Having completed their series of Iraq War-era films (starting with Gunner Palace in 2004 and concluding with 2009’s How to Fold a Flag), Tucker and Epperlein (who also produced the film) turn their attention to the former East Germany of Epperlein’s childhood, and specifically to the possibility that her father might have been one of the many thousands of citizens recruited as informers by the Stasi (Ministry for State Security). The strange state of living under constant surveillance is both recalled and embodied in this uniquely powerful and timely film.
BOND/360 will premiere the documentary on March 29th at Film Forum followed by Los Angeles on April 21st and a nationwide release through the spring with a digital, educational and DVD release to follow throughout the year.
Elegantly incorporating actual surveillance recordings and Stasi-produced propaganda, KARL MARX CITY offers a glimpse of what it was like to live in a world where privacy was vanquished and suspicion ubiquitous. Helmer Epperlein was born in Karl Marx City (now Chemnitz). She left for the US once the Wall came down, but the rest of her family stayed behind. Her father took his own life in 1999, leaving only a brief and cryptic letter. Over the course of KARL MARX CITY, Epperlein’s journey leads her through the former German Democratic Republic in search of clues as to whether her father was driven to suicide by guilt over having been an informer. Epperlein interviews family and friends and visits a Stasi prison and the sprawling Stasi archives, which contains 111 kilometers of files on over 17 million people.
This chilling synthesis of memoir and history speaks directly to our times, when our most intimate secrets or embarrassing photos can go viral in an instant. Invasions of our privacy have become widespread, with hidden cameras, hacked phones, and leaked emails. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the most surveilled society in history, the German Democratic Republic. By its collapse in 1989, the state fielded 92,000 officers and had used perhaps 500,000 informants to report on its citizens over the previous four decades. This eerily fascinating, highly personal film transports the audience back to the GDR during those Cold War years, when the capacity to trust one’s neighbors was systematically eroded.