What inspired you to make the film?
Mark and I made a documentary about the reunification of Germany 20 years ago. We showed it to the Director of the Wende Museum in Los Angeles, Justin Jampol and Director of Development Rob Sherer. They thought it would be great if we could revisit the topic after twenty years. They had a huge success with their Wall Project last November where they built a Berlin Wall across Wilshire Blvd. They were looking for a project that would commemorate the 20th anniversary of the reunification. We started shooting in June and just finished a rough cut in early October, 2010.
What are the most profound changes you see when you go back?
The most obvious changes are in the buildings that you see. The high school in my old neighborhood that I was not allowed to attend because I wasn’t a party member has been completely redone and is amazing. There are beautiful shopping malls and the autobahn system is fantastic. The entire infrastructure has been updated after forty years of neglect.
Also, young people speak English and have traveled abroad which of course was never possible twenty years ago.
Capitalism is everywhere now and this has changed the society greatly. Some people have been unable or unwilling to make the transition.
Most of the profound changes occurred in the East. The West has really not changed at all.
What do you hope to accomplish with the film?
We hope to show the audience that despite the fact that German reunification was a huge success, major differences between east and west still exist. For people in the East, life as they knew it changed drastically virtually overnight. The Stasi, the reviled secret police force, was disbanded. Political prisoners were released. Citizens could now travel and experience the free flow of ideas. All good things. But the system that took care of them from cradle to grave also collapsed. Those that could not make the transition to capitalism were left behind. Now, twenty years later, we examine the current state of affairs between the “Wessis” and “Ossis.”
When did you come to the US — and from where exactly?
I came from Jena, a small town not far from Leipzig in the former East Germany. I was hitch hiking one day when the bus broke down and I took a ride from an American. We dated secretly for a few years and got married. When the Wall fell in 1989 we got out and left for the US.