© MFA/Filmagentinnen

Sputnik (Mission: Sputnik)
Germany/Belgium/Czech Republic 2013

Opening 24 Oct 2013

Directed by: Marcus Dietrich
Writing credits: Marcus Dietrich
Principal actors: Flora Thiemann, Finn Fiebig, Luca Johannsen, Emil von Schönfels, Devid Striesow

Friederike, Fabian, and Jonathan are friends, all ten years old. They live in the East German village of Malkow. Friederike’s parents Katharina and Torsten run the local restaurant. Their uncle Mike, brother to Katharina, takes time to encourage the children’s fantasy and their awe of the Soviet hero Juri Gagarin. Together they construct a “satellite,” hook it to a hot-air balloon, and send Friederike up into the heavens. (Nowadays people would pale with horror at such dangerous games; nowadays everything has to be safe, starting with the slide on the public playground.) Naturally, Friederike crashes; naturally, she lands on the car of policeman Mauder for whom this is the last straw in juvenile impropriety. What he doesn’t know is that there is more for him to worry about. For example, Uncle Mike, an opponent of East German politics, has received permission to leave for the West (perhaps to be followed by his sister with family). Friederike, Fabian and Jonathan are devastated that their best friend and fellow “scientist” has left them, never to be seen again “until they themselves are retired.” (In former Eastern Germany pensioners could more easily leave the country, perhaps in the hopes that they would disappear forever and their pension would go unclaimed.) Smart as they are, the children begin to work on a new machine which will beam Uncle Mike back to them. One hindrance is fellow student Oliver, a bothersome “spy” out to cause them trouble. The only solution is to kidnap him and keep him tied up in their laboratory – a good move in the end; Oliver might be a bore, but he also has smart ideas. Another helper is Mr. Karl who runs the local store and has access to supplies, which are not necessarily found on the legal market.

The story proceeds like a diary, starting with November 3, 1989, and reflects the days up until the fall of the wall on November 9, 1989. It’s a fun interpretation of the political events of the time. The children in my audience enjoyed it. It’s a good opportunity to discuss German history with young people. I was especially happy to see film kids being active, creative, very Pippi Longstocking, no expressionless zombies stuck to computers. Recommended for children 6-12. (Becky Tan)

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