vulnerable labor for profit is everything socialist propaganda crusades
against. Yet, the exploitation of the inmates at Hoheneck Prison helped keep
the financially ailing East Germany from completely imploding. Of course, in
reality there was nothing democratic or republican about the GDR/DDR. Survivors
of the abuse and exploitation tell their tales in Alexander Lahl & Volker
Schlecht’s black-and-white animated short documentary, Kaputt/Broken—The Women’s Prison at Hoheneck (trailer here), which screened
at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
Brutalist architecture of Hoheneck screamed East German oppression—and the
insides lived up to the outside. It was perennially overcrowded, because at
least politically-motivated arrests in the DDR consistently ran above quota.
Daily life was a mixture of routine humiliation and grinding toil to make their
production quotas in the prison’s bed linen sweat shop.
Kaputt/Broken is a powerful
seven-minute indictment of the socialist system, executed in an evocatively
severe style that could be described as a cross between Honoré Daumier and a
Stasi dossier. Yet, perhaps what is most striking is the grimly poetic language
taken directly from original oral histories of Hoheneck survivors.
Conditions at Hoheneck were simply barbaric, but
the bitterest pill for the former political prisoners to swallow is the fact
the West helped underwrite their torture by buying Hoheneck’s garments. The
Wall has fallen, but the victims of the socialist East clearly remain
traumatized. That lingering pain comes through clearly in the haunting short.
Schlecht’s animation is almost perversely elegant, while the minimalist sound
design heightens the eerily tragic vibe. Very highly recommended, Kaputt/Broken won the Short Film Jury
Award for Animation at this year’s Sundance. It next screens February 17th
and 19th during MoMA’s Doc Fortnight.
Labels: Animated films, Communism, Documentary, German Cinema, Short Films, Sundance '17