When a monument is out of sight

When a monument is out of sight

Empty streets, vacant lots, rusty bridges – not all of the city, but not all of the country either. Here a scrap metal yard faces an overgrown field. There is a collection of silos enthroned over a blackberry hedge. This is life on the outskirts of Bonn in western Germany, as captured in Güzin Kar’s powerful documentary “Your Street”. Nobody comes. Nobody goes. Worn plastic sheets flutter under a gloomy sky. But the boring flatness of the place belies a tragedy.

In the early morning of May 29, 1993, several girls and women of Turkish descent were killed in an arson attack in the nearby town of Solingen. Three of the victims were children – their “terrified screams and efforts to escape the flames woke up neighbors,” the Washington Post reported at the time. In the three years after Germany’s reunification in 1990, thousands of attacks on “immigrants” and “foreigners” were carried out by neo-Nazi groups and other extremists. Nevertheless, the Solingen arson was characterized by its cruelty. The perpetrators, four young German men who were later convicted of murder, became faces of rampant right-wing violence.

The event sparked widespread condemnation and a wave of protests. As Peter Maxwill from Spiegel stated, the newly integrated Germany lost “its innocence” on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the crime.

Kar, born in Turkey but raised in Switzerland, was 26 years old at the time. “We all heard about it,” she recently told me on the phone. Eventually the company went on. “There have been so many right-wing attacks that people have forgotten, including me,” said Kar. When she found a company in Bonn with Google Maps a few years ago, she noticed a name there: Saime Genç, the youngest Victims of the Solingen attack. To commemorate her death at the age of four, an industrial street was named after her – the sparingly lined with bare trees, which is shown in “Your Street”. “At your age, other people get bicycles or dollhouses,” says a voice-over narration in the film that speaks directly to Genç. “You have a road.”

Kar had planned to make a documentary about right-wing extremism. Now she had found her subject. In 2019 she traveled from Zurich, where she lives, to the Saime-Genç-Ring. “It’s unfinished, it’s ugly,” said Kar. “It’s not a place where people go for a walk.” She started filming anyway and within three days filmed the street and its surroundings with her iPhone for research purposes. But later, when studying her static wide-angle shots, she struggled to figure out what the story was about. With the help of a film editor, she developed more than fifty different versions of the project. Eventually a storyline emerged. “The story is that there is no story because there is nothing to tell about this street,” she said. “There is nothing to be seen there.” She returned with a professional cameraman to capture this “big nothing”.

The seven-minute film asks what place society should give to the most painful or shameful parts of its past. Helmut Kohl, the late Chancellor who headed the reunification of the country, named a street in Bonn’s city center after him. “It’s a beautiful street,” said Kar. “It says a lot about what a society thinks about a person.” Saime Gençs Straße now feels more like a compromise between the compulsion to remember and the desire to forget. It’s remote, desolate – a monument that doesn’t evoke any memory.

New York favorites

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here