Born into it

OUT NOW! OPEN SOULS follows two of Germany's 'brown babies', a seldom discussed topic.

German mothers of children fathered by African-American soldiers in the 1950s were encouraged to give up their “brown babies” for foreign adoption: German politicians claimed that the climate was “unsuitable” for children of mixed racial descent. All too often, the result was isolation and abuse. When Kreuzberg-based director Meyer-Dabisch (see interview) came across one such victim, he set about looking for a companion case. Amazingly, he found one.

Open Souls combines the stories of Alberto and Rudi, who were born in the mid-1950s in Bavaria, in the same prison, and delivered by the same midwife. Alberto endured years of suffering at the hands of his German grandfather, in foster homes and special schools. He has not, to this day, succeeded in locating his sister (who went into a different home) but remains determined to find her – his only hope for family.

Rudi was sent to the still racially segregated US for adoption, beginning a 30-year downward spiral of drug abuse and crime after he learned of his adoption in his late teens. Surprisingly, Open Souls is a positive register of the extremes that mark human existence. Alberto and Rudi have survived, with dignity, and Meyer-Dabisch lets them tell their story without interference. We hear and see individuals talking almost to themselves, revealing intermittent despair and lighting up when we least expect it in an unusual and effective look at a dark chapter of German history.

Open Souls | Directed by Volker Meyer-Dabisch (Germany, UK, 2011) Documentary with Rudi Richardson, Alberto Seixas Santos. Starts December 15.