Two Romanian men were shot dead in a German field near the Polish border in the summer of 1992, ostensibly by hunters who mistook them for wild boars. Twenty years later, Philip Scheffner interviews the victims’ families, detectives, journalists and lawyers in “Revision,” reviewing the case through the lens of hindsight. The exact sequence of events remains murky, but an overall murderous pattern of xenophobia and racism on the part of the hunters, the police and the courts becomes glaringly apparent. With dispassionate precision, Scheffner’s quietly shocking docu, evoking German ghosts of Gypsy genocide, confronts global questions of illegal immigration.
Mostly, Scheffner opts not to show interviewees responding to questions, but rather films them listening to their own taped interviews, creating a small temporal gap that mimics the yawning 20-year hole in the investigation and encourages participants to become careful listeners to the history they rewrite. Wives and grown children pore over pictures of the departed, including horrendous snapshots of the blackened, decomposed bodies shipped back home without explanation. But the most disturbing revelation is that these murders were part of a larger wave of anti-immigrant violence that claimed thousands of lives.
An investigation and trial, full of inexplicable delays, omissions and unexplained phenomena (like a fire that swept the field shortly after the shooting), proved inconclusive. Although experts testified to the improbability of anyone mistaking the men for boars, given the meticulously estimated available light on the fateful day (which Scheffner illustrates via footage of the field taken at 10-minute intervals as dawn approaches), the hunters were exonerated. Many eyewitnesses, Romanians clandestinely crossing the field with the two slain men (two of them interviewed here), were never called upon to testify. A television journalist, incensed at the injustice of the proceedings, filed a report that was broadcast at the time (and reprised in excerpts here), but had little impact.
Little effort was made to notify the families. The two men’s wives were left with several children and little means of support. In an interview, the attorney of one of the hunters admits that although the liability insurance company was immediately informed, the economically strapped families were never told of the claims they could collect. Far more disturbing, however, is the revelation that these murders were part of a larger wave of violence, and it’s in the film’s last chapter that the full extent of authorities’ duplicity is demonstrated.