Re-Framing History: Films from behind the Berlin Wall: Silent Country

Germany, colour, 95 min, 1992, DCP

“Silent Country” is not an energetic reckoning-off, it is a tragicomedy. Andreas Dresen only gives a fully energetic display at one point in the film, namely when Erich Honecker's successor Egon Krenz promises that this is the big revolution and the actor Theo is arrested at the same time simply because he has a powerful aerial in his luggage: in other words, nothing has changed. Torsten Merten as Kai Finke occasionally struggles through the film in the same way as Pierre Richard and often prevents the story taking a more intense emotional turn. The form of a comedy may also be an attempted form of self-defence: a director who signs a resolution and then locks it away in a drawer until he is certain that circumstances have really changed could make us rage in anger - or shake with laughter after a span of only three years. That is what Andreas Dresen has decided to do with the film.” (Hans Günther Pflaum)

‘Re-Framing History: Films from behind the Berlin Wall’

The film programme ‘Re-Framing History: Films from behind the Berlin Wall’ presents a portrait of Germany different from the one depicted in international mass media. This series of five films, which stretch from the 1980s until now, the ‘Wende’, the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent 'unification' of the two Germanies opens up another perspective: Germany seen by those whose vision of a united country after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has been compromised by history’s course.Arguably, the country was not “united” - more precisely the West bought out the East by means of the ‘Treuhand’ agency that privatised East German’s state enterprises.
With the recent move of the Cairo Goethe Institute from downtown into its new building in Dokki, which integrated the former East German Embassy, this programme is a timely reminder of the complexity of Germany, which not so recently ago was two countries. This programme seeks to present a counter-cinema to the popular, cliche-ridden 'Ostalgie'-films such as Good-Bye Lenin (2003) and The Life of the Others (2006), which represent the GDR (German Democratic Republic) in either romantic or demonising ways. Deeply moving and politically complex this series of screenings hopes to reanimate a discussion about filmmaking beyond the mainstream consensus.



For its Egyptian audience, ‘Re-Framing History: Films from behind the Berlin Wall’ seeks to provide examples, models and modes of making films from the margins of history. We hope that Egyptian cinephiles and filmmakers who are facing the challenge of making and understanding films in post-revolutionary Egypt, where the enthusiasm of the ’18 days’ has been replaced by a sobering political reality, might find this programme empowering. This screening hopes to be an inspiration for those who struggle with coming to terms with the political crisis on an emotional, intellectual and last but not least filmic level.
The programme starts with the GDR cult film Solo Sunny, a collaboration of Konrad Wolf and Wolfgang Kohlhaase. Produced roughly ten years before the wall came down, the film tells the story of a young singer struggling for happiness and self-fulfilment. Solo Sunny is about and for “people who don't think the world is so simple and whose world suddenly falls apart.” (Konrad Wolf).
’Winter adé' is a wonderfully sensitive documentary of women workers’ life in East Germany produced only months before the Berlin Wall fell. Does the title (‘Good-Bye Winter’), a reference to a famous German folk song, anticipate the events of 1989? Honouring the important work of director Andreas Dresen the programme presents his first and last film about Germany after 1989.
‘Stilles Land’ depicts the typical conflict of the artist persona who is torn between art and revolution. In ‘Als wir träumten’ Dresen takes up the theme of night life which he already explored to great success in his 1999 film ‘Nachtgestalten’ in order to express the free-fall years of 1990s Berlin.
Similarly, Cynthia Beatt waited twenty years to return to her 1989 experimental short film ‘The Invisible Frame’, in which the then still unknown Tilda Swinton follows the Berlin Wall on her bicycle - on the Western side, of course. In 2009 a more mature and equally mesmerising Swinton is back on her bike; this time she is in search of the traces of Germany’s traumatic, repressed history.

Maria Mohr and Maxa Zoller

Programmers’ bios
Maria Mohr is a German artist and film maker living in Berlin and Cairo, working as a film lecturer at German University in Cairo (GUC). After studies of architecture at TU Darmstadt and Ecole d’Architecture de Paris-la-Villette, she graduated in film at University of the Arts Berlin (UDK). Maria received grants by the Academy of the Arts Berlin (ADK), “Villa-Serpentara-Stipendium” 2011 and “Berlin-Stipendium” 2013. From 2011 to 2016 she was member and lately head of jury of the German cultural film fund (BKM). She is member of the German Documentary Association (AG DOK) and founding member of ProQuote Regie. Selected works: COUSIN COUSINE (Cousins, D 2005, shortfilm, German Shortfilm Award, 3sat Prize Oberhausen); BRUDER SCHWESTER (Brother Sister, D 2010, feature length documentary, Competition DOK Leipzig, Doc Alliance Selection); DOUBLE PROJECTION and WALKING BOUNDARIES (2014, performances in collaboration with Jutta Eberhard and Academy of the Arts Berlin).

Dr. Maxa Zoller works as the Art Basel film curator and is a film and art lecturer at the American University in Cairo. With a Ph.D. in experimental film Maxa taught at Goldsmith’s College and Sotheby’s Institute London before moving to Cairo in 2013. She is a prolific researcher and writer and published her texts in several exhibition catalogues with MIT, IB Tauris, JRP-Ringier and Hatje Verlag.

Andreas Dresen

Directed by: Andreas Dresen
Contact: https://www.goethe.de/ins/eg/de/