Migrating Berlin: Multinational Perspectives on Germany’s Years of Reunification

Curated by Northwestern University doctoral candidates Evelyn Kreutzer and Esra Cimencioglu, the Block Museum’s film series Migrating Berlin arrives on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, promising to shed new light on this crucial moment in European history. The fall of the wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany a year later, often considered markers of the end of the Cold War, represent major ruptures in Germany’s post-war history. As a site of division, trauma, and political and military struggle, Berlin holds a particular fascination, with the symbol of the wall haunting the city long after its collapse and architectural transformation. However, in the rich history of representations of the divided city, Cold War narratives focused on East-West German tensions have remained dominant, often obscuring the fate of already underrepresented demographics and built environments beyond the wall itself. Integrating multinational and immigrant perspectives on the division and reunification of Germany into these established East/West narratives, the film series Migrating Berlin shines a new light on this period of transition. The five films in this series depict the alienation and socio-economic struggle of Germany’s/Berlin’s migrant population and the radical reconstruction of the city after the fall of the wall. Stylistically diverse documentaries like Duvarlar-Mauern-Walls (2000) and Bartek Konopka's Oscar-nominated Rabbit à la Berlin (2009) explore fascinating ‘micro-histories,’ such as the rise of right-wing violence against Turkish immigrants in the Berlin neighborhood Kreuzberg after 1989 and the fate of Berlin’s wild rabbit population in the dead zone of the Wall.

Promotional support provided by the Goethe Institut



Friday, January 25, 2019 7:00 PM FREE
(Can Candan, 2000, USA/Turkey, digital, 83 min.)

In Turkish, German and English with English subtitles

In 1991, two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and during the 30th anniversary of the guest worker treaty between Turkey and Germany, Turkish filmmaker Can Candan interviewed members of Berlin’s Turkish community, the largest minority living in post-wall Berlin, about their experiences of the German reunification. This trilingual documentary explores larger issues in this new Germany such as migration, guest-workers, cultural identity, belonging and xenophobia. In this film, Turkish immigrants of all ages talk about their past, present, and possible future in a united Germany and how increasing hostilities and right-wing violence affect their sense of belonging and their label of being “foreign.”

In Person: Can Candan

This screening is presented with support from the Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program and Media Burn Archive


Berlin, Babylon

Friday, February 8, 2019 7:00 PM FREE
(Hubertus Siegert, 2001, Germany, DCP, 88 min.)

In German with English subtitles

After Germany’s reunification and the decision to relocate the country’s capital to Berlin in 1990, the city faced one of the most sweeping architectural transformations in Western European history. Renowned urban planners and architects were now challenged to design a new, future-oriented city, while also honoring a past almost erased during and after World War II. Using archival and original footage, Hubertus Siegert presents both a documentary on this particular historical process, as well as a critical and poetic meditation on history itself. Berlin’s famous experimental band Einstürzende Neubauten deliver an ambient and captivating industrial soundtrack.

Introduced by Ingrid Zeller, Professor in the German Department at Northwestern University

Rabbit a la Berlin / Wir bleiben hier

Friday, February 15, 2019 7:00 PM FREE

Rabbit à la Berlin (Bartosz Konopka, 2009, Poland/Germany, BetaSP 52 min.)

In German with English subtitles

The fall of the Berlin Wall affected many demographics in different ways, demanding people adjust to a new life in a new post-communist world and reunified Germany. Bartek Konopka's Oscar-nominated documentary Rabbit à la Berlin tells the allegorical story of Berlin’s wild rabbit population, which had inhabited the death zone of the wall, reflecting on various forgotten, ignored or marginalized peoples during and after the Cold War. Assembling archival footage from multiple sources, the film dives into the perspective of the rabbits in their own habitat and a new Europe.         

Wir bleiben hier

(Dirk Otto, 1990, Germany, digital, 32 min.)

In German with English Subtitles.

Dirk Otto’s Wir bleiben hier (“We’re staying here”) is centered on the peculiar situation of Vietnamese immigrants in Eastern Germany after the fall of the wall. After constituting the largest immigrant group in an otherwise homogeneous East-German population, they suddenly found themselves in an undefined limbo state when their work and residence permits were not valid in the new ‘host country.’ Otto, an Eastern-German filmmaker himself, closely follows one family in particular—a young couple and their daughter, whom he met after immersing himself in Berlin’s Vietnamese community. He follows them to Hamburg and back to Berlin, capturing their struggle in a sober, observational mode, and interviews them about their decision and struggle to "stay here," in spite of the political shifts.

Subtitle translation by Barbara Stone

Wings of Desire

Thursday, February 21, 2019 7:00 PM FREE
(Wim Wenders, 1987, Germany, DCP, 130 min.)

In German with English subtitles

In Wim Wenders's iconic Berlin film Wings of Desire, two invisible angels (played by Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) watch and listen in on the city's diverse population. Wandering through the city, they encounter many different people and their intimate thoughts and feelings. Wings of Desire is an audio-visual tour de force of immense poetic power, with the ever-present Berlin Wall as an icon of grief. Often been read as an allegorical precursor to Berlin's reunification a few years later, the film figures the desire for human connection in a city of architectural and psychological isolation.