GER 2016, 106 min
A documentary turns into a cinematic REVISION. Like a puzzle, the film puts together the facts around the death of two men on a field at the German‐Polish border in 1992. Scheffner composes an increasingly disturbing pattern of landscape and memory, witness testimonies, documents and investigations.
On June 29th, 1992 a farmer discovers two bodies in a corn field in the North East of Germany. Police enquiries lead to the fact that the dead men are Romanian citizens. During the attempt to cross the EU border, they have been shot by hunters. The hunters claim that they had mistaken the people for wild boar. Four years later, the trial begins. It will never be proved, which of the hunters has fired the fatal bullet. The verdict: not guilty. German Press Agency dpa reports: “From Romania, no one has arrived for the rendition of judgment.” The police files contain the names and address of Grigore Velcu and Eudache Calderar. However, their families never even got to know, that a trial had been held. With REVISION, a legally terminated crime case becomes the subject of a cinematic revision. Places, individuals, and memories are being connected, and form a fragile pattern from different versions and perspectives of contemporary European history.
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Language: German, Romani, Romanian, Subtitles: German, English
A stunning documentary. (Film Quarterly)
- Berlinale Forum 2012
- Best Documentary - GoEast Filmfestival 2012
- Fritz-Gerlich Filmpreis - Filmfest München 2012
- Award of Excellence - Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Japan 2013
- Bild-Kunst Schnitt Preis for Best Editing 2013
Statement of the Director
The film starts with the end of a story: Statistics published by the NGO “Fortress Europe” state that at least 14,687 people were reported in the media to have died along the European border between 1988 and August 2009. As a piece of news, their death makes them part of European history and simultaneously deprives them of a voice in its historiography. They become silent witnesses to a European security discourse that mainly revolves around itself, tacitly accepting the deaths. REVISION is an attempt to trace the open ends of such a piece of news and explore the cinematic possibilities of capturing its protagonists as agents of a story. A story with multiple beginnings. Where and when does this story start? On June 29, 1992, in a corn field close to the German‐Polish border? At the same time, in an asylum seekers home in Rostock? A couple of months earlier in Romania? Twenty years later, as the families learn that the accused were acquitted? With the title sequence of this film?
The film reconstructs the biographical and political perspectives of the narratives, which simultaneously thematise and question the conditions and conventions of my own filmic narration as part of a larger political context. On a formal level, an analysis of the term “testimony” is important: This term constitutes the overlapping of a judicial investigation, respectively a trial and the work of a documentary filmmaker. Interestingly enough, this is exactly where the lawsuit in question fails: The circumstances of the crime have never been conclusively reconstructed through the testimonies of witnesses. Judicially, a witness is characterised as a person “reporting perceived facts”. Mere perception though is insufficient ‐ for a person to become a witness, a counterpart is required, a listener who functions as witness to the actual testimony. Capturing this complex relationship between the speaker and the listener is a vital part of the film. The protagonists appear in varying roles: A witness tries to remember – he starts to talk. In another take, he listens to his own narration – he can stop the narration, comment and correct. When listening, he becomes witness to his own testimony and thus connects with the spectator who experiences the REVISION of the spoken. In the course of filming, I experienced the ‘filmed listening’ as a very active process. It gives the person in front of the camera a means of control and alters power balances in the room. The documentary moment, the seeming authenticity that manifests when someone forgets that the camera is on, is shattered in the very act of filming.
Text from the catalogue of Berlinale Forum, Nicole Wolf, 2012
Had they existed at the time of the crime – 3:45 a.m. on 29 June 1992 – the windmills would have been the most important witnesses. But if we listen closely, we might nonetheless recognise a testifying resonance in the motion of their rotors, reverberating the atmosphere of the scene of the crime and its stories: sometimes slow, dragging, and almost still, other times driven with energy and rotating hauntingly loud. Revision holds our attention like a detective novel that we can’t put down. With seeming lightness and a precisely calculated narrative structure, the film presents a wealth of materials and testifying statements. Thereby our gaze on the homicide in question aggregates and is increasingly sharpened, while simultaneously an immense scope of political responsibilities opens up; remembering them is imperative, today as much as yesterday and tomorrow.
Revision leaves the level of criminology and the documentary and creates a tribunal‐like space of negotiation as a cinematic and political event. Working precisely with and at the boundaries of these genres of representation and narration, the film is further able to negotiate the mechanisms of this alternative form of jurisdiction without losing in reflection its focus on the essential. The families of Eudache Calderar and Grigore Velcu – two fathers and husbands killed en route from Romania to Germany – were not relevant for the proceedings of the responsible German justice system, nor was a precise inspection of the scene of the crime: a grain field near Nadrensee, at the German‐Polish border and thus in 1992 on the border of the European Union. Calderar and Velcu are two of the 14,687 immigrants who died at the border of the EU between 1988 and 2009 – according to the figures of the NGO Fortress Europe, as reported in the press.
The filmmaker, with his team, did merely what others, for various reasons, failed to do: he researched thoroughly, consulted all the witnesses to be found, reconstructed every apparent detail of the deed at the crime scene itself, and above all he visited the people directly affected by the event: the families and neighbours of the deceased. Along with this responsibility, however, he also recognises the fundamental problem of representation: that in this case and its prior historiography there is no political or legal space, i.e. no subject status, for the deceased and their loved ones, and thus no actual film‐aesthetic space within which the existing gaps could simply be closed.
A cinematic tribunal
The film must first create precisely this political space in order to firmly demand a different narration of the case – and consequently of other similar cases. It accomplishes this aim by explicitly making listening into a cinematic and political method. Listening becomes a space, an interstice, within and in front of the screen. Listening becomes a new cinematic site, political space, and process of constituting witnessing. Listening becomes hearing one’s own testimony, becomes a hearing together and commenting within the family, a shared hearing among witnesses, filmmakers, and viewers. We, as viewers, listen and watch in the act of listening. The witnesses thereby constitute themselves by hearing themselves and not through the efforts of the filmmaker or the viewers, who otherwise would act as judges. The film avoids the invocation of the family members as victims without “rights to have rights”, not by collecting and presenting their statements as “raw evidence”, but by constructively appropriating the mediatisation that the circumstances create.
The same method is applied to those whose position in the system already permits them to articulate demands or to remain silent about the system’s possibilities. In this way, every voice results in a multifaceted experience: cinematically material, acoustic, emotional, informative, corporeal and disembodied, aesthetic, and political. Similarly the witnesses’ testimonies are at the same time missing pieces of evidence, material for reconstructing and revising history, ways of expressing oneself, filmed encounters, initiation of talks and negotiations that were never conducted, and examples of very varied textures of how people remember. Along with the memories of “the good things in life”, we also hear who does not need to remember and who sometimes can’t remember because it creates too much headache. All the witnesses whose perspectives are invited into this persisting cinematic tribunal find themselves at another beginning of this story of two deadly shots. This plurality, mediation, and reflection lead away from the representation of an existing judiciary system and precisely thereby make it possible to find one’s own beginnings in this and similar stories. In the stillness after the film we might continue to question, to think, to act, to hear – if we follow the intense resonance of this Revision.
Merle Kröger, Philip Scheffner
Director of Photography
Pascal Capitolin, Volker Zeigermann
Volker Zeigermann, Simon Bastian
Online Studio Image
Online Studio Sound
pong Film GmbH
In Co-production with
Blinker Filmproduktion, worklights media production
ZDF (Doris Hepp) in cooperation with ARTE
Production founded by
Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, Filmstiftung NRW, Deutscher Filmförderfonds
Development founded by
FFA, DEFA Stiftung
Berlinale IFF, Forum 2012
International Documentary Festival, Toronto 2012
German Theatrical Release
REVISION and AND-EK-GHES were released on one DVD in the Arsenal Edition.
Interview with Philip Scheffner & Merle Kröger about REVISION, 32-page booklet with texts and photos to the films
REVISION: German, Romani, Romanian
AND-EK GHES…: German, Romani, Romanian, Spanish
REVISION: German, English, French, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish
AND-EK GHES…: German, English
200 min + 36 min Extras
REVISION: DD 2.0
AND-EK GHES… Stereo + DD 5.1
2 Discs, booklet
from 12 years