three months grant for New York. She immediately felt in love with the town. She felt free. At the first university course she attended to, she was asked her name and said “Lucia”. Since then, this is her name. She lived there seven years, worked there, met her actual husband - a German man, and had her first daughter. They didn’t want to grow a child in New York; she didn’t want to go back to Spain. After the 11th of September 2001 they moved to Berlin. They had a second daughter, who just began kindergarten. That’s why they will probably stay here “for a couple of years more”. She is 33.