Film Screening: Between the Lines

December 14, 2005 // 3:00pm5:00pm

Since the first brick was laid to build the Berlin Wall in 1961, hundreds of East Germans lost their lives in search of political freedom and economic prosperity at the border. For East German politicians, the escapees were mere criminals attempting to disrupt a nation's will to "protect" its boundaries. In contrast, in West Germany, every escapee was a survivor who left behind a political regime which imprisoned its people behind concrete walls and psychological fences.

Every day, drafted border soldiers were forced to fight an unofficial war. Like all East Germans, they were taught from an early age that the West was the enemy. Built to preserve political interests, the influence of the wall and the aftermath on its border guardsmen and families were however, tragically disregarded.

The essence of this tragedy is in the true story of two guards, Ulrich Steinhauer and Egon Bunge. In November 1980, Bunge decided to carry out his own plan of escape, and in the process killed Corporal Steinhauer, his official partner at the gate.

Director Dirk Simon has carried this tale with him for years, ever since visiting the two soldiers' home base as a boy. And for Simon it's not an easy story to tell, the gray issues faced by
border militia on the question of liberty far outnumbering the black and white.

Between the Lines is the first documentary out of Germany capturing the complexities and tragic consequences of the lives torn apart while serving at the Berlin Wall.

East German born director Dirk Simon brings firsthand knowledge of life behind the wall. For several
years, he asked himself how far he would go to reach his goal of living as a free man. He escaped at the age of 21.

With a degree from the Academy of Performing Arts in Burghausen, West Germany, he has been involved with independent film and theatre projects in both Germany and America. The film Between the lines is his first feature documentary where he is author, director and co-producer.

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  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
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  • James Person // Deputy Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project