Berliner Ballade

Director: Chris Marker
France / 1990 / 29 min
In French with English subtitles

Last streamed on Tue, Aug 10

On the occasion of Marker’s 100th birthday, we are presenting three of his previously unreleased documentary shorts—Berliner Ballade, Prime Time in the Camps, and Blue Helmet (Casque Blue)—which capture political upheaval in eastern Europe and the indomitable spirits of those affected. An Icarus Films release.

In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the France 2 news program Envoyé spécial sent Chris Marker to East Berlin in the lead-up to the first free elections in decades. Berliner Ballade is the film Marker made, but the program that commissioned it never aired it in its entirety. Now restored to its full version, the film takes us onto the streets of Berlin, showing crowds of pedestrians, sausage vendors, and even people creating fake Berlin Wall souvenirs to sell. These images are juxtaposed with archival footage of the wall and its surroundings, Hitler in a triumphant motorcade, and a stark row of crosses bearing the names (when known) and death dates of those killed trying to cross over into East Germany. Berliner Ballade is punctuated with short interviews featuring artists and activists grappling with what life in this new Germany means for the left. As the votes are tallied, the Christian Democrats carry the day. It is the start of a new reality for Berliners, and one many clearly greet with mixed feelings.