The Family: About The Film


“A two-year suspended sentence for firing the fatal shot. Imagine that.“

A compelling introduction in today’s Berlin to protagonist Irmgard B. mother of a son shot dead in 1986.

In an oppressive, authoritarian state, the bereaved are also the victims. Even now, more than a quarter of a century on, they still suffer the trauma of their loss.

One woman protagonist doesn’t know what happened to her son’s corpse; another still doesn’t know how and why her husband drowned at the former border; a third discovers photographs in a Stasi case file and is confronted for the first time with images of the dead body of his father.

The harrowing effect of the film unfolds as witness evidence is corroborated on various different levels. The statements of those affected often present a stark contrast to the parallel entries in the Stasi files, formulated in a cold, bureaucratic German that is even more unbearable than usual in this context.

The lawyer Mr. Jahntz explains why legal action against the border marksmen produced such unsatisfactory results broadens the horizon of the film, but the protagonists and their trauma remain its central focus. 

The film’s climax arrives in the form of a meeting between a marksman and the son of his victim. 


About the movie

The scope of the horror is revealed in increments as witness testimony is substantiated, step-by-step, by hard evidence. Weinert’s protagonists allow him to film them in very personally painful situations in which he gives us an intimate insight into their experiences without ever putting the individuals or their emotions on display.

The jarring final image is a tribute to Weinert’s skill in cinematic composition: a bereaved woman pays her respects at a memorial site located right next to an American fast food outlet. 

Filmmaker Stefan Weinert gives them space to speak in front of the camera; he accompanies the bereaved to the “scenes of the crime”; is with them as they view Stasi (secret police) files and supports their further research efforts. 

THE FAMILY is a painful and important documentation of recent German history.

THE FAMILY Documentary Film (min. 92:00) by Stefan Weinert