A documentary that recounts the Cold War struggles of Mario Röllig, UNC Charlotte “CLAS Eyewitness in Residence” premiered in February, 2016 during the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. The film includes scenes filmed during a visit Röllig made to UNC Charlotte in 2014.
Der Ost-Komplex (The GDR Complex) tells the story of Röllig, a gay former citizen of the GDR who was arrested in Hungary in 1987 for attempting to flee the Republic. Röllig now gives talks about his experiences of incarceration, interrogation and torture in Hohenschönhausen Prison.
Röllig and film director Jochen Hick shared insights and excerpts from the film with audiences at UNC Charlotte this spring, including one event on Thursday, Feb. 25 and another on Monday, April 18. Both were free events and open to the campus and broader community.
“In confrontations with sympathisers of the former GDR, who accuse Röllig of being biased and distorting history, it becomes quite apparent that the struggle for who has the say in interpreting the history of the GDR is highly subjective, taboo-ridden and loaded with trauma,” festival organizers say about the film.
Also known as Berlinale, the festival is one of the world’s most prestigious, along with Venice and Cannes. Berlinale comprises about 400 films of varied genre, length and format. The festival is divided into nine sections and a number of special presentations. Films shown often are having their world or European premieres.
This film about Röllig is part of the Panorama section and aligns with the section’s mission of building bridges. Auteur films, or movies with an individual signature, make up the heart of the offerings in this section. UNC Charlotte’s Anabel Aliaga-Buchenau, associate professor of German, will join Röllig and Hick in Berlin to lead discussions following the premiere and subsequent screenings of the film.
Röllig will be at UNC Charlotte all semester in partnership with the Department of Languages and Culture Studies, with financial support from a donor.
Hick is visiting Charlotte in late February. A director and producer of mainly independent feature films and documentaries, Hick founded the production company Galeria Alaska Productions. He has previously been invited to show 10 of his films in the Berlinale program during the past 25 years.
At the February 25 event, Röllig, Hick and Aliaga-Buchenau showed excerpts of the film and additional footage from Röllig’s 2014 visit to UNC Charlotte and Charlotte. They also provided remarks and answer questions about the film. The event was held at 6:30 p.m. in Rowe 130 on the university’s main campus.
Röllig’s visit will include additional presentations in classes at UNC Charlotte and area high schools. He is part of a spring break trip to former East Berlin, titled “The Ghosts of Berlin: in the Footsteps of a Former Stasi Prisoner.”
The film includes footage of a November 2014 visit Röllig made to UNC Charlotte for the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The German Language and Culture Foundation hosted that event in partnership with UNC Charlotte College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Languages and Culture Studies Department.
Word: Lynn Roberson | Image Courtesy of Jochen Hick