Britta Wauer is an award winning Berlin based filmmaker with a number of noteworthy documentaries to her credit. These include her 2008 feature documentary Gerda’s Silence about the life and times of Holocaust survivor Gerda Schrage; the 2005 TV documentary Berlin: A Square, a Murder and a Famous Communist, about Berlin’s famous theater Die Volksbuehne; her collaboration with Sissi Huetlin titled The Rapoports – Our Three Lives, about the German Jewish émigré family who went to live in East Germany after being prosecuted during the McCarthy era in the US; and her 2001 debut documentary A Hero’s Death, in which she reveals the truth around East Germany’s national hero Egon Schulz, a border controller who, instead of being killed in action, actually died from friendly fire.
In all her documentaries, Wauer meticulously retraces the past with carefully researched archival footage and returns it to the present to embed it into a contemporary context. Her masterful technique is evident throughout her latest work, In Heaven Underground (Im Himmel unter der Erde, 2011), a portrait about the Weissensee Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. Srangely enough, even though it is located in Berlin, it was never destroyed, confiscated, or expropriated during the Third Reich.
Craftily, Wauer weaves together historical facts with personal stories alongside the day-to-day activities to present the cemetery as a green oasis which serves as a refuge for wildlife, a historical research ground as well as for what is was meant to be: a place to remember the departed. With cameraman Kasper Koepke contributing beautiful images, the Weissensee Cemetery is featured at different seasons, different times of day, in gorgeous establishing shots, as well as intimate close ups.
The result is a multifaceted kaleidoscope of narratives and impressions about a historically rich, yet little-known Jewish cemetery.
One memorable scene is a short interview with a police officer patrolling the cemetery who remarks:
“There are more than 150,000 dead people here, and they are fairly harmless—so it’s pretty peaceful here.”
In Heaven Underground premiered at this year’s Berlinale and received the Panorama Audience Award. The documentray will have its North American premiere at the upcoming Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival in Toronto, Canada and will be theatrically released in Germany later this year.
For further information on In Heaven Underground, please visit: www.imhimmelunterdererde.de