Stephan Weinert’s Die Familie takes a long and very patient look at the situation of those left behind when their sons, brothers, husbands or fathers were shot trying to cross the Berlin Wall.
The time factor is important. This could have been edited to produce a much less distended piece. But this documentary is all about time: how no amount of time will ever take away the pain of loss or paper over the cover ups of those who shot; how pain changes over time to accommodate different degrees of anger, sorrow, despair; how time is sometimes just another day to get through; how some people need longer than others just to get the words out.
So the cumulative effect is one almost of slow-motion as those left behind look past the camera into a sometimes distant past, smoke a cigarette, examine the sites where their loved-ones died. Is this how time feels to those in deep and abiding shock? Is this struggle to express yourself what happens when instead of helping you deal with trauma, you’re faced with more lies and inhumanity? Is this mute despair a reaction to the kind of ‘justice’ that took the form of a two-year sentence on probation served to border guards who took refuge in the carrying out of orders ‘from above’.
This is not a film about the intellectuals of dissent, about those that stayed to write songs or books or waited for an exit visa. This film is about those unable to wait and unable to talk about systemic despair. Whose only outlet was flight and who left behind silence. This second film from Stephan Weinert has given a voice to these silences. A halting, stumbling voice – but one that needs to be heard.
Die Familie (The Family) is showing with English subtitles at Sputnik Kino, Hasenheide 54, Kreuzberg. Starts November 7