Remote Participatory Workshop in Rostock, Germany

Does the Truth Still Lie in Rostock?

In August 2020, in collaboration with the Rostock based group Lichtenhagen im Gedächtnis , Spectacle developed and ran an archive-based two-day participatory workshop. This project is part of the run up to the 30th anniversary of the Rostock Pogrom in 1992.

The project’s events, which were held online due to the pandemic, included a public premier of a new fully German version of ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’. The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Mark Saunders, which focused on the participatory production process through which the film was created. For more about the process or the archive footage, see the bottom of this post.

This screening also launched a unique workshop designed to connect Rostock’s past, present, and future.

The Truth Lies in Rostock

This 1993 film depicts the events which occurred in August 1992, at the Lichtenhagen estate in Rostock, in the former East Germany. Over the course of three nights, a fascist crowd assembled. The police withdrew as the mob petrol bombed a refugee centre and the home of Vietnamese guest workers while 3000 spectators stood by and clapped. 

The film uses material filmed from inside the attacked houses and interviews with anti-fascists, the Vietnamese guest workers, police, bureaucrats, neo-nazis and residents. Through these perspectives, a story of political collusion and fear unfolds. 

Thirty years later the question has become, how can the memory of the ‘Lichtenhagen Pogrom’ help fight new waves of fascism in Germany? 

Participatory Video Workshop

This two-day participatory video workshop offered the chance for young adults from Rostock to dig into the film’s questions about the nature of fascism, racism, and the roles and responsibilities of the city, state, and federal governments. 

By working with archive footage and filming a live commemorative demonstration, the workshop was designed to bridge the past and present issues of racism and anti-racism in Rostock. The workshop’s second aim was to offer new skills in media and filmmaking to these young adults. 

The workshop launched the weekend of August 20th. A group of young Rostockers were split in two groups, one working with archive footage, and one filming the live demonstration.

Before the workshop began, Spectacle digitized a portion of our extensive archive footage from 1992. The material selected was of the anti-nazi demonstration that followed the pogrom. This group worked with Spectacle to edit a new short film from the material. 

You can see their short film here: Demonstration 1992

Meanwhile, the rest of the participants went as a small group to film an event which echoed the archive material – the Lichtenhagen Commemorative Bicycle Demonstration. This group of participants learned about filming techniques and edited footage from the demonstration into a short film which focused on the landmarks which have been built to commemorate the events thirty years before. 

You can view their final short film here: Demonstration 2020

The Aims of the Project  

  • Provide a safe space for reflection about the events in Lichtenhagen, specifically for different groupings that were involved in the events at the time. This includes, but is not limited to the Vietnamese community in Rostock, some of whom had to fear for their lives and lost their homes in the events, and Rostock residents, some of whom were appalled at the unfolding events and other who were cheering at, or maybe even participating in the attacks.
  • Provide skills training in workshops, teaching participants how to use video cameras, record sound, and conduct interviews.
  • Potentially encouraging dialogue between diverse groups and contributing to a more sustainable community through a process of reconciliation.
  • Preserving the oral history of the 1992 events by creating Zeitzeugen (witness/bystander) documentation for future generations, through the production of a series of films including original as well as new footage. These footage shot in these workshops will be made available online as well as on DVD and can be used to educate younger generations.

The Archive 

Spectacle has an extensive archive of footage from Rostock between 1991-93. The archive grew out of a programme of participatory video workshops run by Spectacle. After the unification of Germany, all the East German media outlets were taken over or replaced with Western media. Spectacle’s series of open workshops were designed to establish an independent, community-based media group in Rostock and to document the effects of unification on the city.

All participants in the workshops were beginners, with little experience in photography or filmmaking. The practical exercises concentrated on how the unification was changing the physical urban landscape. At the close of the first sessions, each participant was interviewed about their experiences as well as their hopes and fears of “Die Wende” the unification of Germany.

One of the objectives of the workshops was to establish a community media group to that end we formed the Jako Media Co-op. Just six months later Jako E.V. and Spectacle would rejoin to make ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’.

The production process created over 200 hours of footage that did not appear in the final edit of the film. These scenes of daily life in 1991-1993 have become an historic archive of the city at that volatile time. The aim of the 2020 project was to re-work and revisit this archive together with a new generation of Rostockers who were not even born at the time of the pogrom.

Watch The Films

Demonstration 2020
Demonstration 1992

Read past blogs about Spectacle’s Rostock projects here.

Visit our vimeo channel to see examples of Spectacle’s past PV work.

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LGBT History on Film: Pride 1991

Twenty five years ago Despite TV filmed the documentary, ‘Out of Line’, on the subject of London Pride 1991. Having already taken an interest in documenting the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) political struggle as it was happening (Despite Clause 28 – 1988). This longer documentary film takes a celebratory approach to the community’s political and social wins.

The events of 1988 seem almost forgotten as 25,000 LGBT activists and allies gathered in London to take part in Pride 1991. The event, a march through the streets of central London ending with a party in Kennington park, had grown in popularity since 1988, thanks to activist groups such as LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and Stonewall who worked hard to achieve greater acceptance, giving more people the courage to come out, even if just for one day.

Opening with footage of the celebrations on the streets of London, the film gradually takes on a more political tone, interviewing individuals about their experiences of homophobia and discrimination. The filmmakers talk to the Lewisham Lesbian Mothers group, who march in the parade with children and babies in tow. One woman is interviewed about her struggles conceiving and raising a child as a lesbian mother – a subject rarely discussed in the early 1990s.

The film also incorporates several interviews with BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) LGBT individuals and groups, who discuss the particular challenges they face living at the intersections of numerous forms of oppression – often facing homophobia in Black communities, and racism in LGBT communities.

As well as being an insight into London Pride from 25 years ago, the film succinctly summarises the struggles still faced by LGBT people in 1991, and the social and political strides they had made in changing a society which dismissed them.

The full film is available to rent or buy here.
A DVD of the film is also available here.

Click Despite TV for more blogs
See our Despite TV project pages for more information and videos.

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John ‘Black Power Salute’ Carlos speaks in London 21st May 2012

John Carlos, who marked his medal at the 1968 games with a raised fist ‘black power’ salute, will speak about inequality, resistance and struggle in London on Monday 21st  May 2012 at a meeting organised by members of the RMT trade union on the London Underground and sponsored by the Fire Brigades Union. The famous gesture by John Carlos and fellow medal winner Tommie Smith epitomised resistance to racism.
The world is under the spell of the Olympics 2012. In these times of global gathering around an sports event, resistance is the best Olympic spirit according to Olympic athlete Carlos. Resistance against inequality and being pro human rights.

At the Olympic Games in Mexico City John Carlos created one of the most powerful images of all times. When the American anthem started, he and Tommie Smith bowed their heads and raised their fists to represent the Black Power movement of that time. Their way of dressing and posing represented symbols for working people, black poverty, peace, and lynch mob victims. In defies of the important Olympic rule: no politics. This controversial gesture created huge debates about politics. Carlos’ athletic career was over, but his human rights spirit did not die. He represents personal sacrifice for humanity and equality and this is your chance to hear him speak in real life.

John Carlos will be joined by activist and campaigner  Doreen Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered by racists and whose long battle for justice brought the conviction of two of his killers earlier this year. Also on the platform will be Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher died in police custody, and Unite Against Fascism joint secretary Weyman Bennett.
Other speakers include Samantha Rigg-David from the Sean Rigg Campaign for Justice and Change and United Friends and Families Campaign, Sharhabeel Lone of the We are Babar Ahmad Campaign, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and Mac McKenna, an RMT activist on London Underground.

Register here for FREE! and join the FaceBook page.

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Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Ruhullah Aramesh Demo

New to the Spectacle Active Archive:

Demo against the Killing of Ruhullah Aramesh in Thornton Heath in 1992

Ruhullah Aramesh, a twenty-four year old, Afghan refugee was attacked in Thornton Heath on July 31, 1992, by a gang of twenty yelling racist epithets. They beat him with iron bars and wood planks until his skull was crushed.

His death was just one of many that occured near or around the BNP head quarters in South East London. A horrific string of racist attacks

This is particularly relevant as there has been new evidence regarding the Stephen Lawrence case.

There is footage of the march and speeches by speakers representing:

Croydon Race and Equality Council ,

Refugees Ad-hoc Committee f0r Asylum Rights RACAR ,

Rohit Duggal Family Campaign

Weyman Bennett Anti-Nazi League

Labour Councillor from Croydon North West.

Can you help?

The speakers are announced but it is difficult to work out exactly their names or how to spell them, so if you have any idea of who they are please let us know.

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The storm… after the calm.

Para leer este blog en español pincha aquí.

The day starts early for us, but the excitement charges our batteries more than the first coffee of the morning. The Director, 1st AD and Producer Assistant all meet in the office. We pick up the props and head off to North London.

Surprisingly, we get to the location too early. Its miraculous, London transport has for once worked perfectly. We meet the 2nd AD and the director of photography and go to knock Karim’s door. He’s the landlord of the location and wants to give us some instructions: where the actors are allowed to smoke, where we can put all the furniture, the safety measures that we have to keep in mind…

The actors wait upstaris having a chat

The actors wait upstaris having a chat

Some of the actors arrive really early too. They were also concerned about the usual transport surprises and prefer to arrive too early than not arrive at all.  They make themselves comfortable upstairs and get to know each other.  It will be a long wait. The beginning of the shoot is hard to get right. It is the key moment when most of the lighting has to be set up in the proper place.

The actors come downstairs. We start shooting all the “above the glass” shots. Mark Saunders, the director, give some directions and Claire Sharples, the 2nd AD, tell the actors where their initial position is. We still need more time.  We crowd all together around the monitor to see how the shot will look. The overexposed effect is great, but we find several dark “stains”: the edge of one small bulb in the ceiling, one of the rubber tops of the tripod’s leg… we cover all the defects with white tape and eventually we see the clapperboard in front of the camera: Roll 1    Scene 1    Take 1

All together around the monitor, checking the framing

All together around the monitor, checking the framing

Some feelings characterize the first hours of the shoot, perfectionism and optimism. This is not bad, but it can entail some problems: we can easily run out of time.  We all need to focus. The lunch break keeps being put off and people start getting nervous. Finally, we take the break and everybody seems satisfied with the job done so far.

First directions of the day

First directions of the day

The moment arrives to shoot the takes that made us to come to this location: the ones around the glass ceiling. The extras exchange contact numbers and leave the space.

Shots from “under the glass ceiling” work perfectly. Nevertheless, we are using some extra time that we haven’t contracted with the landlord, so we call him asking for one more hour. Costs start to rise, but we can’t let the pressure to drive us to take hasty decisions that will lead to problems in editing.

We move upstairs to shoot from “above the glass ceiling”. Lights are ready, camera in position, actors prepared… and suddenly, without prior warning, the camera switches off. We are already using a second extra hour. Karim, the landlord, arrives to the location. “We are having some technical problems”, how many times has he heard that excuse? Fortunately, the camera starts working again and we are able to take the last shot of the day.

Have we got everything we need? We think so. We tidy up, clean everything, put the furniture in place again… and leave the location. We talk about the day on our way back home. We are tired and a bit worried about having used two extra hours, but this is a normal issue in film production.
The next shooting day will be at Brunel University. We will use their green screen. It will be a quieter day and every take will be more planned because every shot has to be from specific distances and angles. There is no room for improvisation. On the plus side we don’t have time limit to use these premises so there is more time to get things right. It seems that it will be a journey without mishaps, but we won’t count our chickens before they are hatched.

If you want to see the pictures of the shooting, click here to visit flickr.

If you want to see the first samples of the video, click here.

If you want to get more information about the project “Speak out against discrimination”, click here.

For more information about Spectacle, click here.



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Seeking actors. The Audition at Battersea Art Center.

Para leer este blog en español pincha aquí.


After  making the storyboard, all of us have a clear idea of what we are looking for. We have decided the shots, the camera angles, the atmosphere, the sound and the characters all we need to make the project real. Now we need to choose the real actors and we start thinking about the casting.

After publishing the advert on the internet, we receive lots of emails from people from different backgrounds and nationalities interested in coming to the casting. We went through all the applicants and decide the day the audition will be held.

Battersea Art Center.

Actors waiting in the entrance. We give them the script and the treatment and the audition starts. Different people in the same room moving all around, falling in different ways, showing different expressions in front of a camera, trying to be someone they are not..difficult task! Everybody seems to be having fun and enjoying the audition. That is good!

After the audition, there is only one more difficult thing to do…Choose the actors and be chosen from them…

If you want to get more information about the project “Speak out against discrimination”, click here.

For more information about Spectacle, click here.


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Shoulders to the wheel!

Para leer este blog en español pincha aquí.

So now that we all know what we are doing, we need to know how to do it, and that can be a whole other kettle of fish.

Talking is easy, but putting it all together and making it work on the screen is completely different. We all understand what we’ve been talking about, but we’re interpreting the visual concept in a different way. If we want to work as a team we need to visualise the project, so we all know what we need and what is our aim. Some storyboarding would be useful…

Ok, so we need a lot of people (mental note: have an audition!), and we need a studio (start making phone calls), AND we need a big glass ceiling (Do we need a greenhouse?). This starts to look difficult, but we love challenges, don’t we?

The storyboard has been an important step forward for the project. We’ve realised how important the CGI (Computer Generated Images) will be and our meetings with the specialist in computer graphics have revolved around the storyboard. Meetings… this reminds me that evening in March when the director said: “Welcome to the night shift!” Long evenings in the office and early coffees in Camden around a table plenty of drafts… The best thing about this is that no one loses their optimism, there’s always someone able to put a smile in your face even when everything goes wrong.

Eventually, we’ve realised that we need to make some changes. How can something that we created to help us turn against us? We’ve been too obsessed with reproducing an accurate version of the storyboard, and that’s the problem. We can adapt the storyboard to our necessities, so let’s try to start with the creative thinking and redefine the shoots.

First of all, we still have some problems visualising the proposed video. We’re used to moving pictures, and a piece of paper doesn’t help too much.

Lets move it!

Making this has helped us notice that we’re missing some really important stuff, the sound!

Now it’s time for some decision making. First of all our actors. But that’s a different problem…

If you want to get more information about the project “Speak out against discrimination”, click here.

For more information about Spectacle, click here.


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