Cinema International Presents Stories of Lives Affected by Berlin Wall 30 Years After Its Fall

Sep 12, 2019

Almost thirty years ago, the concrete barrier separating East and West Berlin was torn down. Murray State's Cinema International program will be presenting two films having to do with the Berlin Wall this week and next. Program director, Thérèse Saint Paul, Ph.D., visits Sounds Good to discuss the upcoming screenings.

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989, 28 years after it was built to separate the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) from the West. A dangerous concrete fortress that split families, homes, and towns apart, the Berlin Wall serves as a reminder of the grim consequences of World War I. Just two months ahead of the 30th anniversary of the wall's dismantling, Murray State's Cinema International will present two films centered around the lives of East Berliners longing for the freedom of the West. "We're having an opportunity to reflect on how it was then and how it is now," Saint Paul says. "We're looking forward to discussing with the public who might have gone [to Germany] before the wall fell, maybe more recent times to Berlin, East Berlin, West Berlin. It'd be nice to have their feedback after watching these two movies." 

The first screening will be of Robert Thalheim's Westwind. From the MSU website:

"While training for a sculling championship at a summer camp in Hungary in 1988, East German teenage twin sisters meet young guys vacationing from Hamburg. In the meeting of East and West, the bond between sisters is tested when one falls in love and wants to defect to GDR. One year later, the Berlin Wall fell, making this drama a "non-issue." "Reflecting on German-German history, I feel we are only just at the beginning of a closer examination, of going beyond the great escape dramas and dramas about oppression. Its development depends on such personal stories (Thalheim)."

"It's apparently based on true events, which is quite incredible. It's not one of those great escape dramas about oppression and there's no violence in there, but still, we're entering the lives of two young people...they're on vacation, and as you know, when you lived in East Germany, you could go on vacation to other communist countries, and Hungary was one of them," Saint Paul explains. "Apparently from what we see in the movie, Hungary was less strict than the GDR. So they're on vacation and discovering things they can't have easily in their country, things that are typical products of the West, like LPS, Walkmans, and Western music. It's very appealing to see these differences because we don't think about that."

Westwind will be shown on Thursday, September 12th at 7:30 in the Lake Barkley Room on the third floor of the Curris Center and Saturday, September 14th in the Curris Center Theatre.

The next Cinema International film, The Architects, also follows the life of citizens of East Berlin who desperately wanted the career opportunities only available to West Germany. From the MSU website:

"The architect, Daniel Brenner, is in his late thirties when he receives his first challenging and lucrative commission: to design a cultural center for a satellite town in East Berlin. Together, with old friends he develops a concept which they hope will be more appealing to the public than the conventional and dull constructions common to the German Democratic Republic. 

However, their ambitious plans are once again foiled by their conservative supervisors. As frustration grows, Daniel, who has just taken on the role of the rebel, finds himself increasingly part of the system he wanted to fundamentally change and has trouble keeping his career in balance with his family life; his wife, Wanda, wants to leave for West Germany. Kahana, born in 1949, belongs to the "lost generation" of GDR filmmakers ho only began to make creative headway in the final stages of DEFA's existence, if at all. An extremely obvious simile: both film making and architecture exist at the intersection where artistic aspirations and practical value meet. By depicting Brenner as a failure, Kahane also evokes his own difficulties in the film industry of the GDR."

"This deals with professionals, architects. They want to really focus on the creativity that was, in a way, constrained when you were living in East Germany...as an architect living [in East Germany], you are really excited about what's going on in the West, and you want to create new buildings," Saint Paul says. "But of course, there's a heavy bureaucracy that presents them [from] doing that. It's following these architects, who are trying to do something new and the battles they have to fight with always the looming attraction of defecting to the West. That is very serious. In those days, defecting to the West amounted to big treason. A lot of people died and a lot of people suffered. [The Architects] is a little older, 1990, so it is still very close to the fall of the wall [and] the emotions are still very present."

The Architects will be presented in the Lake Barkley room on the third floor of the Curris Center on Thursday, September 19th and in the Curris Center Theatre on Saturday, September 21st

For more information on MSU Cinema International or upcoming screens, visit the MSU website