What is this project all about?
In 1988 - just after her high school graduation - 20-year-old Kirsi Marie Liimatainen leaves the political squatting movement of her hometown Tampere in Finland and heads for the GDR. She and her fellow students were invited to East Berlin to study Marxist-Leninist theory for one year at the International Youth Academy Wilhelm Pieck. The students come from all corners of the world, from a total of 80 countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain. They are functionaries, freedom fighters and left activists - operating legally or illegally in the underground of their home countries. It is a wide spectrum, but one thing unites them all: The hope for a better world and the willingness to fight for it. The international solidarity at the academy is convincing, but the real socialism in the GDR is an experience for Kirsi, which is marked by contradictions - the gap between theory and reality is obvious.
In the summer of 1989 the course ends and the students spread out over the entire world. A few months later the Berlin Wall falls...
24 years later, Kirsi Marie Liimatainen, now a director, sets out on a cinematic journey to Nicaragua, South Africa, Chile, Bolivia, Lebanon, Germany and Finland to meet up once more with her former fellow students. The dream of the liberation of the oppressed united the students of the Youth Academy. What did this dream mean to them and what has remained of it? Do they still fight for “the little man” or have they become convinced sympathizers of major global companies and neoliberalism? The journey brings us to the countries where the socialism of 21st century celebrates its‘ victory, indigenous people fight for their rights, and where the privatization in the social sector increases and where former freedom fighters live in shacks or the books of Marx and Lenin are replaced with religious texts.
The documentary tells a story about the past, when dreams of a better world still seemed possible, about the present, where political visions look like having come to an end and about a future that´s uncertain to all of us.
the background - directors word
The starting point of the film is my own background as a child of a 70s working-class family in Finland. The tradition of my family and my friends; the ideology of the Finnish left movement – all that has contributed to me personally. Until today it has shaped my view of the world and my concept of morals and life. Without this influence, I wouldn’t have made the decision to study at the "Jugendhochschule Wilhelm Pieck". I lost touch with many of my classmates, but I carried their stories with me, nevertheless. My everyday decisions are still influenced by the believe in International Solidarity.
The end of the Cold War didn´t only change the lives of people in Europe. In South Africa the era of Apartheid ended, in Chile Pinochet lost power, in Lebanon the civil war ended and it gave rise to a new division caused by religious-political groups. In Nicaragua the Sandinistas had to cope with a lost election and in Bolivia the voice of the indigenous people grew louder. When I meet my former fellow students after 24 years in their new lives, I ask them, whether there are still reasons worth fighting for. The Marxist fighting spirit is gone, but there is still no equality of rights in this world. - Did all the people sell out their ideals and adapted to the values of the “new world”, to the guidelines of global enterprises? Do they live by the image of the young, good-looking, consume-oriented new person - the modern man? What is left from the belief in socialist ideology, togetherness and international solidarity? Some of the activists from those days drew a line between their past and their future. But how can you understand the future, when you´re not willing to see and analyze the past?
We finished shooting in seven countries and are currently in post-production. We want to finish our film In January 2014. Still, there´s a big “pile” of work ahead of us: Material in seven languages Arabic, Xhosa, Zulu, and Finnish, to name only a few- has to be translated and subtitled. There is also unique archive material, private old photos, letters, postcards, which we are scanning at the moment. The research for film-material from various archives is also time-consuming. Prices for this material are often way too high for low-budget film-makers, that is why we had to look for alternative solutions. Still the rights holders of our archive material are placed all over the world and often don´t speak any English. Therefore the negotiations are very complicated. The political songs play an important part in our film as well. In this case the rights clearance is even more complicated, as lyrics and melodies are often controlled by different parties, which are sometimes not even in the same country.
All of this has to be accomplished as soon as possible, while we´re still working on the editing, the sound-design and the composition of the film score.
What is the project goal and who is the project for?
“Comrade, where are you today?” is a personal documentary,
which tries to find answers to the initial attraction and later
decline of the international left movement. The political
motivations of the protagonists are shown in a detailed way and in
reflection of the time of the Cold War. What was actually achieved
in the name of ideology and in which cases were the normal
citizens, the little men of the street, just used as a marionettes
on the political battlefield? A personal journey through time and
space; from the belief in international solidarity to the
disappointment in a world without ideals and finally to the eternal
quest for justice and fairness.
Why would you support this project?
The history of the International Youth Academy also reflects the history of the Cold War. The former students of the school fought against Pinochet´s regime in Chile, against the Contras in Nicaragua and against Apartheid in South Africa´s armed underground army. Archive images of the coup d'etat against Salvador Allende, of the street fights in Soweto and Santiago the Chile, of the Israeli air raids on Lebanon and the later subsequent civil war, the war between Sandinistas and Contras and the Bolivian Water War vividly tell the story and the origin of our protagonists and their home countries. Political songs also play an important role in our movie, as they are used to emphasize the historic and dramatic relations – even of the present-time material: a former student spontaneously sings a song by Mercedes Sosa, a friend begins to perform a song by Victor Jara. These situations are deeply moving and the film without them is unthinkable. In order to use these songs though, we have to acquire the full musical rights! These unique archive images as well as the political songs allow us to understand the historical context better. They show the background and the motivations of the protagonists and the circumstances in their home countries, when they joined the resistance groups, the underground movement, the Communist Party and became communists and freedom fighters.
How will we use the money if the project is successfully funded?
For our small company it was a big achievement to successfully complete the shooting in seven countries. On these travels we were generously supported by our filmmaker-friends, but now our savings are used up and we still need additional money to complete large parts of the post-production – translations, postage and phone costs, working place rents, graphics, sound-design, film-score and musicians for the score´s recording, poster and flyer.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST – above all the licenses for the archive-material and the political songs are a big financial burden on us – we can only acquire them with your support.
You are our hope.
Please support our project!
Who are the people behind the project?
Kirsi Marie Liimatainen used to be one of the students of the International Youth Academy herself. Returning from the GDR in the summer of 1989, she studied acting at the University of Tampere. Following her degree she worked as an actress for theatre, film and television. In 1999 she returned to Germany – this time to study film-directing in Potsdam-Babelsberg. ‘’Modlicha“, ‘’The Time of Spring“ and her debut ‘’Sonja” were successfully shown at festivals world-wide. Lately her feature-film “Fortress” sensitively drew attention to the subject of domestic violence. Further works include the TV-series ‘’Alavilla mailla hallanvaara“ and ‘’The Scream of the Butterfly“ (in Pre-Production). Kirsi Liimatainen was awarded scholarships of the DEFA-Foundation, the Nipkow-Program, the Academy of Arts in Berlin, the Finnish Cultural Foundation and took part in the Residence program of the Cannes film festival, CÉCI, Binger Film Lab, Torino Film Lab and the Residence program Saari of the KONE-Foundation. She currently works on the documentary “Comrade, where are you today?”