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EXBlicks: Open Souls

INTERVIEW. At the next EXBlicks, Volker Meyer-Dabisch’s documentary "Open Souls" shines a light on the turbulent lives of two Berliners with similar backgrounds. Catch it on Monday, March 16, 8:30pm at Lichtblick Kino.

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At the next EXBlicks, Volker Meyer-Dabisch’s documentary Open Souls shines a light on the turbulent lives of two biracial Berliners born to German mothers and American soldier fathers. Catch it next Monday, March 16, 8:30pm at Lichtblick Kino.

Exploring the shared experiences and challenges of protagonists Alberto and Rudi, both fathered by black GIs in occupied Germany, Meyer’s film is one of oppression, addiction, rejection, and ultimately the pursuit of stability. Join us in cooperation with realeyz.tv for the film with English subs, a director Q&A and of course, complimentary wine afterwards.

How did you come to make this film?

It was a kind of an accident. I made a film about Görlitzer Park before [The Royalty of Görlitzer Park], and one of my protagonists, Alberto, the frisbee player, told me that he was due in court soon, regarding a case about his sister. He’s searching for his sister. I asked him why, and then he started telling me these crazy stories about the abuse he faced as a child, and he tells me about how his sister was adopted into a different family from him, and they didn’t tell him which one she went to.

And your second protagonist, Rudi?

I was looking for another case because they told me there were many – about 3000 children born under those circumstances. I searched on the internet and I found an article about Rudi in German. He’d lived at the Salvation Army in Berlin, so I asked them about him but they told me he wasn’t here anymore. Eventually I found him in London through the project he’s working on now [the homeless support network Streetlytes].

Alberto feels that the German authorities were preventing him from finding his sister. Do you think he’s right about that, or is he paranoid?

I think the truth is probably in the middle somewhere. When I tried to talk to the officials dealing with his case, nobody wanted to deal with me. They said, “Oh, we don’t have that information.” So I understand how difficult these institutions can be. Alberto says, “It’s my sister, she loves me, she wants to find me,” so he can’t accept what they are telling him, that his sister doesn’t want contact with him. The authorities don’t know what to do with my subjects. Take Rudi, he was born in Germany but he isn’t German, it’s not on his birth certificate, and he’s not American, so he had to make a big effort to be recognised. He had to go to the press and make a big deal, and he had the chance because he did have this American tie.

Have your protagonists met? In the documentary, Rudi was in London, and Alberto here in Berlin.

Yes, when it was first premiered in Berlin, Rudi came [from London] and it was nice to see them together. Unfortunately Rudi doesn’t speak much German, and Alberto not much English, but it was great all the same.

Do you think the stigma of being a “child of shame” is ever going to subside?

There are two other films on this topic, one American production and one German production. For 60 years, there was no discussion on a public forum on this topic, then three at once. Why? I don’t know. But that was a few years ago, we are back to not discussing it. I think nobody will anymore because there are so many problems for the media to speculate on that it just doesn’t have the same appeal as, say, ISIS. So without pubic discussion I can’t see how it will be resolved. We may have to wait till that generation is gone.

Rudi’s story is one of addiction and rejection amongst other themes. Did you learn anything about addiction while filming?

I didn’t think that someone so heavily addicted to cocaine and other substances could make such a dramatic turnaround. But he did it, and it’s unbelievable. He didn’t know why he developed this dependency on drugs, now he knows it’s probably because of the abuse he faced as a child.

It’s your second film that focuses on Görlitzer Park. What’s special to you about Görlitzer?

I’ve lived nearby for 20 years. There have always been lots of interesting people and stories in that park but now it’s a bit boring. It’s the same thing, drugs. It didn’t used to be about that, when I made the last film there were people selling drugs, yes, but the park had lots more to offer. It still does, but it can be harder to find.

The documentary is almost four years old. Did Alberto find his sister? Is Rudi still working with his project?

Yes, unfortunately Alberto is still looking for his sister. I haven’t spoken with Rudi for a while, but I know he is still running the Streetlytes project.