Film programme and discussions with a focus on Belarus

Curated by Marina Naprushkina and Agnieszka Kilian


Stories, continued

Films with absent protagonists, after the GDR, after 1990

Curated by Anna Zett and Philipp Goll


Critical Conditions

Fields of action in the environmental crisis

Curated by Sarnt Utamachote, Malve Lippmann, Rosalia Namsai Engchuan and Pia Chakraverti-Würthwein & Eirini Fountedaki


Curated by Eirini Fountedaki, Cornelia Lund & Holger Lund (fluctuating images), Philip Rizk and Shohreh Shakoory


Curated by Popo Fan, Tobias Hering, Malve Lippmann, Branka Pavlovic, Can Sungu, Sarnt Utamachote and Florian Wüst


Director Aylin Kuryel and Fırat Yücel Turkey 2019

57 min, OV with English subs

Followed by a talk with Aylin Kuryel and Fırat Yücel

Director Furqan Faridi, Ashfaque EJ, Shaheen Ahmed and Vishu Sejwal India 2019

43, OV with English subs

Followed by a talk with Shivramkrishna Patil and Susanne Gupta



Contract Labor and Internationalism in the GDR

Curated by Tobias Hering and Sun-ju Choi


The fact that Germany hadn’t necessarily developed into a more free and open society in the years following reunification was realized in particular by the estimated 150,000 migrant workers living in the GDR at the time. From the beginning of the 1950’s, workers and students had already been coming into the GDR on the basis of treaties in the name of “socialist friendship” and had contributed to the wealth of society. Although the GDR was hardly the paradise that it purported to be, many of those from Vietnam, Mozambique, Chile, Algeria, Korea and other countries did manage to settle in the GDR – or at least to find temporary arrangements. The verbal and physical violence, which accompanied the hasty removal of their rights post-1989, briefly highlighted their presence, though it was immediately stigmatised under the heading “foreigner problem”. But racist violence and exclusion did not appear first in 1989, it had already been an everyday experience of many people in the GDR. Just as seldomly was it admitted that vows for “international solidarity” – alongside the often opportunist motives behind them – were taken at face value by many, and that the “internationalist” foreign policy of the GDR did offer real opportunities to East Germans and foreigners alike.

On the one hand, the program seeks to reconstruct the public perception of migrants from the Archives of DEFA and GDR Television and, in doing so, to discover at least traces of reality which exist beyond the ideologically standardised patterns. On the other hand, the program will give space and time for current artistic and activist stances, which deal with the topics from the perspective of the second generation of today.

Funded by Berliner Landeszentrale für politische Bildung.

Sun-Ju Choi is an author and filmmaker. She studied literature at the University of Cologne and screenwriting at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. She is a founding member of korientation e.V. - Network for Asian-German Perspectives and a board member of ndo (neue deutsche organisationen). She currently works as deputy executive director of the Neue deutsche Medienmacher*innen e.V..

Tobias Hering is a freelance film curator and journalist, who recently presented at bi'bak the programme Freundschaft auf Zeit (2019) on contract work and internationalism in the GDR. He is currently responsible for the archive project re-selected at the Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen. In this context he is researching Amos Vogel's work as the Short Film Festival's US correspondent in the 1960s.

To the events


KuirFest Berlin 2019

Queer Feminist Rebels

Curated by Pembe Hayat KuirFest / Pink Life QueerFest, Esma Akyel and Esra Özban




Director Afraa Batous Syria, Lebanon 2015

82 min., OV with English subs

Followed by a talk with Lisa Jöris and Afraa Batous



Narratives and Memories of Transnational Families

Curated by Malve Lippmann and Can Sungu


Beyond the War

Syrian Society and Politics before and after 2011

By Amer Katbeh


Germany 1964-1980


Followed by a talk with Dr. Massimo Perinelli

Schlager einer kleinen Stadt (Small Town Evergreens)

A 60-minute compilation from GDR television and the DEFA Newsreel “Der Augenzeuge” (“The Eyewitness”), in which contract work appears as a gift from the GDR to socialist “brotherlands”. A euphemistic, often paternalistic gaze upon the “guests”, which reveals much about the self-representation of the GDR, but little about the realities of the migrants’ lives. By spanning the period from 1964-1980, the program demonstrates how the language and context of GDR-Internationalism was constantly changing.

Dr. Massimo Perinelli is a historian and works at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. He is a member of Kanak Attak, co-founder of the initiative "Keupstraße is everywhere" and co-founded the Tribunal "Dissolve NSU Complex". He has published on gender and sexuality, as well as on racism and migrant struggles.

Director Gitta Nickel GDR 1974, DEFA-Studio for Short Films, commissioned by GDR Television, First broadcast: Feb, 25th, 1975

52 Min., OV

Followed by a talk with Urmilla Goel

... and tomorrow the Poles will come

A group of Polish contract workers in a chicken-meat processing factory in Storkow. The main protagonist is the German forewoman Christa, a confident socialist and feminist, who believes in Internationalism and views contract labor as part of Germany’s compensation to Poland. While the film in no way betrays Christa’s idealism, the violence of the circumstances comes to light in conversations with the Polish women and through the casual cruelty of the slaughterhouse, which is documented in passing.

Urmilla Goel is a guest professor at the Institute for European Ethnology at Humboldtuniversität Berlin and is researching topics of migration, migration to the GDR, racism, gender and sexuality as well as the power relations intertwined with it.


Foreign Students  in the GDR

Institute of Friendship
Heinz Fischer, GDR, 1964, 19 min., Production: DEFA Studio for Newsreels und Documentary Films.

The Herder Institute in Leipzig is presented in staged, semi-documentary scenes. Here foreigners who were delegated to the GDR begin by receiving a year of obligatory German lessons. What is emphasised is the comparatively internationalist atmosphere at the institute. 

Chetna Vora (with Lars Barthel), GDR, 1980, 45 min., Production: HFF Babelsberg

Students from Chile, Guinea-Bissau, the Mongolian Soviet Republic, Cuba and Bulgaria explain – with unusual candidness – what brought them to the GDR and how they picture their future. The indian filmmaker Chetna Vora shot the film with her partner Lars Barthel in a student residence in Berlin-Karlshorst. She herself was studying film directing at the Film School in Babelsberg. Oyoyo was her diploma film. 

Discussion with Ibraimo Alberto, Orquídea Chongo and Julia Oelkers

frontend.im_anschluss_x. Ibraimo Alberto, Orquídea Chongo and Julia Oelkers

Obstinacy in the Brotherland

Migrants came into the GDR as students, contract workers, and refugees. They were often delegated by their governments to learn a trade and then assist with the development of their country of origin. They came primarily from socialist states which were considered friends, like Vietnam, Mozambique, Cuba and Angola. The web documentary “Eigensinn im Bruderland”, (“Obstinacy in the Brotherland”) is dedicated to their expectations and experiences in the GDR, and asks about their strategies to implement their own ideas for the future. The presentation places its emphasis on contract workers from Mozambique.

Ibraimo Alberto came to the GDR from Mozambique as an 18-year-old in 1981. He wanted to study Sports, but was put to work in a Berlin meat factory instead. Today, he is a social worker in Berlin.

Orquídea Chongo came to the GDR in 1980, also in the hope of pursuing her studies. She was trained as a specialist in textile fabrication at the VEB Thüringer Obertrikotagen Apolda. Today, she is a careworker in Berlin.

Julia Oelkers, journalist and documentary filmmaker from Berlin, with a focus on contemporary history, racism and migration.

Comic reading by Birgit Weyhe

frontend.im_anschluss_x. Birgit Weyhe


From 1979 until 1991, around 20,000 contract workers from Mozambique were employed in the GDR. Their stay, limited up to four years, was supposed to give them the opportunity to gain an education and work experience, so that on their return they might contribute to build up an independent socialist Mozambique. This was not the reality — far from it. The “Madgermanes” — a neologism of “mad germans” and “made in Germany” — as they were referred to in Mozambique, came back to a country completely devastated by civil war. Their work experience wasn’t put to any use, and their salary which was held back by the government was never paid out. Birgit Weyhe illustrates this little known narrative in her graphic novel and gives those who were affected a voice to speak for themselves.

Birgit Weyhe was born in Munich in 1969. She spent her childhood and youth in East Africa and returned to Europe only as an adult. She was awarded the Berthold Leibinger Stiftung Comic Book Prize and the Max-and-Moritz Prize for Madgermanes.

frontend.im_anschluss_x. Dan Thy Nguyen, Duc Ngo Ngoc and Sun-ju Choi

Solidarity in the Cold War

South Vietnamese Boatpeople vs. North Vietnamese contract workers, South Korean "guest workers" vs. North Korean students / orphans in the GDR or Germany. Migration routes and human lives determined by the bitter struggle of the Cold War. What do the Korean War and the Vietnam War have in common, and what does that have to do with Germany at all? Members of the second generation from different Asian-German communities reflect on their own stories or the stories of their parents in West and East Germany.

Dan Thy Nguyen is a freelance theatre director, actor, writer and singer in Hamburg. In 2014 he created and produced the stage and audio play ‘Sonnenblumenhaus’, which was about the Rostock-Lichtenhagen pogrom. Since 2019 he has worked with Studio Marshmallow as the director of the Fluctoplasma festival in Hamburg, 96 hours of art, discussion and diversity.

Duc Ngo Ngoc is a vietnamese-german filmmaker. In 2013, together with for filmmakers, he founded the KAMMER11 film collective. Since October 2015 he has been studying for a masters in film directing at the film university KONRAD WOLF in Babelsberg and has successfully completed a visiting semester at the Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema.

Sun-Ju Choi is an author and filmmaker. She studied literature at the University of Cologne and screenwriting at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. She is a founding member of korientation e.V. - Network for Asian-German Perspectives and a board member of ndo (neue deutsche organisationen). She currently works as deputy executive director of the Neue deutsche Medienmacher*innen e.V..

Germany 1989/1990


Followed by a talk with Almuth Berger

Einheit/Zerfall: DDR im Herbst (Unity/Dissolution: GDR in Autumn)

Television material from an almost forgotten period, spring 1989 until autumn 1990, a time when much was possible politically in the GDR and things were surfacing that had previously been kept hidden: for example, that thousands of contract workers helped to keep the stores running, but were simultaneously exposed to structural racism and increasingly physical violence.

Almuth Berger, who as a priest had been engaged early on in fighting the exclusion of foreigners in GDR society. She co-founded the grassroots movement ‘Demokratie Jetzt’ (Democracy Now), and after ‘die Wende’ (The Turn) she became the “Commissioner for Foreigners” in the governments of Modrow and de Maizière.


Followed by a talk with Thanh Nguyen Phuong and Thúy Nguyen Phuong

Geblieben (Stayed)

Wir bleiben hier (We stay)
Dirk Otto, Germany, 1991, 32 min., Production: DEFA Studio für Dokumentarfilme GmbH

A young Vietnamese family in Berlin on the eve of the third of October 1990, the official date of the reunification of East and West Germany. Both parents have “spent half their lives in the GDR” as contract workers and are now under threat of deportation and daily animosity. In stark opposition to the formerly common use of voice-overs and made-up narratives, this film abstains from any commentary or soundtrack music.

Sorge 87
Thanh Nguyen Phuong, Germany, 2017, 10 min.

„Sorge is the place I will never forget. The place at which my parents have gained a foothold, as contract workers in the GDR. In their new, second home. A home which was also to become mine.” (Thanh Nguyen Phuong)

Thanh Nguyen Phuong was born in Werdau in 1992 and studied communication design and film at the FH Potsdam. Her film "Sorge 87" premiered at the DOK Leipzig last year and has been screened and awarded at various festivals around the world.

Thúy Nguyen Phuong is a graduate in cultural studies and assisted her sister in the work for the film.