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The RAF’s Germany: Terrorism, Politics, Protest

In 1977, a series of terrorist assaults masterminded by the Red Army Faction (RAF) hit West Germany. Left-wing terrorism, culminating in the abduction of industrial leader Hanns-Martin Schleyer and the Lufthansa airplane Landshut, paralyzed public life and initiated an identity crisis that brought a young West German democracy to its breaking point. In the aftermath, German filmmakers from Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Reinhard Hauff to Margarethe von Trotta reflected on this situation in numerous films. In recent years, a younger generation of filmmakers such as Andres Veiel and Christian Petzold has returned to examine the traumatic events of the fateful German Autumn.

This program is co-presented with the Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, Boston. Special thanks to the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University.


April 11 (Friday) 7 pm
Director Reinhard Hauff In Person

Stammheim

Directed by Reinhard Hauff
West Germany 1986, 35mm, color, 107 min.
With Therese Affolter, Peter Danzelsen, Hans Kremer
German with English subtitles

This courtroom drama about the trial of the Baader-Meinhof defendants was the controversial winner of the 1986 Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. Screenwriter and Baader-Meinhof biographer Stefan Aust (Der Baader Meinhof Komplex) based the drama almost completely on the actual trial transcript. Like the events themselves, Hauff creates a milieu that is lurid and occasionally surreal: a courtroom lit by eerie fluorescent lights and menaced by the whirring of an air conditioner, and prison cells that foretell tragedy.

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April 11 (Friday) 9:30 pm

Knife in the Head (Messer im Kopf)

Directed by Reinhard Hauff
West Germany 1978, 35mm, color, 108 min.
With Bruno Ganz, Angela Winkler
German with English subtitles

Dr. Berthold Hoffmann, a scientist, is shot in the head while he is trying to pick up his wife from a political rally. In a long recovery process he has to learn how to walk, talk, speak, and eat again. But his travails are not over. The police, in an attempt to cover up their mistake, brand him a terrorist, while Volker, a left-wing activist and lover of the victim’s wife, wants to use his case for political propaganda by labeling him a "victim of police terror." Buffeted between these forces, Hoffmann becomes a symbol of the German people of the time, paralyzed by the politics of the era and in need of creating themselves anew.

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April 12 (Saturday) 7 pm
April 14 (Monday) 9 pm
Director Andres Veiel In Person April 12

Black Box Germany (Black Box BRD)

Directed by Andres Veiel
Germany 2001, 35mm, b/w and color , 102 min.
With Dr. Rolf E. Breuer, Wolfgang Grams, Traudl Herrhausen
German with English subtitles

Andres Veiel’s documentary steps back into German history to portray the Federal Republic of Germany of the 1970s and 1980s. The country is polarized due to the power struggle between the German state and the Red Army Faction; society is torn, the fronts are irreconcilable. Focusing on the characters of Alfred Herrhausen, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank who was killed in a car bombing in 1989, and Wolfgang "Gaks" Grams, an activist implicated in the crime and killed in a police shoot-out, Veiel uses interviews, archival news footage, and home-movies to portray the times.


April 12 (Saturday) 9:30 pm

Starbuck Holger Meins

Directed by Gerd Conradt
Germany 2002, 35mm, color, 90 min.
German with English subtitles

In this docudrama, Gerd Conradt, a former student friend of Holger Meins, takes an in-depth look at this helmsman of the Baader-Meinhof gang. Meins was arrested as a member of the notorious group in 1972 and was the first prisoner from the Red Army Faction to die as the result of a hunger strike two years later.

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April 13 (Sunday) 7 pm

The State I Am In (Die innere Sicherheit)

Directed by Christian Petzold
Germany 2000, 16mm, color, 106 min.
With Julia Hummer, Barbara Auer, Richy Müller
German with English subtitles

In this fictional account of former terrorists on the run with their innocent teenage daughter, Jeanne and her parents have been leading an underground existence for fifteen years, hiding among the anonymous tourists on the beaches of Portugal. Just when they are about to establish some sort of legal identity for themselves in Brazil, a slight negligence causes everything to fall apart. Jeanne finally claims a right to a life of her own. This study of the moral ambiguity of political actions and the effects of one generation on the next has been favorably compared to Sidney Lumet’s earlier Running on Empty.

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April 13 (Sunday) 9 pm

The Legends of Rita (Die Stille nach dem Schuss)

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff
Germany 1999, 35mm, color, 103 min.
With Bibiana Beglau, Martin Wuttke
German with English subtitles

Rita is seduced into the terrorist movement through her sense of justice and her love for Andi. When the movement begins to fall apart, she goes underground, hiding out in East Germany where she assumes a new identity with the help of a Stasi Secret Service agent and makes a new friend. A report on West German television blows Rita’s cover, however, and she must disappear again. Ultimately, her past catches up with her, just as the Berlin Wall falls and a new era begins.

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April 14 (Monday) 7 pm

The Terrorists (Die Terroristen)

Directed by Philip Gröning
Germany 1992, 35mm, color, 90 min.
With David Baalcke, Stephanie Philipp, Michael Schech
German with English subtitles

This idiosyncratic political film, winner of the Bronze Leopard at Locarno in 1993, focuses on greed and conspicuous consumption, and portrays its terrorist characters as bourgeois—motivated more by a prospective vacation than political conviction. Ideology, the film seems to suggest, is now dead, and its motivations suspect.

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April 15 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Germany in Autumn

Directed by eleven filmmakers
West Germany 1978, 35mm, color, 123 min.
With Hannelore Hoger, Katja Rupé, Hans Peter Cloos

German with English subtitles
This part-documentary, part-dramatization was directed by eleven different makers (Alf Brustellin, Hans Peter Cloos, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Maximiliane Mainka, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Edgar Reitz, Katja Rupé, Volker Schlöndorff, Peter Schubert, and Bernhard Sinkel) and written by thirteen people, including Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll. It portrays the forty-four days in the autumn of 1977 between the kidnapping of industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer and the suicides of Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe. The film evokes the psychological and emotional effects of that tumultuous time and serves as a record of the era.

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April 15 (Tuesday) 9:30 pm

Marianne and Julianne

Directed by Margarethe von Trotta
West Germany 1981, 35mm, color, 114 min.
With Jutta Lampe, Barbara Sukowa, Rüdiger Vogler
German with English subtitles

Closely based on the life of Gudrun Ensslin and her sister, Margarethe von Trotta’s masterpiece zeroes in on the psychological relationship that exists between two sisters, one the editor of a progressive feminist journal (Lampe), the other a committed revolutionary who has been jailed by the police (Sukowa). The Baader-Meinhof era comes to life in this extraordinary melding of the personal and political, where the tension between stands that are either too safe or too shrill comes into sharp relief.

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