Anders olsen was twelve years old when the wall fell in 1989. For the norwegian, who is generally interested in war and political history, this has always been a fascinating subject. At the same time, norwegian society of his generation had a certain distrust of germans. At the age of 37, olsen wants to go in search of clues. On a journey along the former border strip, he wants to find out – among other things in personal interviews – what really makes the germans tick. In an interview with our newspaper, olsen explains, among other things, how this trip was to become a documentary film.
Mr. Olsen, what do you find so fascinating about the german history of the turnaround period??
Anders olsen: I have to elaborate a little on that. When i was studying photography in birmingham in the late 1990s, i had a classmate who had grown up in arendsee (sachsen-anhalt, germany). She showed me photos from her childhood and told me how she had grown up in the GDR. I realized that although I thought of myself as an open-minded young man, I had a lot of preconceived notions about east germany. Even if less than the average norwegian. Maybe because I was always curious and always tended to take the side of the underdog.
Yet i had been taught that the west was good and the east was bad. This was a very natural thought for me. So now I met someone who could share memories of a happy childhood. Even though her photos were black and white, i realized that they were less black and female than my first impressions of the germany. This jolted me awake and I began to think about what was actually the truth and what was only served as fact to us growing up.
How old were you when the wall came down??
In november 1989 i was twelve years old. I remember it well. When the wall came down, we were about the same age as our parents were when the wall was built. At home we talked a lot about it and also we children among ourselves. But I don’t remember this being discussed in school lessons.
They are preparing a bike tour along the former inner german border. Tell us a little about the trip.
We are planning four to five stages along the border for may and june. We are cycling three stages – one from the baltic coast to saxony-anhalt, one in thuringia and one along the border between bavaria and the czech republic. We spend a weekend each in leipzig and hamburg. In leipzig we want to visit the stasi museum, in hamburg an east-west soccer game between erzgebirge aue and st. Pauli.
Who are the guys who will be touring with them?
Next to me is fredrik hansen, who is directing the documentary. And we are bringing another photographer with us. Who that will be is still unclear, because the photographer who was originally supposed to accompany us is about to become a father. I still have a german photographer up my sleeve – maybe the better choice anyway. A friend recommended it to me and I hope he can come with us.
How long have you been toying with the idea of making this documentary??
The idea of traveling along the former border strip came to me five years ago. At the time, I read that the border patrol routes were still largely intact.
They say most people had an opinion about germany. What does yours look like now, before you go on your journey??
We grew up being taught a natural distrust of germans – by family, the media and society in general. This distrust was perhaps often jokingly disguised, but it still existed. Until today I notice a certain skepticism towards the germans. I also catch myself doing it, even if only faintly and not obviously. Still I feel bad because it is not fair. It is as if the son was held responsible for the sins of the father. But that’s the way it’s always been and even though the generation that experienced the war is shrinking more and more, the attitude remains the same. At the same time, we have great respect for the germans as a productive, creative and interesting people. On the other hand we find them a bit too well organized and boring. This is a general sentiment that I share to some extent. But this is exactly the mindset I want to face and hopefully change.
You have just been to germany to prepare your trip. How did you feel about the visit?
I was there for a week and it gradually changed. I want to emphasize that I don’t really have negative feelings towards the germans. But my view of germany has been influenced – whether I wanted it or not – by the general attitude of society. I now want to educate myself and find out first hand what the germans are really like.
They plan to interview people along the so-called iron-curtain-trail. How do you imagine that? Just start cycling and ask those who happen to come along the way?
We hope to be able to conduct planned interviews. But we also want to include interesting random stories from people we meet on our tour.
What do you hope and expect to find on your journey??
I hope to find out that my view of germany is affected by my upbringing. But I also expect to realize that 25 years is not enough to actually reunite the country.
They divided their film into different chapters. How do you have to imagine that??
We have divided the film in such a way that the rough part of my preconceived ideas about germany is covered. We also want to touch on topics that are of interest to the general public.
Will you also come to coburg?
On the last leg of our bike tour we will pass coburg. So if there are any interesting stories to tell in coburg, go ahead! We will be there to record them.
Will we be able to see your film in germany as well??
We hope so. The concept was changed again to make the documentation more interesting for the germans. First of all, it should be a much less personal point of view. But we have realized that this story can best be told by a norwegian directly in germany.