The end of the GDR gave rise to new artistic freedoms in reunited Berlin. Shortly after the fall of the Wall, rebel director Frank Castorf was appointed artistic director of the Volksbühne. His way of working altered the public’s perception of this theatre. The post-reunification audiences in East Berlin were glad to be challenged by a series of radical productions and theatre marathons, and the Volksbühne became a legend. The chronological history of the Castorf era between 1992 and 2017 is told here in excerpts from the productions and in a series of conversations conducted on the long sofa in the theatre’s foyer. This is where we hear from actors including Henry Hübchen, Sophie Rois, Martin Wuttke and Herbert Fritsch, who moved from acting to directing, as well as Castorf himself. The people behind the scenes, who usually remain invisible to the audience, also have their say and are placed on an equal footing with prominent actors and directors.
For all those who weren’t in Berlin during the last 25 years, but also for those who sat in the auditorium as spectators, Pehnert, Ehlert and Ulrich have revisited the story of a newer, freer way of making theatre.
by Lutz Pehnert, Matthias Ehlert, Adama Ulrich
with Frank Castorf, Sophie Rois, Kathrin Angerer, Herbert Fritsch, Henry Hübchen, Alexander Scheer
Germany 2018 German 130’ Colour Documentary form


  • Frank Castorf
  • Sophie Rois
  • Kathrin Angerer
  • Herbert Fritsch
  • Henry Hübchen
  • Alexander Scheer


Directors Lutz Pehnert, Matthias Ehlert, Adama Ulrich
Screenplay Lutz Pehnert
Cinematography Wolfgang Gaube
Sound Johannes Schneeweiß
Editing Thomas Kleinwächter
Sound Design Michael Kaczmarek, Jörg Theil
Music Moritz Denis
Producer Susann Schimk
Co-Production rbb Potsdam-Babelsberg

Lutz Pehnert

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1961. After an apprenticeship as a typesetter, he worked for the “Junge Welt” daily newspaper and wrote for several magazines. Since 1995, he has been a freelance writer and television director making artist portraits and history and travel documentaries. His film Brand, about a group of alcoholic workers in a Brandenburg steel mill, was presented in the 1997 Berlinale Forum. His multipart documentary DDR Ahoi!, about the history of East German seafaring, won a Grimme Award in 2011 and his film Partisan screened in the 2018 Panorama.

Filmography (documentaries)

1996 Brand; co-director: Matthias Ehlert 2006 Ma vie: Wolfgang Kohlhaase 2008 Deutschland, deine Künstler – Katharina Thalbach 2010 DDR Ahoi!; multi-part documentary 2014 Die Ostdeutschen; documentary series 2015 Ostrock – Zwischen Liebe und Zorn 2016 Grenzland: Vom Baltikum bis zur Akropolis · Immer bereit! – Junge Pioniere in der DDR · Deutschland, deine Künstler – Katrin Sass 2018 Partisan; co-directors: Matthias Ehlert, Adama Ulrich · Berlin – Schicksalsjahre einer Stadt; documentary series 2019 Ostfrauen; multi-part documentary 2020 Wir Ostdeutsche 2021 Wer wir sind – Die DNA des Ostens · Die Fahrradfahrerin von Sanssouci – Jutta Hoffmann 2022 Bettina

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2022

Matthias Ehlert

Born in Berlin in 1967, he studied philosophy, German and history. He has worked as a journalist since 1992 and, since 2012, has been deputy editor-in-chief of ‘Weltkunst’ magazine.

Filmography (documentaries)

1996 Brand; Co-director: Lutz Pehnert, Forum 2004 Europas Erbe – Ein Kontinent im Spiegel der Geschichte; Co-director: Lutz Pehnert 2018 Partisan; Co-directors: Lutz Pehnert, Adama Ulrich

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019

Adama Ulrich

A director and writer, she studied cultural theory, aesthetics, theatre history and ethnography in Berlin and completed a PhD in theatre in 1993. She pursues her interests in other cultures and ways of life with cinematic voyages of discovery to Africa, Latin America and the USA.

Filmography (documentaries)

2008 Ma vie – Frank Castorf 2012 Vergessene Völker Europas. Die Kaschuben 2018 Partisan; co-directors Lutz Pehnert, Matthias Ehlert, Panorama

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019