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Flashpoint Berlin

Flashpoint Berlin

By Patrick Samuel • March 28th, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 2/5
FLASHPOINT BERLIN 1957 – 1963 (DVD)
Strike Force Entertainment 

Release date: March 28th 2011
Certificate (UK): E
Running time: 117 minutes

Year of production: 1957 – 1963

I’m quite fond of Berlin. I lived and worked there for a few years after the Wall came down and surprisingly it’s a place a little piece of my heart will always call home.

Its efficiency, reliable transport, living standards and work ethics easily puts to shame a, supposedly, first world city like London, which, for all it’s capitalist aspirations, can barely keep its trains running on time or maintain decent standards in education, housing or healthcare for its people.

Flashpoint Berlin 1957 – 1963

Documentaries about Berlin’s past are always fascinating. There’s so much to focus on; architecture, art, history, but I’ve never watched one about life during the Cold War Crisis and what it was like to live in a city divided. I have often gone by first hand accounts of people I’ve known who grew up in East Berlin.

Flashpoint Berlin consists of seven reports produced by ITN between 1957 and 1963 and I had hoped it would offer some insight in these areas.

What I found was that instead of unbiased reporting, the reports were fuelled by anti-communist propaganda. While still interesting, it tells nothing about East Berlin.

Flashpoint Berlin 1957 – 1963

In one of the reports, a journalist is denied entry in East Berlin to film and interview those who live there. Standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, he comments:

“It’s the drabbest, dreariest, most dismal city I have ever seen. Food is still rationed there, and I saw women queuing up to buy potatoes. But the thing that struck me immediately and most forcibly was almost, the almost complete absence of people on the streets. This is even true in the Stalin-Allee. The Stalin-Allee is the communist showpiece of East Berlin.”

Flashpoint Berlin 1957 – 1963

The odd thing is, from the checkpoint he would never have been able to see Stalin-Allee, now Karl Marx-Alee, although he goes on to report on plaster falling off the buildings and drainage pipes not being fitted due to the incompetence of the workers.

While life in East Berlin did indeed have limitations, the view Flashpoint Berlin takes is one which focuses on the bourgeois lifestyles of West Berliners, most of whom are interviewed on Kurfürstendamm and proudly boast about the latest fashions, accessories and lifestyles available to them but speak about East Berliners as being difficult to relate to because they have so little in relation to them.

Flashpoint Berlin 1957 – 1963

We learn nothing of culture of East Germany; the film industry, which produced classics like Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser (1957) and Fünf Patronenhülsen (1960), artists, musical talents or sporting achievements. No effort was made when speaking to East Berliners in West Berlin to ask anything which could result in a positive light being cast.

Flashpoint Berlin, while it offers vintage footage of the city in the late 50’s and early 60’s, is like many reports Britain and America made at the time to thwart the rise of communism. In doing so, it crushes the culture and sweeps away the achievements of the 1.2million who lived in East Berlin during that time, but the spirit is still there.

ITN ROVING REPORTS:

  • Cost of Living Germany (1957, 18 mins)
  • Berlin Today (1957, 25 mins)
  • How Many Germanies (1959, 18 mins)
  • East Germany Now (1960, 14 mins)
  • The Divided City (1961, 15 mins)
  • Crisis In Berlin (1961, 14 mins)
  • The Spy Catchers (1963, 14 mins)

For a real look at life in the GDR, there’s the DDR Museum in Berlin or if possible, ask an East Berliner, who can tell you about “Ostie” treats like Ketwurst, what a Trabant is and why documentaries like this one are just wrong or, quite simply, a testament to the political climate and times they were made in.

Flashpoint Berlin 1957 – 1963Flashpoint Berlin 1957 – 1963Flashpoint Berlin 1957 – 1963
Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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