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Robert Kramer and the Jewish-German Question

Hironobu Baba

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1. Biographical details and unattributed quotations throughout this essay are derived from transcripts of interviews with Kramer by the author (6 November 1997) and Bernard Eisenschitz & Roberto Turigliatto (1997); parts of the latter are contained in Eisenschitz, Point de départ: Entretien avec Robert Kramer (Aix-en-Provence: Institut de l'Image, 2001). Newspaper accounts of Kramer’s life consulted include: Edouard Waintrop, ‘Le cinéma est tellement en retard ...’, Libération (16 January 1991); F.F., ’L'américain à nulle part’, L'Exprèss (24 January 1991).



After emigrating to Europe in 1979, director Robert Kramer (1939-1999), the US-born grandson of Jewish immigrants, made Our Nazi (Notre Nazi/Unser Nazi, 1984) and Berlin 10/90 (1991) on the themes of Nazism and genocide. Kramer frequently made comments in interviews regarding his Jewishness and the Israel issue. This essay delves into the relationship between Kramer’s Jewish background and his life and work. (1) I will refer (as the filmmaker did) to his European Trilogy: Berlin 10/90, Walk the Walk (1996) and Le manteau (The Mantle aka The Coat, 1996), considering his cinema and television work on an equal level.

Kramer’s Jewish Background

Kramer was born on June 22 1939 in New York City. His father, Milton, was a second-generation Jewish immigrant whose family had come from Poland via Germany to settle in the US. His maternal great-grandfather was in charge of supply for the Army of the Tsar (Russian Imperial Army) in Sebastopol, and his grandfather escaped to Odessa from the pogroms and from there emigrated to the US. Kramer’s mother was also second-generation. His father studied in Berlin as a medical student from 1930 to 1933 while, in 1933, his mother studied at the Bauhaus, also in Berlin. As recalled in Berlin 10/90, although his mother and father did not know each other at this time, as the Nazis came to power, they both returned to the US, met in New York and married. Kramer’s father became a US Army doctor and his mother a housewife. Even after his son had reached adulthood, Kramer’s father never mentioned his Berlin experiences.




Kramer has said that, during his youth, ‘Jewish’ was a cultural concept. There was no religious education in his home and ‘there was no real family contact with the extermination (...) I was brought up like a member of the German bourgeoisie.’In 1942, Kramer's father had a job transfer and the family moved to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. But his parents thought that the ‘local elementary school was anti-Jewish’ so they did not let him attend school, even though he had reached school age. Robert spent his childhood ‘like a savage boy’ until 1948, when another job transfer enabled the family to build a house in a middle-class German-Jewish area of Upper West Manhattan.

Kramer went to Israel for the first time in 1957, and his stay in a Kibbutz marked the beginning of his connection with that country. In 1967, conditions in Israel caused an important change in Kramer which was later to form the keynote of his creativity. After his father died, his mother went to live with relatives in Israel after staying in a Zen temple in the city of Mishima, Japan – in search (in vain) of harmony after the instability instilled by the frequent absence of her husband. Kramer married his first wife, Jane, in the same year and directed the fiction film The Edge (1967). After this, he participated in an exchange conference between the NFL and the States in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.

While he was in Czechoslovakia, the Seven Day War broke out and he heard that North Vietnam had praised the Israeli Army – ‘a small nation that became independent from neighbouring countries has protected its independence by waging a courageous battle.’ Kramer recalls:



  I remember working on The Edge [1967] and feeling extremely confused about this whole question: being basically in an anti-Zionist environment, and pretty strongly anti-Zionist myself, but feeling these absolute, overwhelming feelings of ... something between my responsibility to my mother and something about Jews, probably. I tried to enlist to fight, but I didn't.  










2. The French version of this text appears as ‘Présentation’, Cahiers du cinéma, nos. 258-259 (July-August 1975), pp. 54-60; and in Cyril Béghin (ed.), Robert Kramer (Bobigny: Magic cinéma, 2006)

3. Annie Cot, Marthe Cartier-Bresson and Serge Toubiana, ‘Entretien avec Robert Kramer’, Cahiers du cinéma no. 295 (December 1978), pp. 19-24.



4. Ibid.



Still in Bratislava, he received a message that his mother had died in a car accident in Israel. He set off for Jerusalem (over which the Israelis had gained control two days previously) and stayed there for two months. At this stage he formulated for himself the question: ‘How far does the authority of suffering go?’

It is clear that Kramer was aware of his Jewishness. And it is equally clear that he thought Israel was the ‘country of my people’, and that he was searching for a way to exist in mutual peace with the people of other countries. However, from the fact that he supported the Civil Rights Movement and the ‘war of independence’ in North Vietnam, we can also see that he thought war could not be avoided if one is to protect one’s family. But how can one maintain a stance against self-protection that goes over the line and becomes the persecution of others (a people, a nation, individuals)? The basic concept that political and social issues must be dealt with by each individual became Kramer’s basic philosophy in his work from Milestones (1975) onward.

Kramer’s stance on Israel changed when the problem of the occupied territories started to become more severe. In an article co-authored with John Douglas for the Milestones press kit, he wrote: ‘We heard talk of the daily violations of the "Peace Treaty" in Vietnam by the arrogant Thieu; belief in the continuation of American support; the horror of the coup against Allende in Chile; the escalating struggle of the Palestine people in the Middle East. There was always so much going on in the States.’ (2) And, three years later, when the French-Jewish film critic Serge Toubiana asked for his opinion on Franco Fortini’s The Dogs of Sinai, he replied: ‘Still a forbidden theme, the left-wing-Jew-who-has-a-bad-opinion-on-the-question-around-Palestine.’ (3)

Kramer started to be strongly aware of international social issues after he finished graduate school in 1963, got a press card from The New Republic and headed off to Latin America. He was shocked at the anti-US sentiment he encountered everywhere he went, and realised that he was a member of a privileged class. Then he became interested in anti-government left-wing guerrilla activities. Kramer participated in the Civil Rights Movement as a white person and also in the Vietnam War protests as a citizen of the ‘aggressor nation’, the United States. But he still saw himself as a member of the class where ‘the general privilege in the States is a privilege coming from imperialism.’ (4)

So, for Kramer, Israeli suppression of the Palestinians was very hard to acknowledge. There is, however, no indication that he thought of Israel as imperialist. The conflict between ‘supporting a nation for my people’ and ‘maintaining peace with other peoples’ remained as a problem that could not be resolved without denying a nation for his people.




Among his American works, Milestones shows several signs of Kramer’s attitude toward being a Jew in the New World. This panoramic film begins in New York City, tracking an old woman who has migrated from Eastern Europe. Singing a Yiddish song, she looks back on her long life. This woman might be Jewish only because the filmmakers (Kramer and Douglas) are also Jewish. This introduction recounts, in a very concentrated form, the real birth of the nation: migrations, mixture of peoples from various roots that no one can escape but that allow them freedom to move around, succeed, look for a better way of life; reformation. In the last sequence this woman appears again and takes the cans of the final cut of the film out of the editing room, as one of the main characters, Peter, murmurs to his doctor father: ‘I’ve had a dream, and it was something like, "I want to be an Indian".’ This woman may be some saviour who silently declares that the young characters and filmmakers are authentic successors of such a history. Comparing this ending with that of Route One/USA (1989), where the camera jumps into the sea out of the US border, Milestones might seem a naive film. How had Kramer as a filmmaker changed so much during those fifteen years? His changing identification as Jewish is one of the keys to this question.

Our Nazi

In 1997, Kramer said to me: ‘I am European, and that means I am German.’ This statement reflected his home environment and his youth. However, because Kramer had not experienced post-war Europe firsthand, he was actually a stranger to the real Europe.


5. Marie-Christine Peyrière, ’La fin d'une histoire: entretien avec Robert Kramer’, Documentaires, no. 8 (1994), pp. 41-46.




6. Ibid, p. 45.






After moving to France, Kramer's Jewish identity began changing. ‘It is true that Nazism and Germany, like the war, were one of my "motors". Living in New York, in a universe under the influence of Eastern European culture, I, an American arriving in Paris in 1980, was a Thomas Mann enthusiast.’ (5) Kramer here places Nazism, the Weimar period in Germany and Thomas Mann on the same level. ‘It was only in Europe that Nazism became obvious. On the other hand, in France I found that Collaboration remained a taboo topic. When I tried to raise a discussion about whether someone was partisan or a "traitor", there was a great fuss. So, by avoiding reference to Collaborators, I helped the rise of anti-Semitism. I still remember the protest march on Rue Copernic [in Paris] against the [anti-Jewish] outrage in 1982. It was the first time I could say to myself, "After all, I'm Jewish". Until then, this self-definition had never worked.’ (6)

For Kramer – who recognised that, in his formative years, a sort of Buddenbrooks-type German culture had become the basis of his soul – revisiting his self-definition as a Jew brought up a myriad of contradictions. The self that was the victim of massacre and oppression, as were the Jews, was mutually dependent upon a self which had German culture at its soul base – and the Germans were the aggressors. This issue had been invisible to Kramer when he was in the US. The German culture in which he had lived had been preserved in the US by Jewish immigrants and defectors – but in Europe, that German culture was the foundation from which Nazism and the massacre of Jews had sprung. Worse still, in Northeastern US this German culture was seen as the authority of the dominant class. Did the authority that Nazism generated simply amount to political and social oppression? Was Nazism a phenomenon unique to the culture and political thought of the Third Reich?




7. Cf. Andrée Tournès, ‘Entretien avec Harlan’, Jeune Cinéma, no. 162 (November 1984), p. 24. Yvette Bíró (who has written an essay on Route One/USA) worked on early drafts for this project, which began as a story about radical terrorists in Germany in the late ‘70s, ‘trying to understand their motivations and actions, arguments and relationships’. However, that project fell through, and Harlan reshaped it after meeting ‘a real Nazi’. According to Bíró (who considered taking her name off the finished film), ‘Robert followed the whole shooting process and realised that the making of the film might be more telling than the film itself’ (correspondence with Rouge editors, 2005). A different, more positive appreciation of Wundkanal from an avant-garde cinema perspective can be found in Cantrills Filmnotes, no. 47/48 (August 1985).

8. Michel Ciment, ‘Venise 1984: Unser Nazi (Notre Nazi) et Wundkanal’, Positif, no. 285 (November 1984), p. 55.

9. Robert Kramer and Dusan Makavejev, ‘Conversation sur Milestones’, Positif, no. 176 (December 1975), pp. 18- 27.

10. Peyrière, ’La fin d'une histoire’.



In 1984, the West German film director Thomas Harlan (maker of Torre Bela [1976] and author of the novel Rosa [2000]), directed Wundkanal: Execution for Four Voices, a joint French-German production about Dr S, a soldier impeached after the war for taking part in the massacre of Jews in Lithuania, and his slide towards suicide. To express his resistance to the forgetting of Nazism as war criminals aged, Harlan cast Alfred Filbert – an actual member of the SS during the War who spoke only German – as Dr S for this experimental fiction film shot in a French studio. (7) Filbert was not aware of what was to happen on set, in front of the camera, mor that the script was merely a pretext or ruse for a psychodramatic ‘happening’: Harlan, in fact, intended to interrogate and expose, ‘live’, his complicity with Nazi atrocities.

Kramer collaborated with Harlan on the project. He recorded scenes of filming, interviewed the cast and crew. Later, he turned these into the independent project Our Nazi. Both this film and Harlan’s were screened for the first time at the Venice Film Festival in 1984, and reappeared together at the Berlin Film Festival in 1985. The fact that Harlan’s father Veit Harlan was a film director who had made the film Jud Süss (1940) was a major factor in the reception accorded the film: ‘Harlan’s hatred of his father resembles, strangely enough, an inverted love; and Kramer's film, titled Our Nazi with intentional irony, obliges us to ask ourselves: who is the Nazi in this story?’ (8) The West German production team decided to postpone general screening of the film; it has rarely surfaced since.

Why did such a scandal occur? Kramer: ‘Let’s say, in a way, most films we watch are fascist because they are seductive enough to make you lose your sense of responsibility ... we certainly did not want that kind of seduction.’ (9) ‘I just wanted to stand this test — to face this "pleasant", bureaucratic gentleman, and capture the jurisdiction of suffering before authority, over comrades, the director, the Fuhrer.’ (10) Ultimately, Harlan’s hopes for Wundkanal were betrayed; the film operates on a logic of exclusion backed by the ‘authority’ of the director (Harlan himself) and the support he gets from his team – as he effectively prosecutes/persecutes Filbert. This ‘trial’ was itself interpreted as itself a lingering expression of Nazi ideology. In this sense, Harlan, Kramer and their contemporary German Jewish-American colleagues are all ‘German’. Our Nazi shows Kramer’s own issues leaping back at him, as in a mirror. We should view this work not only as an impeachment of Veit Harlan’s son, but also as a deeply self-critical testament.









11. Cf. the interview with Grandrieux in Béghin, Robert Kramer.


Our Nazi was, in many respects, a transitional film for Kramer – it was, for instance, his first attempt at using Hi-8 video and at shooting all the footage himself. Although rigorously edited, the insertions of dramatic footage, and the clash of viewpoints (Kramer’s versus Harlan’s), resolve themselves into an uncomfortable kind of ‘message’ picture. It was not until the ‘90s, in films such as Leeward (Sous le vent, 1991), Point de départ/Starting Place (1993) and SayKomSa (1998), that Kramer started to wield his camera like a pen. These are masterpieces that fully express the filmmaker’s mentality and show how the artist sees the world. But there is room for debate about whether or not Our Nazi offers a suitable way of taking root in and transmitting the world. This is a different issue from the strategically guided propaganda that is central to films like Shoah (1985); it is another dimension altogether, a matter of higher aesthetic ethics. And it is these more complex areas that the films of European Trilogy explore.

Berlin 10/90

After the completion of Route One/USA in 1990, the Ford Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) invited Kramer and his second wife, Erika, to spend ten months in Berlin after the Wall had fallen, as Germany was moving towards reunification. He spent this time working on a video, Berlin 10/90. At the request of Philippe Grandrieux, producer of the Live series, the entire work is one scene and one shot. (11) Kramer placed a camera in the bathroom of an apartment in Berlin right after reunification. He faces the camera for the duration of the video and, almost ‘channelling’ his father, talks about himself as a Jew, past and present, in the two different worlds of America and Europe.

Berlin 10/90 attempts to overcome the problems raised by Our Nazi in two ways. The first is an effort to renounce the privileges of the creator-as-God — a denial of the viewpoint that looks down from on high. In works that make us strongly feel the artist’s viewpoint, the controlling power in this vision comes from filming the world as it exists only within the artist’s context.




However, reality exists beyond this singular viewpoint. How can this solid reality be allowed to take root? Kramer places himself as physical-existence-in-the-world inside his video as subject, and conducts experiments that confront history and society with this external self – thereby creating contradictions within his internal self. The camera he trains on himself is sometimes operated by remote control, at other times by hand. The external and the internal are not merely in conflict with each other – ego-consciousness has countless intersections with the external, and the world existing in front of the ego is just a single point in the line of time.

In order to dynamise the structure of the video, Kramer sets up a television in the bathroom, screening images he had previously shot and edited of Berlin in 1990. The camera swings between the video images on the TV screen and Kramer sitting on a chair in the bathroom, speaking into the camera. It becomes clear by the end that the bathroom is a metaphor for the concentration camp showers, and that his shaved head is a metaphor for neo-Nazism.

Berlin 10/90 poses the question: will the work, grounded in the experience of reality and in the communication of that experience, be receivable by viewers as reality? Kramer has not experienced the damage of the Nazi Final Solution in Europe. But that experience is alive in the present-day society that surrounds him. He is both outside the experience of the Final Solution and at the same time its victim. Furthermore, the idea of living with the authority of German culture is also a legitimation of the ideology of the aggressors. This is why this film begins with a reference to Ezra Pound, the American poet who crossed the ocean in order to join the Nazis: Kramer starts with the case of an American Jew coming face to face with Nazism.

Did Kramer’s parents experience what he describes as the outsider/victim/aggressor split? In Berlin 10/90, he muses:



  I wonder what it was to my father, led by history — his own Jewishness — what did it mean to recognise this, I wonder. Well, maybe this is what it means: separating from ‘European history’ — becoming American — moving to the modern world. My father ran away from my grandparent’s shtetel, then my father became a doctor. He was here in Berlin from 1930 to 1933. He saw the flames rising from the dome of the Reichstag; those flames seem to be telling him, ‘no matter what you think, this is reality’.  



The film deals with the destruction of East Germany and other issues which are related to Kramer, but which he did not experience directly. The history and reality of others also appears. At the same time someone with a different history and reality who is close to Kramer, someone who has a physical body, also makes an appearance: Erika.

Human beings cannot make the experience of others their own. We are unable to feel the warmth of sunlight on our cheek in front of the television screen, as Kramer does in Berlin 10/90. There is a scene where Kramer, after reading Wittgenstein aloud, recites his own epistemological theory. (The Live series was meant to be impromptu and executed in one shot but, because of the images that appear on television and the balance with two images and the sound, we can see that Berlin 10/90 is a work that was carefully pre-planned.) It is a painful struggle with the problem of experiencing – and communicating – reality.

Bringing up the life of Paul Celan is pertinent here. It may, in a sense, be unethical to put Kramer’s travails on an equal footing with Celan’s, who lived through the time of the Final Solution in Europe and continued to feel the pain directly through his experiences with other Auschwitz survivors. But both of them grapple with the problem of expression and communication. Cannot we see in this a fierce resistance to the words ‘After Auschwitz, reading poetry is immoral’, and equally to those acts of expression which take leave from these words for the sake of committing debauched obscenities?

Kramer tries to find a hope for the future in the existence of his own and Erika’s physical bodies. At the end of sixty-two minutes of blocked feelings, Kramer touches the water in the bath with his own hand. It is a moment of release. Ending with an action as primitive as this makes for a conclusion that feels optimistic – a moment of blessing.


12. Cf. Robert Kramer, ‘Odessa’, Trafic, no. 12 (Autumn 1994), pp. 21-27. The film synopsis contained in this document and named Fear/Far/Future became, after major changes, Walk the Walk.  

Walk the Walk

The following two works of the European Trilogy are fiction films. In both works, Berlin – Europe’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ as it is called in Le Manteau – appears at the end, but Jewish issues do not come up directly. Walk the Walk is a story about Nellie (Laure Duthilleul), a white Frenchwoman, Abel (Jacques Martial), a black Frenchman, and their daughter, Raye (Betsabee Haas). The film begins with Kramer’s voice – ‘I was in Europe’ – and portrays changing times, the breakdown of Communist regimes and the integration of Europe through the EU. (12)

In terms of dramaturgy, the little girl, Raye, represents Kramer’s own youth as a ‘German’ in America. Raye, who has dark skin, sings in an empty church alone in a beautiful soprano voice. But when asked ‘are you French?’, it becomes obvious that the subject that at the heart of Berlin 10/90 – separation of ethnicity, nationality and culture – has been passed on to this film. The theme reappears in a scene where Abel goes to Odessa via the Black Sea. Kramer once confessed that this occurs because of his grandfather’s historic experience related above. Odessa was the departure point for many Eastern Jews who were looking for their Promised Land in the New World or Palestine. Abel, who has doubts about his life in France, ends up in this same place, and it is no mere twist of fate. In geopolitical terms, Abel, an African Frenchman, is a figure of protest against the Eurocentric view of history.




The contemplation begun in Berlin 10/90 — how to embrace the ‘multiple ego’ that exists in the world and in history — continues in Walk the Walk. The film begins in Kramer’s house near a harbour, with the director writing notes. These notes become the main title of the film. Walk the Walk does not tell a story; its main position is to describe, so that reality can take root. Sticking to description means that there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction. In the film, Abel and Raye leave on journeys, each for their own reasons, while Nellie is caught up in her daily life in France. Kramer identifies with all three of them. At intervals in the story, he asks them questions, making for a style similar to Milestones in which interviews are inserted into the fiction, or to Doc's journey in Route One/USA. ‘Milestones is a film about "us", but Route One/USA is a film about "them". I shot everywhere I went, asking "Please show me your town, your life". I never shot until they allowed me to – until they agreed.’ Doc’s otherness becomes apparent only when he finishes his journey alone and declares that he will stay. The people he meets in the process of the journey are ‘them’, but the two travelling persons, Doc and the filmmaker, are ‘us.’ In Walk the Walk, the three lives unfolding simultaneously are obviously not ‘our’ lives. The change from ‘us’ to ‘me’ is an individual journey – and a diaspora that is necessary for us to be reunited and to understand each other.

The director’s questions do not demand answers. Maintaining a dialogue requires an effort to build the relationship. Kramer’s work is an attempt to go beyond the deceptive words which are often heard in relation to documentaries: ‘I join my life to theirs. That fact lets me understand them and I let the camera roll.’ To say ‘I was there’ does not mean that one understands the others who are in that place. What matters is the effort to construct relations by maintaining a dialogue. This characteristic is especially clear in relation to the character of Abel. In reply to the director’s questions, he says ‘I don’t want to talk’, cutting off conversation. The two do not converse for the rest of the film. True dialogue demands that one gives one's partner the freedom not to speak. Many documentarists forget this: human beings must live together in society with partners who sometimes refuse any dialogue, or with whom a dialogue does not develop.

After Abel reaches Odessa, he lives among people who speak a language of which he knows not a word. At the moment that he starts a dialogue with a young boy through the language of sports, there is a certain relief. But, even then, a dialogue does not develop between Abel and the director. When one lives alongside people with whom one cannot converse, one tends to force them to become spectators. But in reality, there is no such spectator position. This is shown clearly at the end of Abel’s story, when a violent conflict occurs and the boy dies. Here we can see one of Kramer’s conclusions from Our Nazi, and also from his script for Wenders’ The State of Things (1982): when the creator abandons his privilege, reality invades. And in the place where I am, reality is not ‘my’ reality. Abel and the director are different, they have individual egos that exchange nothing; the only thing they have in common is that neither can participate fully in reality. The distance and difference in attitude between People’s War and Walk the Walk is the same as that between Milestones and Route One/USA.

Le Manteau

Le Manteau was filmed entirely with a digital video in 1996, with only the director's hands and some other body parts appearing. It is a story with a main character – ‘me’ – but is mostly fictional. It begins with a monologue by the director:



  I can be anywhere and anytime that a film begins – Los Angeles, Paris. This time, it’s Paris. I got an offer to make a documentary about searching for an Indian coat used in the time of the Conquistadors. This is a very old coat, thousands of years old, maybe. An archaeologist is searching to find it. That’s the story. Well, I needed the money too, so I said okay, I took it. I think I’ll find some things I’m interested in.  



The main themes here were cultivated in the previous two works of the European Trilogy: the independence of history; the diversity of interpretations depending on one’s position; and the question of something which may be positive for one culture but a source of oppression and massacre in another. Here, the complex ego-rules raised in Our Nazi are closely considered. In that film there is a scene where Kramer asks Filbert what the difference is between the massacre of Jews by the Nazis and the massacre of Northern Vietnamese by the United States; Filbert is unable to answer this question and remains silent.

Le Manteau tells the story of the search for a mysterious coat said to be buried in the grave of an ancient King in Peru. The coat had the power to bring bad luck to anyone who took it in their hands. The grave was violated and the coat was said to have been stolen and taken to Barcelona on the orders of the Spanish King. It was stolen again during the Napoleonic era, then reappeared in Berry (France) in the twentieth century. However, the farming village of Berry, thought to be full of Resistance hideouts, was destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War. After that, it was seen in the hands of Thomas Hesse as he walked the Esplanade in Berlin in 1944, but it has not been heard of since.

In other words, the film follows this story from the time of the Conquistadors in the 1600s to 1996, through each of the European thefts along the way, thus overlapping with both European domination and the history of war. It is suggested that the cause of bad luck and evil is not the coat but the ignorant barbarians who keep stealing it, and the type of culture in which they exist. In the film's synopsis – ‘The weaving method that was used to make this Indian robe was brought to Europe, and it later came to be a specialty of Jewish craftspeople’ – one can detect a desire to also portray the other side of cultural common threads: the similarities between cultures that result from barbarism.

On the other hand, Edouard, a German-French scholar who accompanies Kramer, suggests that the tale portrays the sorcery, incantational medicine and ceremonies of Latin America colliding with Europe. And as the film was a commission from ARTE to Les Films d’Ici as part of their television series Histoires de fantôme (Ghost Stories), the images of sorcery that appear throughout may well have been a sort of cliché to satisfy expectations. But Kramer gives an unexpected twist to this condition: images of Peruvian immigrants in France and young people in these communities accusing Kramer of ‘knowing nothing about our culture’ transform this investigative journey into a meeting with the dark side of diverse cultures and histories.

In this way, the different cultures of Europe and the new continent are juxtaposed; and by bringing up the issue of world conflict, including the North-South problem, Kramer unites the issues he discovered in his eighteen years in Europe with those derived from his ‘white’ US period. Unlike the previous films of the trilogy, the mode of expression here borders on the meditational — more like Leeward. It includes the wish, originating from the death of the wife of ‘me’, that souls remain undying. Such a wish goes beyond religion.

Ultimately, film is not a medium for imparting ideology or philosophy. It is a mid-term report, a crossroads for the effort to portray the world in which we live.




Translated and adapted by the author from texts written for the Kramer retrospectives in the Yamagata Documentary Film Festival in 2003 and Bobigny in 2006.


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