Paul Cooke (University of Leeds) describes his film-education project ‘Using Film to Examine Heritage, Identity and Global Citizenship’: supporting the work of the Bautzen Memorial to Engage New Audiences’
The project worked with the Bautzen Memorial in Germany – formerly the main prison of the East German Secret Police – and the community filmmaking group ‘Landesverband Kinder- und Jugendfilm Berlin’, in collaboration with the British Film Institute film academy, to co-produce a series of films that are to become part of the permanent exhibition at Bautzen and will also be submitted to young people’s film festivals across Europe. Working with a group of young people from the UK and both the former East and West German states, the films drew on the findings of our Care for the Future exploratory award Screening European Heritage. This project explored, amongst many case studies, the ways in which popular culture reflects the changing legacy of the GDR in contemporary Germany. The project team took these finding to the memorial, discussing them with our student participants, the memorial team and Manfred Mattias, a civil rights activist and former inmate in the prison during the 1970s. The students involved were then given training to make short films that allowed them to reflect creatively upon the lessons to be learnt from the GDR dictatorship for contemporary understandings of democracy, global citizenship and the competing ways that notions of ‘heritage’ relate to our sense of identity.
The project has produced a whole range of short films. The project trailer gives an overview of the work we undertook during our time in the prison. Other films will be appearing gradually on line. The first of these, which explores the relevance of GDR history to the present-day refugee crisis has been awarded a prize in the German national broadcaster Pro 7’s youth film festival SchoolsOn
Our main partner was the Bautzen Memorial. It is the aim of the Memorial to keep alive the memory of the crimes of the East German regime as a historical warning for contemporary society. Central to its strategy is to support the political education of young people, both across the former East and West German states and also within a European context. The Memorial is currently focussed on expanding its visitor demographic, which is predominantly East German. It was the aim of this project to support the Memorial in this endeavour, bringing together as participants East and West Germans. Moreover, through the inclusion of UK participants it was also envisaged that the project would help the Memorial to develop internationally-focussed, English language pedagogical material in order to enhance its offering for international visitors.
The project team and Bautzen Memorial also work with Landesverband Kinder- und Jugendfilm Berlin (kijufi), an educational filmmaking charity that aims to turn young people from passive consumers of audio-visual media into active and critical practitioners. The charity offers young people a professional introduction to basic filmmaking techniques and supports them in developing and realising their own projects in small groups. One of kijufi’s strategic aims is to prompt young people to ask questions about society and history by means of their audio-visual practice. The charity has a strong interest in creating such an engagement with the GDR past, a period of history which young people did not witness but which is crucial to understanding contemporary Germany and its role in Europe. Normally working within Berlin and its surrounding areas, the kijufi will benefit greatly from being able to extend its reach through cooperation with the Bautzen Memorial. Finally, the project worked with alumni from the British Film Institute Film Academy, in partnership with the media consultancy REEL Solutions, to provide international filmmaking experiences for young UK filmmakers.