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Review: And if they haven’t died … The Children of Golzow – The End of the Neverending Story (2006)

Directed by: , | 278 minutes | ,

Jürgen, Petra, Christian and Ilona. But also Winfried, Elke, Karin and Gudrun. And don’t forget Bernhard and Eckhard. They are the children of Golzow, an East German provincial town where a start was made on a special documentary in the early 1960s. Eighteen classmates (all born between 1953 and 1955) from the local primary school were chosen by Karl Gass – one of the most important documentary makers of the GDR and initiator of the propagandistic DEFA studios. They would be followed for decades by filmmaker Winfried Junge and his wife . This resulted in eighteen portraits of people who grew up in the ‘socialist state of salvation’. You can see how they build a social career, but also what personal problems they encounter. The recordings were not completed until . The four-part documentary ‘Und wenn Sie nicht gestorben sind’ has been made of the more than fifty hours of film. In 2006 ‘Und wenn Sie nicht gestorben sind… – Die Kinder von Golzow, Das Ende der unendlichen Geschichte’ (parts 1 and 2) and in 2007 ‘Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind – dann leben sie noch heute …’ (part 3 and 4).

Not all eighteen children have their say in this four-part. Separate part documentaries have already appeared for some children, who have a special story to tell. For example, about the tragic Brigitte, a spirited woman who became a mother at seventeen but died of cardiac arrest at the age of just 29. Or the travel-loving Dieter, who has remained positive under all circumstances. We see them briefly in the archive footage from the earliest years of this class, when the children are only seven years old, until their graduation year when they are sixteen or seventeen. Separate, chronological portraits have been made of the children we do get to know extensively in this four-part documentary series. Not all children portrayed have been through the same way. Especially those who became politically active have an impressive story to tell. They therefore get much more airtime than others. Among them Winfried, who got himself in trouble when – as a party member – he did not fully complete his training and only announced this later. Gudrun, daughter of a prominent local party member, was full of political ambitions. The girl who once wanted to become a chef even became mayor in a small town near Golzow.

An important part of the portraits is the period around the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the German unification eleven months later. The lives of the East Germans changed drastically during that time, and not always for the better. The high unemployment rate is striking, also among Golzow’s former children. The mayoral post of Gudrun was threatened when the socialist party (SED) lost a huge number of votes in 1990. When Winfried Junge visits her again in the early nineties, she lives on benefits. Suddenly her education is worth little. Junge dares to doubt whether the Golzowers (who by the way no longer all live in their hometown) are really happy. Also noteworthy is the large number of divorces, which probably has to do with the fact that almost all interviewees got married at a young age (around their twentieth birthday). Gudrun, who for a long time was only occupied with her career, has always remained alone; something she clearly regrets but does not admit openly. However, the observant viewer has heard her tell before that she longed for a . In a way, the Golzower longs for those good old days in the GDR. Maybe it wasn’t ideal, but at least you knew where you stood. For the inhabitants of the GDR, a base fell away with the fall of the wall, after which they needed time to regain balance in their lives. During the last recordings, in 2005-2006, most have found peace again. It took them fifteen years to do that. who for a long time was only occupied with her career, has always remained alone; something she clearly regrets but does not admit openly. However, the observant viewer has heard her tell before that she longed for a family. In a way, the Golzower longs for those good old days in the GDR. Maybe it wasn’t ideal, but at least you knew where you stood. For the inhabitants of the GDR, a base fell away with the fall of the wall, after which they needed time to regain balance in their lives. During the last recordings, in 2005-2006, most have found peace again. It took them fifteen years to do that. who was only occupied with her career for a long time, has always remained alone; something she clearly regrets but does not admit openly. However, the observant viewer has heard her tell before that she longed for a family. In a way, the Golzower longs for those good old days in the GDR. Maybe it wasn’t ideal, but at least you knew where you stood. For the inhabitants of the GDR, a base fell away with the fall of the wall, after which they needed time to regain balance in their lives. During the last recordings, in 2005-2006, most have found peace again. It took them fifteen years to do that. However, the observant viewer has heard her tell before that she longed for a family. In a way, the Golzower longs for those good old days in the GDR. Maybe it wasn’t ideal, but at least you knew where you stood. For the inhabitants of the GDR, a base fell away with the fall of the wall, after which they needed time to regain balance in their lives. During the last recordings, in 2005-2006, most have found peace again. It took them fifteen years to do that. However, the observant viewer has heard her tell before that she longed for a family. In a way, the Golzower longs for those good old days in the GDR. Maybe it wasn’t ideal, but at least you knew where you stood. For the inhabitants of the GDR, a base fell away with the fall of the wall, after which they needed time to regain balance in their lives. During the last recordings, in 2005-2006, most have found peace again. It took them fifteen years to do that. During the last recordings, in 2005-2006, most have found peace again. It took them fifteen years to do that. During the last recordings, in 2005-2006, most have found peace again. It took them fifteen years to do that.

‘Und wenn Sie nicht gestorben sind’ is a profound, fascinating documentary that unfortunately takes an awfully long time. It is precisely because of that length that Winfried and Barabara Junge have been able to work in such detail, but a film that lasts 278 minutes is not simply looked away. Anyone who takes the time and allows the images to take effect will be rewarded. This is an important and intriguing nostalgic document that provides insight into the lives of a group of seemingly ordinary people, who, however, all have their own personal story to tell. Interviewer Winfried Junge often asks direct, sometimes confronting questions that seem very provocative to the generally closed East Germans. Of course, it is no mean feat to allow a camera into life for such a long time, but for those who grew up in the GDR and could not say or do just anything, it is quite a victory. Junge dares to lure these people out of their tent and thus receives revealing answers. A series of honest and captivating portraits is the result.

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