Your new film is already the third in your series about the "market value". How does the new film fit into the subject?
What links a series together only becomes apparent after it has been made. If in "Eggesin möglicherweise" (Eggesin perhaps) we observed the fallen market value of a city and in "Großen Irrtum" (Great mistake) we met people with a market value of “zero", we now discover in Hoyerswerda the importance of the collective. In this town, citizens built a community as a cultural "alternative value" to the strictly economic focus of society and the individual.
It was only here that I understood, how building a community is the most sustainable and important thing one can do for oneself and for society. Assuming of course, one wants to change oneself and society.
What makes Hoyerswerda so special and interesting for a documentary?
Hoyerswerda was the residential city for the workers of the giant energy plant "Schwarze Pumpe" (Black pump). These people came to Hoyerswerda from everywhere. Until the end of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Schwarze Pumpe was a globally active socialist super corporation. It was still making profits when the GDR economy had long since gone down the drain. They had built a network of pipelines that supplied the entire industry and population of the GDR with gas. In the 1960s and 70s, they had developed high-end technologies that could turn lignite into gas. Technologies that are still among the best in the world today.
The head of Schwarze Pumpe was an incredibly savvy manager who had gathered an extraordinarily strong team around him, that was considered legendary among insiders. He also had a big sense of social responsibility. That included Hoyerswerda since most of his workers and engineers lived there with their families, in total around 15.000 people. Schwarze Pumpe reinvested considerable amounts of money here, sometimes without the knowledge of their superiors, using little ploys. Try to imagine that! Imagine, companies today would take social and cultural responsibility for the residential areas of their employees, to the extent that Schwarze Pumpe did!
Not only that: In the 1950s and 60s, Hoyerswerda was regarded as the socialist city of the future...
But this ideal was quickly abandoned. Still it´s true: the city remained to be portrayed in literature, for example by Volker Braun and Brigitte Reimann, as a modern but failed myth. Unfazed by the large cities of the GDR, a very creative, almost subversive cultural scene had developed here. One of the most unusual poets of the 80s and 90s came from here: Gerhard Gundermann.
After the political reunification of Germany, the city's neck was broken... or one should say: it´s heart was broken. The Treuhand agency and West German competitors mercilessly took the best parts of Schwarze Pumpe for themselves, and then demolished it. The city´s residents had to leave to get new jobs. Their number dropped from 70,000 to 30,000. It was classic labour migration.
Then in 1991, Hoyerswerda achieved dubious fame, both nationally and internationally...
In 1991 the city of Hoyerswerda had an unwanted, but enormously effective "marketing campaign”. It shapes the city´s image till today. For five days in September several hundred people first besieged the dormitory of contract workers from Africa and later the dormitory of asylum seekers, who, in the end, had to be taken out of the city under police protection. In these five days the national and international media recorded the material for a new symbol, one that weaves together pretty much all the political clichés of the East: Hoyerswerda as the stronghold of unemployment, emigration, xenophobia and neo-Nazis. These days still weigh on the city like a inherited debt.
By the way, in 2016, a Hoyerswerda initiative, consisting of people who were children at that time or not even born yet, created an excellent web documentation about it (https://www.hoyerswerda-1991.de/).
And then Dirk Lienig comes back after 20 years and starts a dance theatre project to document the state of the city and its people. And he wants to stage the dance classic of the 20th century, "Le Sacre" with his amateur dancers, a play he danced himself once. The barbaric story of self-sacrifice for your own community. We got hooked right away. It became immediately apparent to us how it relates to today and with it the topic of the film: The questionable individual self-sacrifice in the service of the continuation of a market value system, the sustainability of which nobody really believes in anymore. You can't draw the big context of your own small life in a more paradoxical and at the same time ironic way.
"Le Sacre" was the fifth of six dance pieces that you directed so far after your return to Hoyerswerda.
Your future will always be shaped by what you believe in. For me it's wrong when people don't want to leave for a job but have to. The motivation for leaving is not right. People don't go away because they are curious about the big wide world. They leave because their home has lost its market value. And that is wrong. It says a lot about our society.
What is so special about the citizens' project "A city dances?
Our project 'Eine Stadt tanzt' (A City Dances) lets us critically reflect on our values. Together, as a group full with passion and all the emotions that come with it, we look at them from different perspectives. It creates this atmosphere of exceptional tolerance - between generations and social classes. What connects us all is our common goal. By listening to each other, recognizing each other and cooperating creatively, an optimistic vibe to contribute is starting to grow. Problems are perceived as resolvable tasks. New impulses for a life worth living start to take hold. For our lives in the here and now as well as for our future.
Was the importance of the communal experience already clear to you from the beginning?
When I started working on the first dance project in 2010, I wasn't aware of what I was about to kick off. I had an interest in the topic of shrinking cities and was curious about my old hometown. But my greatest discovery was the people. Their strength, to oppose this sense of emptiness, greatly impresses me. I understood that “provincial” is only a state of mind. Fulfillment has nothing to do with supply, demand and market values. That is just a mistake in our system.