Helmer revisits subject of Red Army Faction

Andres Veiel is no stranger to the Red Army Faction, the terrorist group whose roots he explores in his Berlin competition film, “If Not Us, Who.”

Returning to the subject of his 2001 documentary “Black Box Germany,” Veiel’s debut narrative feature examines the relationship between writer and political activist Bernward Vesper and Gudrun Ensslin, who went on to become a pivotal figure in the terrorist group alongside Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.

“It’s not a film about terrorism,” Veiel said. “It’s about a revolt against encrusted traditions in a rigid society.”

Veiel said it’s a topic that remains relevant to today’s auds, and is evident not only in the unrest sweeping the Middle East but also in Western societies that for decades have been politically dominated by economic interests.

The story of the Baader-Meinhof gang was chronicled in Uli Edel and Bernd Eichinger’s 2008 film “The Baader Meinhof Complex” and Veiel initially resisted taking on the project, which is partially based on Gerd Koenen’s book “Vesper, Ensslin, Baader.”

“I thought I had already said everything there was to say on the topic in ‘Black Box,’ at least about the last generation of the Red Army Faction,” Veiel said. After reading Koenen’s book, however, he realized there was still much to be said about the activists. “It wasn’t what everyone has always believed — a fight against the fascist generation of the parents.

On the contrary, Ensslin and Baader’s fathers were both involved in a failed resistance during World War II and the RAF’s founders are therefore carrying on that fight that their parents lost rather than fighting against what their parents stood for. “It’s a completely new perspective,” Veiel says.

“If Not Us, Who” stars August Diehl (“Salt”), Lena Lauzemis and Alexander Fehling (who is being feted as Germany’s Shooting Star). The film screens in competition today.

Veiel will next begin work on a film examining the financial crisis that could either become a documentary or a feature. “First I’ll do all the research and then decide,” he said.Veiel said the project will look at the recent financial crisis but adds, “I think we’ll see a new one in the next few years.”

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