THE FORGETTING GAME (working title) is a documentary with a fundamental question at its heart: why do some elements of history get erased in favor of other, often more simplistic elements? It's March 1963. After intense negotiations carried out between the Red Cross and the East German government, a 5-year-old East German girl is allowed to legally cross the Berlin Wall to reunite with her Mother and Stepfather, who are now living in the U.S. She is then quickly erased from popular historical record.
The film tells the story of Beate Kernke, who becomes a beacon of hope and compromise amidst the fear and hostilities of the Cold War, at a time when the world constantly hears of atrocities committed by East Germany upon those trying to escape. Escorted by American Red Cross field director Neil Clark, Beate makes her way from her Grandparents' home where she has been living for over two years to Clark's home in West Berlin where she stays for just under a week. After her time with the Clarks, Beate immigrates to the U.S. where she is united with her Mother and Stepfather in San Francisco.
In an historical climate where the legal transportation of Eastern German residents to Berlin’s Western Zone was cited as "impossible," why was this little girl allowed to leave? Although this particular transportation across the wall is cited as the "only" occurrence of such an act, similar positive press for East Berlin has also been erased from the popular historical record (a Christmas visit for East Berliners to West Berlin in 1963, for example). How do these kind of erasures from popular history simplify our battles with purely "good" or "evil" adversaries and what are the consequences of such actions?
THE FORGETTING GAME does not attempt to re-code East Germany as "good.” Instead, the film reminds us of the nuanced power struggles that surround every terrible situation, the media outlets that cover those stories, and the families that are caught in the middle. Most importantly, it tells the personal story of two families whose paths crossed intimately 47 years ago and have not crossed again since.
By compiling historical news footage and first hand accounts, the documentary culminates with Beate Kernke's current life in Alaska. THE FORGETTING GAME tells a story that has never been told, a story that transcends generations, and asks us to question the very ways in which history is written.
All three filmmakers are master's candidates in Cinema Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU.
Director: Russell Sheaffer
Russell has directed numerous short films and has worked as editor on other independent projects. Most recently, he worked as Assistant Editor on the feature length documentary A SMALL ACT, which premiered in documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 and has since been touring festivals around the world. A SMALL ACT is also scheduled to air on HBO in July 2010.
Producer: Pulkit Datta
Pulkit has worked extensively in both film studies and production. He produced a short film called WRITTEN OFF in 2008, which received an honorable mention at the Midwest Regional Emmy Awards, and was screened at the Rochester Int'l Film Festival 2009.
Producer: Jim Bittl
Jim is interested in both academics and production. In the production realm, he has collaborated with student and professional filmmakers, and worked in LA for HBO Miniseries and Tom Hanks' Playtone. Academically, he was a collegium member of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, and most recently co-produced NYU's 7th Orphans Film Symposium.
We have already filmed a large part of the film, completely self-financed, and are looking for some extra support to get the film completed and distributed. The funds from Kickstarter will support further archival research, additional filming (especially key locations in Berlin - the wall, the Clark home, Beate's childhood home, etc), and post-production and publicity.
- (45 days)