A German Youth
A German Youth captures the radicalisation of the German student group at the end of the 1960s that led to the founding of the terror organisation Red Army Faction. A German Youth is different from other feature-length films in this genre in that it is comprised solely of archived, pre-existing material. Director Jean-Gabriel Périot has edited a vivid documentary that captures the feeling of a post-war generation revolting against society, which, grotesquely, seems timelier than ever.
“The world now lives under constant threat of terrorism”: this is not a recent comment, but a description of the world’s situation in a TV report from the 1970s, which Périot has worked into his documentary about left-wing activists-turned-terrorists. The footage is edited chronologically, portraying the students’ growing anger and the actions they take against what they perceive as an ignorant capitalist society. What began with a student being shot by the police at a demonstration resulted in strikes and arson, and later generated a terrorist organisation that had a whole country holding its breath. The group around the journalists, filmmakers and students Ulrike Meinhof, Holger Meins, Horst Mahler, Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader defined their aims as “organising armed opposition, developing class struggle, founding the Red Army Faction”. They were ultimately capable of murder, bombing, and air piracy.
The film contains newspaper articles, German and French TV shows and reports, and films made by the later terrorists. The audience gets an insight into the students’ thinking and how they prepared their radical actions; Périot gives them a voice without ignoring the government side. He further refrains from adding any interviews or commentary to his film. The voice-overs are all original to the material he’s edited. Even though the documentary consists of numerous pre-existing video and sound bites spanning a period of ten years, the flow is never disrupted.
With his approach, Périot succeeds in transferring old into new without it ever appearing lengthy. While A German Youth doesn’t go into detail about the events that characterised Germany between 1967 and 1977, it manages to convey both, the sentiment of the left-wingers as well as the states’ reactions to their radical means.
The film begins by asking whether a German is able to make a film. Germany’s history, to say the least, provides enough material for a worthwhile documentary. With A German Youth, his first feature-length project, Jean-Gabriel Périot proves to be a promising filmmaker.
A German Youth does not yet have a UK release date.
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