History in Focus, 29 June-3 July 2015, Bautzen
“History in Focus: Exploring the Stasi-Prison Bautzen II with a Camera” was a workshop for young people from Leeds, Berlin and Bautzen held at the memorial of the former Stasi prison in Saxony from 29 June to 3 July 2015.
Funded by the AHRC, the workshop was organised by Professor Paul Cooke as part of the research project “Using Film to Examine Heritage, Identity and Global Citizenship”, in collaboration with the Gedenkstätte Bautzen, Landesverband Kinder- und Jugendfilm Berlin e.V. and the BFI Film Academy.
Over the course of one week, 11 young people were introduced to the history of the Stasi prison, portrayals of the GDR in film as well as basic skills in film-making. Organised into small groups that mixed participants from the United Kingdom, East and West Germany, the young people went on to create three short documentary films about legacies of the GDR.
Watch this video to get an impression of the workshop:
Aim of the Workshop
The aim of the project was to build on the findings of Screening European Heritage on the cultural legacies of the GDR, allowing young people to reflect creatively upon the lessons to be learnt from the GDR dictatorship for contemporary understandings of democracy and global citizenship. The project was exploratory in nature and is envisaged as providing a model for groups wishing to undertake similar educational film-making projects in a range of settings.
In Germany there continues to be a great deal of discussion about “the Wall in the head” and about the need for the west to learn more about the experience of the east, and vice versa. This becomes even more important as direct memory of the years of division begins to fade. Having people from outside Germany involved in the project proved to help greatly in this, as both easterners and westerners had to “translate” their concerns for the UK participants, thus helping them to contextualise their perspectives. Similarly, the UK participants were able to see the importance of understanding the GDR for the whole of Europe. The project offered them a broader frame of reference for thinking about their own history and its relevance to them today.