GERMANY 101 MIN, 2022
The filmmakers meet Stefan in 2015, in the therapy ward of Brandenburg Prison. Their first impression is of a polite, shy man. A warder tells them he is an ice-cold woman-killer. The filmmakers follow Stefan through the last years of his term. Truth and falsehood blend in a cascade of presumption.
Chris was born in the Northern English town of Bolton, studied in Cambridge and then at film school in Babelsberg. Since the mid-90s, he's lived in Berlin, working as an editor and documentary- maker. His recent credits include Salomé Jashi's TAMING THE GARDEN (Sundance, Berlinale Forum 2021) and Thomas Heise's HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME, which won him a nomination for the VG Bildkunst Editing Award. In 2017 he won the German Camera Prize in the category best feature-length editing for Susanne Binninger's FIGHTER. He teaches the documentary course at the German Film and Television Academy (dffb) and works as editing consultant on documentaries and fiction films.
Stefan was borb in 1972 in Halle an der Saale/GDR. Kolbe worked as a newspaper photographer and journalist and studied at Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen Konrad Wolf in Potsdam-Babelsberg. He works as a freelance documentary-maker and cameraman and lives in Franzigmark, Berlin and Uckermark.
It was a long and difficult process to arrive at this film. What kept us going was the sense that we couldn't carry on making films like before.
After our last feature PRIESTS, we were both burnt out and had lost faith in our form of documentary. For some 20 years, we had tried to get as close as possible to our protagonists (leading the film critic Matthias Dell to coin the phrase "proximity film"). Now, we doubted whether that method would get us any further. We were tired of delving so intensely into people's lives, then disappearing out of them. What's more, we had the feeling that audiences didn't understand our approach. We had repeatedly debated with people who accused us of not presenting our subjects objectively, from several perspectives. They apparently hadn't recognized that for us, objectivity was never the aim; we see the documentary process as the subjective crystallization of our experiences in dealing with the world.
When researching our projects, we listen for resonance, look for surfaces that reflect our questions. This time, we found that in the
world of therapy. On one hand, we recognized ourselves in the patients (the first working title for this film was SUPERVISION). But we also identified with the therapists, who form a kind of intimacy with people in the course of their work and – to process this experience on a personal level – must establish a professional role for themselves.
We heard of rapid advances being made in a field that therapists have long shied away from, and which is politically controversial – therapy for offenders, in particular for violent criminals and sex offenders in prisons.
We first met Stefan S. in Brandenburg Prison, in the group "Masculinity and Identity." Every Friday, for 10 weeks, we joined these sessions. We observed the men, but also observed ourselves. What went through our minds, confronted with these men who have committed crimes we could barely imagine? We realized that these imaginings and preconceptions must be a major part of the film.
Stefan S. was reluctant about being filmed. With his speech defect, he is often difficult to understand and he leaves long pauses. Closeness as a filmic approach was out of the question.
Puppets are often used in therapy situations to allow patients to step back from their experiences and see the wider picture. For a while, we had been curious about two comments from a theatre director we know who has also worked with puppets. When a puppet comes to life, he said, you have to believe it. But nothing can be so dead as a puppet.
We followed Stefan for more than four years, but to this day he is as opaque to us as a puppet. We have often doubted whether the therapists have more insight than us. Does Stefan pose a danger, now he has been released? We can only believe in this system, with its psychologists, instruments, evaluations, judges, recommendations and counter-recommendations.
After this film we are left with a feeling of unease. That is linked to our powerlessness. What can we really know about ourselves and, in particular, about others? Confronted with our conceptions of what is "evil", we see that our options are limited: we can only show faith, and live with it.
- Thessaloniki IDF
- Batumi IFF
- IDFA Amsterdam
- Millenium Docs Against Gravity
- One World Romania
Doker 2022 — Dok Therapy