Memory on film: Testimony and constructions of authenticity in documentaries about the German Democratic Republic

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This article considers the construction of authenticity in documentary films dealing with repression in the former East Germany, focusing on Stefan Weinert’s Gesicht zur Wand (2009) and Christian Klemke and Jan N. Lorenzen’s Das Ministerium für Staatssicherheit: Alltag einer Behörde (2002). Taking as its starting point the observation of two modes of authenticity in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Oscar-winning feature film, Das Leben der Anderen (2006), the article analyses the interaction between referential and emotive elements in non-fictional representations of repression. The use of eyewitness testimony is central to both documentary films, and the grouping of personal accounts can create a self-authenticating ‘mediated remembering community’. However, the observation of complementary and competing authenticities in the medium highlights how the authenticity of the witness account can be both harnessed and undermined by its (re)mediation in cultural artefacts. This adds to our understanding of how versions of contested pasts circulate and become salient.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-210
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Early online date17 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013