62. Internationales Leipziger Festival für Dokumentar- und Animationsfilm
DOK Leipzig 28 October – 3 November 2019
62nd International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film
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Who Owns the Truth? Aiming the Camera at the Political Opponent


Berlin, September 1992. Shortly before the premiere of JAMMED – LET’S GET MOVING, a leaflet circulates with the heading: "Kein Rederecht, kein Organisationsrecht, keine Propagandafreiheit für Faschisten!!!" ("No right to speak, no right to organise, no freedom to propagandise for fascists!!!").  In the documentary film in question, Thomas Heise had depicted a group of radical right-wing youths from Halle an der Saale. Berlin’s antifascists called for a boycott of the film’s world premiere.


The area between opinion and political stance may not be grey. However, at the very least its boundaries are not clearly delineated, and their exploration tends to trigger acute conflict, conflict with which documentary film also frequently finds – and found – itself confronted.


“With LORD OF THE TOYS and MERKEL MUST GO, recent festival history has included film programming that proved to be polarising. However, that is not a new phenomenon,” according to Ralph Eue, who initiated the two-day Symposium.“ DOK Leipzig has shown politically divisive films for as long as the festival has been around. We want to get to the bottom of such situations and take a look, using diverse films as points of departure, at what sort of strategies filmmakers have pursued when placing political opponents in front of the camera.”


In the scope of seven programming blocks, the overarching question Who Owns the Truth? will be explored from diverse angles in a variety of formats.


Approaching the Political Opponent


The question of the mode of approach chosen for dealing with combative protagonists is central here: “When I started work on my film, of course I didn’t know myself how I was going to say ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ to them. Well, I didn’t even know who exactly was going to be there on the other side,” recounts Thomas Heise regarding JAMMED – LET’S GET MOVING. His approach to the youths depicted in the film is eventually a distanced one, without direct confrontation. Thomas Heise will be one of the guests in attendance for the Symposium.


The method employed by Tamara Trampe and Johann Feindt in their 1992 film THE BLACK BOX is entirely different. In the film, former East German Stasi officer Dr. Jochen Girke is given a chance to speak his piece. As an instructor at the Stasi academy, Girke had a considerable influence on the interrogation methods practiced by the state intelligence service, which often included forcible confinement, sleep deprivation and psychological torture.


Johann Feindt expressed himself thusly regarding the film’s objectives: “The purpose of the conversation was to understand how someone thinks, and when one is not satisfied or can’t come to terms with this thinking, then to provoke the subject so that they might reflect on their own thinking.”


The tactics of  Cuban filmmaker Santiago Àlvarez are more aggressive. In his short film L.B.J., Àlvarez takes on former US president Lyndon B. Johnson in his familiar cynical manner, using the means of confrontational montage, which makes his hostile attitude towards Johnson clearly evident. L.B.J. will serve as the impetus for a discursive presentation at the Symposium treating the significance of disobedience and embracing a combative personal stance for documentary filmmakers.


Reconstructions of Legal Cases


The juxtaposition of two types of documentary research that both take politically charged courtroom proceedings as their point of departure makes up a further thematic block. In AGAIN, an incident is re-enacted inside a film studio in which the residents of the Eastern German town of Arnsdorf subdued a migrant suspected of shoplifting and bound him to a tree with zip ties. The theatrically oriented project pursues the questions of where civil courage ends and vigilante justice begins. 77SQM_9:26MIN documents the thrilling detective work of the research agency Forensic Architecture, which investigated one of the NSU murders. The background: when Halit Yozgat was killed in 2006 inside an internet café in Kassel, an employee of Hessen’s state domestic intelligence service was present, though the individual failed to report this essential fact to the police. With the aid of two models of the café – one in 3D and one rendered in full-scale physical form – Forensic Architecture lays out various realistic scenarios.


In addition, the Peng! performance collective will also be making an appearance at the Symposium, among other guests.


The Symposium is closely linked with further Special Programmes of the festival. For instance, in the programmes for Re-Visions and the Retrospective, one can find a series of films that also feature a direct connection to the question Who Owns the Truth?. The same is true of the film and video clip performance from and with Jürgen Kuttner.




The symposium is funded by the by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung).