“Violence is always the result and the symptom of social or political problems.”


You have a strong work in short films. What is the difference in the process between your previous work and Une Jeunesse allemande? Which are the difficulties in making a long feature in and a documentary?

I already did several short films made only with archives. In those films, my interest was to question the footages themselves and not the films from where I picked them up. It was like going into the images themselves by using strong tools of editing: repetitions, reframing, reverse etc. It was like trying to find a way to go into those images, deeper that their first appearance.

With Une jeunesse allemande, I wanted to make a film about languages. First, I wanted to let space to the speeches, the different oral languages of that time and o show the transformations of the vocabularies used at that time to tell this story that was then happening. But I wanted also question the different kinds of visual languages. My idea was to respect and question the different kinds of visual way to tell the history in process: TV news, debates, documentaries, cinema, cine-tract etc. It is a film about a real story, but also a film about how it was told at this time and how the memory of it was created. So, as I wanted to give some kind of taste of the footages I use, as I wanted to let the protagonists speaks, this project should be a feature one.

I’m not really sure that was like a gap in the way I work with the short and this one. For sure, it is really more complicated to produce as it is far more expensive than a short film, or it is really far longer to do (I usually spend in between several month to one year for the shorts, there, I needed around 8-9 years). But at the end, the process for me is quite closed.


What makes you play attention in RAF story and especially in Ulrike Meinhof?

When I first read about the RAF, I was intrigued by some details of the story. I knew that the founders of the group were mostly middle-class and high-educated young people. But I started to become curious when I read that Ulrike Meinhof was not only a press journalist but that she appeared regularly on TV and even that she made some TV documentaries and a fiction film; that Holger Meins was student at the Berlin cinema school, that Gudrun Ensslin played in a film and that a lot of the other founders of the group were closed to the cinema production as filmmaker, actors etc. Myself, as political filmmaker, I was really curious about what kind of images those people create.

I really decide to make a film when, after some first researches, I realized that there were enough material to make a film in which the story will be told only by the images created at that time by the protagonists themselves.

Then, it was possible by telling this story by its protagonists to put all together different questionings I regularly focus on, but that usually don’t match each other: how to resist to what is destroying us? How to do so? Is cinema could be a political tool? If not, what could be its purposes? What is “terrorism” and how policemen and politicians use it as en excuse to new laws or wars that have nothing to do against such violence? How the memory is shaped by images?


There is no "voice over" and almost all the film are the images it-self that conduces the narration. Why?

There are several answers to this decision. To not use voice over is a way to let the audience free to think and question itself the story I tell him in the film. Usually, the voice over gives some clues about how to read a film, expresses insidiously or frankly a moral statement about the story, gives a political point of view. My films are more about questions than answers. For me, if TVs give answers, cinema is a place to questions. It’s a space for the audience to think by itself. 

Usually, the voice over, or interviews of witnesses, creates something I want to avoid: it pushes back the past as a past. “It was in 19XX”. “A long time ago…”. In a certain way, it means that if the past was complicated or painful, now it’s over. Or it’s 100% different. I believe that history could be useful for us - not only to gain knowledge’s but mostly because it could make us think-, but only if we don’t put a border in between the past and today. History never repeats itself, but the questions of yesterday are often the same of the ones of todays. It could help us to understand and it could change us, but only if it moves us, intimately.

In this particular film, it was important to tell the story in a present mode. I wanted that the audience experience this film as it could experience a fiction film: as the protagonists of the film, it doesn’t know what will happen next. We could see a process, a movement in this film, not a trial.


Most of the power of the film comes with the impressive archive of militant films of German filmmakers like Bitomsky and Holger Meins. Can you tell us how do you arrive to this material? How was the investigation about it? 

This kind of researches is really complicated. Almost of the memory regarding this time and particularly about the films made then disappeared. I knew for example that Holger Meins made films, alone or in groups, when in was in school. I knew also that almost of them were considered lost…

So to find those films, I had to read everything I could find about the school at that time and particularly about Holger Meins, I met some former students who work with him to have the maximum of information I could get and I spend days in the Deutsche Kinemathek were the archives of the school are store and I watch all the films of those years. It was really time demanding. But, at the end, I could find almost all of those supposed-to-be-lost films of Holger Meins. So, it was not a waste of time! Moreover, by having to look closely all those archives, I found also other wonderful collective films I used in the final editing.

Time and money are the keys of this kind of researches, as you need to dig deeply in the archives. You should watch any piece of print or video and you have to learn the most precisely you could everything regarding what you are looking for. As the prints are often unlabeled, there is often no title on the films, etc. so every information you could get is important. You should know precisely what you are looking for to find it.

It was almost the same for the researches in the TV stations. The people working there didn’t know for example that Ulrike Meinhof work for some stations and directed documentaries! Once, the archives directors of a TV station had to go in the administration archives to double-check if Ulrike Meinhof was paid to make the film I identified as one of hers! Only then, he believed me…


Which role plays Nicole Brenez in the script? How do you meet her?

I met Nicole Brenez years ago when she co-curated a collective film project (Outrages & rebellions) for which I did The delicate art of the bludgeon. She was really important for Une jeunesse allemande as she helps me to go through all the films of this time era link to the topics of revolution, cinema, armed struggles, politic… She helps me with me all her knowledge about the avant-garde cinema. So she work with me more as a specialist than as a co-writer, even if she kindly read all the different versions of the project and saw the different steps of the editing.


The film places a movement that begins in euphoria and ends in terror and nihilism. Is like a trap that we have no scape. Why do you think is relevant to think about Baader-Meinhof today?

I do not know! Or let’s say, my own ideas about all this story are really subjective and incomplete. I always made films about past events when I feel that they are some links in between them and what I experience in my own present. But, those links are not clear. If they were, I do not need to make a film! To make a film is always a ay for me to have to work and face those events I do not understand. I will never really understand them, but it’s less blurry at the end.

Perhaps the film simply tries to bring more complexities about the question of violence. Today, violence is always though as something that pops up from nowhere and without reason. Terrorists are said to always use blind violence, they are like Natural born killers. But people who go to violent actions have stories, they follow logical ways, they have some goals. Whatever if we disagree on the actions they did or do, we shouldn’t hide to ourselves that they are not popping up from nowhere. We should question ourselves about what is not working on our societies and create the possibilities for some to have no more option than killing others. Violence is always the result and the symptom of social or political problems.

When we saw the life of the founder of the RAF, it really questions us; it makes everything more complex to think. It’s only because of this complexity that one could links the questions he has about this particular story and his own contemporary surrounding.


Ivan Pinto
October 20, 2015