How can a new kind of cinema be collectively created within a transnational society? SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA, the cinema-experiment by bi’bak, explores cinema as a space of social discourse, exchange, and solidarity. The curated film series brings together diverse social communities and connects places both near and geographically distant; it links pasts, presents and futures and moves away from a eurocentric gaze towards transnational, (post-)migrant and postcolonial perspectives. SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA is a different kind of cinema, one simultaneously committed to local and international communities, that understands cinema as an important public sphere of sociality; it considers film history as crucial to the work of cultural memory and is committed to a diversity of film culture and film art. In Haus der Statistik at Berlin-Alexanderplatz, SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA builds a bridge between urban practice and film to create a space that opens access, stimulates discussion, educates, moves, provokes and encourages.
SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA is funded by Haupstadtkulturfonds, Conrad Stiftung and the Programm NEUSTART KULTUR
Past event series can be found in the archive.
ARD, one Sunday evening in the mid-1970s, 7 pm: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to today's edition of Weltspiegel.” The name of the presenter: Navina Sundaram. An Indian woman on German television? As a political editor and foreign correspondent? Unimaginable! How do you read 50 years of contemporary German history through the eyes of a woman who had to fight for her visibility in a public sphere dominated by men and the German mainstream? Who to this day steadfastly refuses to decide for a single homeland, a single identity? And who has nevertheless claimed for herself the right: “come to stay”? Raised in New Delhi, she has worked as a filmmaker, travel correspondent and presenter since 1970. Straight-talking, she not only writes but intervenes. The Fifth Wall presents Navina Sundaram's domestic television reports from 1973 to 1983 to a Berlin audience for the first time. To take Sundaram's point of view, putting her reports, contributions and moderation at the center, means to look at the history of German television from both internal and external perspectives. Sundaram stands at the center as an author who takes a journalistic stand on internationalism and decolonization, the class question, racism, immigration, and Indian and German politics. The films are supplemented by documents, commentaries and other finds from the archive. Of course, always on Sunday evenings, always at 7 pm.
Funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe and in cooperation with the project Archive außer sich by Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art and the Federal Agency for Civic Education.
Navina Sundaram grew up in New Delhi, India, where she studied English literature before coming to Hamburg in 1964 for a two-year apprenticeship at NDR. From 1970, she worked as a political editor for the broadcaster. She is a filmmaker, reporter and a presenter for the programs Weltspiegel, Gesichter Asiens, Panorama and Extra Drei, among others. From 1992-93, she was ARD correspondent and head of the South Asia television studio in New Delhi. After ending her work for NDR, Navina Sundaram continues her work as an independent director of documentaries and is the author of numerous texts and lectures.
Mareike Bernien is a filmmaker and teacher in the field of filmic research and critical archival practices based in Berlin. A research-based practice determines her works, in which questions of memory politics and media archaeology are negotiated. Her most recent works include: Die Sonne liegt im Erdinnern (2021) and Tiefenschärfe (2017) with Alex Gerbaulet. For several years she has been part of the production platform pong where she also works together with Merle Kröger on the archive project Die fünfte Wand.
Merle Kröger is a novelist and film author living in Berlin. Together with filmmaker Philip Scheffner, she began making documentary feature films in 2007. In her novels, Kröger combines historical research, personal history and political analysis with elements of crime literature. As curator of the transnational cultural project “Import Export. Cultural Transfer between India and Germany, Austria” (2005), she began a long-term collaboration with Navina Sundaram.
With a commentary from Philip Scheffner and an extract from From Here to Here (Madhusree Dutta/Philip Scheffner, India/Germany 2005, with Navina Sundaram)
Followed by a joint discussion with Philip Scheffner, Mareike Bernien and Merle Kröger
Sundaram accompanies the da Couhna and Singh families, who came to the BRD from Uganda via Great Britain, in the tradition of Cinema Vérité; as a participant observer into their new lives in Unna and Leverkusen. The families are met with a great deal of solidarity and curiosity, but racial prejudices persist and conflicts arise. Sundaram ventures far into these conflict zones: Former emigrant women agitate against the families in the neighborhood, who in turn agitate against their former compatriots in Africa. In the end, everyone gets a voice in this film and a plea for togetherness in a country of immigration emerges.
Philip Scheffner works as a filmmaker and sound artist in Berlin. In 2001, he founded the production company pong with Merle Kröger. His films have been shown at various festivals and won numerous awards.
Followed by a joint discussion with Kien Nghi Ha, Mareike Bernien and Merle Kröger
Wenn die Begrüßungsreden verklingen
Navina Sundaram, FRG 1979, 44 Min., OV with English subtitles
Navina Sundaram, FRG 1979, 10 Min.
As the welcoming speeches fade away, the film begins with the arrival of a group of “boat people” in Frankfurt - refugees from Vietnam who are to find a new home in the Federal Republic. Navina Sundaram accompanies several families and groups in different stages of state-regulated integration: 3-step plans for “contingent refugees,” volunteer city tours with eager locals, German courses, housing programs and accompanying social work. The film takes a critical look at the treatment of migrants, who are “politically easy to market”: “Lovely anti-communist asylum seekers” is the sarcastic commentary on the people who politely and patiently endure the patronage of well-meaning citizens. The film ends impressively with the example of young Hoan and her search for identity between Vietnamese tradition and the German present, between loyalty and emancipation. Zweierlei Asylrecht is the first of four contributions by Navina Sundaram for the magazine Panorama which revolve around the topics of asylum law and racism in the Federal Republic. Amnesty International looks after “contingent refugees” of Kurdish origin from Iraq, who theoretically have the same status as refugees from Vietnam. For the Kurds, however, there are no welcoming speeches from the state; they are dependent on individual help and support. In the end, there is a plea for Article 16 of the Basic Law to apply equally to all refugees: Politically persecuted persons have the right of asylum.
Kien Nghi Ha, PhD in cultural and political studies, works on Asian German Studies, postcolonial criticism, racism and migration at the University of Tübingen. His monograph Unrein und vermischt. Postkoloniale Grenzgänge durch die Kulturgeschichte der Hybridität und der kolonialen “Rassenbastarde“ (2010) was awarded the Augsburg Science Prize for Intercultural Studies 2011. Numerous publications including Asiatische Deutsche Extended. Vietnamesische Diaspora and Beyond (ed., 2021).
With a commentary by Nanna Heidenreich
Followed by a joint discussion with Nanna Heidenreich and Merle Kröger
Navina Sundaram portrays the city of Mannheim from the perspectives of two workers: Heinz Schmid, a native of Mannheim, and Abdul Rahman, a guest worker from Turkey. Both work at the Mercedes Benz plant, Schmid as a skilled worker, Rahman as a laborer and union shop steward. Between the allotment, the carnival club and the new apartments in the suburbs, an image of a working-class city emerges that goes beyond bourgeois ideas of urban culture and urban history. Sundaram critically and persistently questions the concept of solidarity, extended to the relations between German and Turkish workers. Without false pathos, the film tells of latent and overt racism, but also of private happiness, material success and the fading dream of returning to Turkey.
Nanna Heidenreich is a media culture scholar and curator of film/video/theory/interventions. She has been a professor of Transcultural Studies at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna since October 2020. As a curator she has worked for HKW, Berlinale Forum Expanded, AdKdW Cologne.
Followed by a joint discussion with Mareike Bernien and Merle Kröger.
Navina Sundaram, FRG 1982, 6 min.
With a commentary by Georgios Tsiakalos
In a partly satirical contribution for extra drei, Navina Sundaram addresses mainstream perspectives on the subject of racism for the first time. She observes an experiment at the University of Bremen that attempts to disprove the thesis that prejudice against minorities and xenophobia is biologically innate.
Navina Sundaram, FRG 1982, 12 min.
From the perspectives of women married to Iraqi, Portuguese and Nigerian men, the film paints a picture of a society that sees love and transcultural bonding as a betrayal of an imaginary national community, and in which anonymous letters, open insults and loosened lug nuts, as well as struggles for rights and recognition, are part and parcel of family life.
Asyl in der BRD
Navina Sundaram, FRG 1982, 10 min.
The film report begins early in the morning at the Hamburg Foreigners' Office; a two-class system prevails among the waiting people. Refugees from the Eastern Bloc are not allowed to be deported, yet for all others - those coming from Africa, Asia and Latin America - the rule is: make staying as unattractive as possible. Here, liberal asylum law meets restrictive policy and Hamburg's social welfare authority makes apparent the deterrence competition among the federal states.
Der Fall Kemal Altun
Navina Sundaram, FRG 1983, 9 min.
With a commentary by Merle Kröger and a video conversation with Navina Sundaram.
Kemal Altun, a student who was persecuted for contributing to a left-wing student newspaper and for alleged involvement in an assassination attempt, applied for asylum in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1981. At the same time, Turkey demanded his extradition, and he was placed in custody pending deportation. The asylum application was granted, but the extradition was not stopped - the Federal Ministry of the Interior sued the Federal Office for Asylum before the Berlin Administrative Court. During the court hearing, Altun committed suicide by jumping out of the window.
With a commentary by Urmila Goel and a video interview with Navina Sundaram.
Followed by a discussion with Urmila Goel and Merle Kröger
The Indian family Chatterjee is to lose their right of residence after almost 25 years of legal presence in Germany. What unfolds, as told from the perspectives of the couple, their two children, the authorities and supporters, is a complex case beyond clichéd images of victims or perpetrators. Sundaram presents us with a cinematic dissection of the case that goes down to the smallest details. In this way, the film undermines the usual arguments of the authorities and ends with an appeal: to reform the law on foreigners and a less labor market-oriented granting of residence permits to migrants, some of whom have paid taxes and unemployment insurance contributions in Germany for decades.
Urmila Goel is a cultural anthropologist, trainer and private lecturer at the Institute for European Ethnology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Her research areas include racism and gender theory, west-german privilege in united Germany, and migration from South Asia (especially India) to Germany.