Film casts new light on Germany's Red Army Fraction

Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:35pm EST
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BERLIN (Reuters) - "If Not Us, Who," a nuanced portrayal of the birth of the guerrilla Red Army Faction, sheds new light on a troubled period in Germany's past and is a strong contender for the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Andres Veiel's first feature depicts the fiery and tragic relationship between writer Bernward Vesper and Gudrun Ensslin, who went on to become a key figure in the leftist group that carried out a campaign of kidnappings and murders in the 1970s.

Veiel told a news conference on Thursday he wanted to move away from the classic images of student protests, radical groups plotting and murders, toward the subtle sociological and personal factors that fueled this explosive political movement.

"These pictures were right, they were the catalysts, but you have to start earlier, with the families, the background, you have to go into the core of the private life," he told reporters after a well-received press screening.

"There are a lot of other films on this topic but they don't focus on the early story."

Also known as the "Baader-Meinhof Gang" after founders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, the Red Army Faction grew from the left-wing student protests and anti-Vietnam war movements in the late 1960s.

Action-packed film "The Baader Meinhof Complex," graphically depicting the rise and fall of the RAF, was nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar two years ago.

Instead of focusing on the action, however, Veiel's film, which has its world premiere on Thursday, looks at how this political consciousness arose, with a particular focus on the conflict between the Nazi and postwar generations.

"These people wanted to change something, they were not satisfied in the 1960s, they came from a very limited home and wanted to reinvent themselves," said Veiel, who already made an award-winning documentary about the group called "Black Box BRD" in 2001. "This meant going onto new paths also politically."   Continued...

<p>Producer Thomas Kufus (L-R), director Andres Veiel pose with actors August Diehl and Lena Lauzemis during a photocall to promote the movie 'Wer wenn nicht wir' (If not us, who) at the 61st Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 17, 2011. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz</p>