Opening 20 Sep 2018
Oberpfalz is one of seven districts in the German state of Bavaria and the home of the small town of Wackersdorf with a population of about 5000. In the 1980s Wackersdorf was the center of attention for almost a decade, as the local residents with support from many outsiders, protested against the construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant in Taxöldener Forst, a nearby forest area. The demonstrations of action groups, working/middle-class people, as well as independents, against the police resulted in injuries, arrests, serious disagreements between family members with opposite opinions, and huge rumblings clear up to the highest political office in Bavaria, at the time under the leadership of Franz Josef Strauß.
Director Oliver Haffner (originally from Munich) brings us all the details of this historical event in the form of a docudrama. He received much support from producer Ingo Fliess who grew up in this very neighborhood of Oberpfalz. Here, Johannes Zeiler plays the county administrator, Hans Schuierer. Originally in favor of this construction plan, which promised to bring new jobs to a failing area, he completely turns around to side with the protestors. This puts his job at risk as he goes against the Bavarian Minister for Environment (Sigi Zimerschied) and then clear up to the top politicians.
Wackersdorf (not to be mistaken for Wacken, the site of the annual heavy metal festival in northern Germany) represents probably the first civilian resistance against the government in more recent German history. Filmed on original sites, we go back to the internet/computer-free era of the 1980s, see people wearing the fashions of those days, eating typical Bavarian food, drinking beer, and speaking in the local accents (for which it might be good to have German subtitles) on old-fashioned telephones. In 1981 Wackersdorf was selected for the project. In 1982 demonstrations began, first with a simple tower, which was torn down by the police. In December 11, 1985, Wackersdorf was confirmed as the location and companies began clearing out the area, while 100,000 people demonstrated. The nuclear disaster of Chernobyl, April 26, 1986, added fuel to their resistance. By now almost 900,000 people were demonstrating. In April 1989, the government found an alternative plan and retreated from Wackersdorf. The message of the film is “Who is legally right – the people or the government?” (Becky Tan)