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Karl Marx City, Directors – Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker

September 10, 2016

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Opening day at TIFF16. Instead of attending a Gala some of us attended some smaller openings like the world premiere of Karl Marx City. This is a documentary about communist rule in East Germany and the STASI, the East German security organization that spied primarily on its own citizens, literally all of them. It was also about the impact of the sudden dropping of the Berlin Wall and how that dramatic change affected lives in the East and not always in positive ways. I think that was one of the most revealing messages of the film.  Not that the communists were okay by any means but that ordinary people get used to life if it is not too interruptive of their lives and the disruption of sudden change can be devastating. The film explores these themes through a very personal story. The director was born and raised in East Germany and left to live in the US. One Christmas not long after the fall of the Wall, she learns that her father has committed suicide. No one can really understand his reasons and he left no note or explanation except one. Shortly after hearing the news of the suicide, the director received a letter from her father sent just days before he killed himself. It is very short and cryptic but might represent a clue. She returns to Germany and decides to document her search for the reasons for his decision. The ensuing search reveals much about life in East Germany before and after the unification with the West and a great deal about the STASI and the impact it had on the lives of East German citizens. She learns a great deal about her father but nothing to really explain his suicide. That might be frustrating for some but the truths revealed about an oppressive regime and how its people dealt with it during and after its demise is enlightening. A very good documentary that will leave you thinking about our current very observed daily lives. I will be off to see Oliver Stone’s film about Edward Snowden in a day or so and will see some of these same themes I suspect from an American perspective.

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