20 years later, remembering East German film and football

What made the accident unusual was that Eigendorf had been travelling down a straight section of country road, and seemed to have veered off, into a tree, for no reason at all. Alcohol in Eigendorf’s bloodstream suggested that this was an instance of a boozy footballer who’d had too much to drink, but his personal history hinted at a very different explanation.

While no one has been held accountable in Eigendorf’s death, Stasi files contain a note instructing agents to “dazzle” Eigendorf, which Schwan interprets as a euphemism for blinding the player with headlights and driving him off the road. Eigendorf was last seen alive and sober.

After the final season of GDR football in 1990–91, the top two Oberliga sides, Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden, joined the Bundesliga. But the drain of players to the wealthier West began in earnest. Passionately supported teams such as Dresden have been sullied by a racist hooligan element. Energie Cottbus, of which Chancellor Angela Merkel is an honorary member, remains the only Eastern team in the Bundesliga, albeit presently in the relegation zone.

Unification in German football has yet to be realized. Writes Hesse-Lichtenberger in the 2002 history Tor!:

Nearly every West German born after 1960 had grown up regarding the GDR as what that country had always wanted to be—a foreign state. Much more foreign, in fact, than France or England or Italy. Soon clubs like Dresden and Rostock would find themselves greeted by chants of “Put the wall back up” when they played in the west. The physical borders between west and east were torn down, but they had been replaced by a psychological one that observers would soon term “the wall in our heads.”

If the 2009 Fußballfilmfestival can fulfill festival director Birger Schmidt‘s ambition to “show that GDR football really existed” (Michael Sontheimer, “Elf Schauspieler müsst ihr sein,” Der Spiegel, Apr 3), another wall might start to come down.

Update

Audience awards—the “Goldene 11”—went to Maradona par Kusturica for best documentary and to Cass for best feature. A jury’s award for best short film went to Eight (dir. Stephen Daldry) about an eight-year-old boy’s love for Liverpool FC (see excerpt).

YouTube video

With deft touch and the ability to nutmeg defenders, tiny Fimpen offers a key to Swedish hopes in the 1974 feature—the best film in six years of the Fußballfilmfestival, according to Springborg and mates.

The 11mm Fußballfilmfestival “Diegos,” 2004–09

Given Diego Maradona‘s popularity as film subject and his charisma on screen, we propose a rebranding of Fußballfilmfestival awards, with statuette in the form of raised fist. Springborg and organizers of the Berlin event indulged our request to name the best films and performances of the festival’s six years.

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