Portrait of a private coal company in East Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district in 1988/89. The feisty woman boss runs the business with humour and understanding. Her seven male employees respect her. To the outside world, they are all tough guys, but as they describe their jobs and personal situations, above and beyond the hard manual labour, their vulnerability starts to come to light. Under gentle questioning, the subjects of this social survey by Helke Misselwitz willingly allow the audience a “look into their hearts”: “Can hands this rough be tender?” That approach makes it seem, at times, as if this were a utopia of solidarity at the margins of the Socialist workers’ state. Looking at these figures “from below”, the film touches on many taboos. The discussion subjects range from the building of the Berlin Wall and possible escape, to child abuse and suicide, as well as prison and alcoholism. Fiercely intent on authenticity, which is why it was shot in “outmoded” black-and-white, the film documents a trade that would soon itself become obsolete – turning it into a survey of social contradictions in East Germany, made just a few months before the country’s political collapse.
German Democratic Republic 1989
Documentary form52’ · Black/White · 35 mm
Film print: DEFA-Filmverleih in der Deutschen Kinemathek, Berlin