A two-year suspended sentence. For firing the fatal shot. Imagine that.
Each former communist country has its own repertoire of stories about actual or dreamed escapes across their borders. The more fashionable ones, developed in the context of a recently intensified nostalgia for the recent past, often emphasize the escapees’ imagination and involve a wealth of props: from balloons, to inflatable mattresses, and to carcasses of slaughtered pigs. But Stefan Weinert’s film leaves aside the nostalgia narratives of recent years, by concentrating on the traumatic. In The Family, he examines a number of cases of deaths that occurred on the inner German border. It is still not sure how many people died there, as numbers are constantly questioned, having risen steadily since the reunification. The families of the dead ones are still struggling to see justice being done: one mother still doesn't know what happened to her son's corpse; another woman was never explained how her husband drowned at the former border; a third individual discovers photographs in a Stasi case file and is confronted for the first time with images of the dead body of his father. The sentences given in a few cases judged are denounced as a slap in the face of those whose lives have been crippled by the aforementioned deaths. The Family is an understated yet powerful piece of cinema which supports the notion that, for the countries of the former ‘Eastern Bloc’, the communist past is not yet a closed chapter. But we knew that, didn’t we?