Berlin Film Festival Gets Serious, Mostly

Space Nazis Flick Shares Bill With Solid Documentaries

Supremacy in Space: Amid a raft of serious documentaries, the Berlin Film Festival featured ‘Iron Sky,’ a satire about Nazis on the moon.
blind spot pictures
Supremacy in Space: Amid a raft of serious documentaries, the Berlin Film Festival featured ‘Iron Sky,’ a satire about Nazis on the moon.

By A.J. Goldmann

Published March 01, 2012, issue of March 09, 2012.
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Speaking of unusual angles, “Blood Must Flow: Undercover Among Nazis” explores right-wing subculture from the unexpected perspective of neo-Nazi rock clubs. Undercover journalist Thomas Kuban spent nearly eight years filming these often illegal gatherings in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland and Italy. His murky footage, captured with a hidden camera, is the basis for Peter Ohlendorf’s documentary. Only a fraction of this visual evidence has been shown before. In the film, Kuban argues that the media, politicians and even police often ignore these events. The documentary shows how Kuban scored a rare victory in the German town of Kirtorf in 2004, which decided to shut down a club that was hosting neo-Nazi concerts after Kuban’s footage was aired on German television.

Kuban, who uses a fake name and wears different disguises in public appearances to protect his true identity and to infiltrate the neo-Nazi scene, claims to have documented nearly 50 such concerts, where right wing extremists use popular music to lure people in search of a subculture to their racist ideology. The songs, often in a rock or heavy metal vein, contain vile and gruesome lyrics that often extol Nazi leaders and gleefully call for the extermination of Jews, homosexuals and immigrants. One particular song explicitly demands the destruction of Kreuzberg, a Berlin district famous for its large Turkish population.

The film’s title derives from a song that is heard at every concert Kuban shows us, and whose popularity makes it the de facto anthem of the neo-Nazi club movement. Many a rendition of “Blood Must Flow” ends with enthusiastic cheers of “Heil Hitler.” The undercover journalist and filmmakers shed valuable light on a disturbing phenomenon that appeals to youth in a significant number of European countries. However, they shy away from the trickier question of what the appropriate response to hate speech — spoken or sung, both in Germany, where anti-Semitic rhetoric is a criminal offense, and elsewhere — ought to be.

It’s a shame the Berlinale programmers did not double-feature “Blood Must Flow” with “Iron Sky,” a tongue-in-cheek space epic about Nazis with the revealing tagline: “In 1945, the Nazis went to the Moon. In 2018, they are coming back.”

Aside from tapping an unexplored niche of the sci-fi genre, “Iron Sky” uniquely harnesses the potential of the Internet. This Finnish production attracted a fan base willing to complete vital tasks including creative consulting, promotion and foreign-language dubbing — making it one of the first ever crowd-sourced films. On the film’s website, director Timo Vuorensola claims the value of all the fan contributions to be in the millions of dollars.

Aside from the film’s quirky cult premise and enterprising production model, “Iron Sky” is also a surprisingly clever and entertaining satire. Its heavy pop culture references include Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” the Hitler “Downfall” YouTube parodies and even John Sayles’s “The Brother from Another Planet,” while featuring a patchwork of Wagner themes on the soundtrack. In the film’s not-too-distant future, America is a country ruled by a Sarah Palin-esque president who can’t remember Colin Powell’s name. She is tanking at the polls when her campaign manager decides that the moon Nazis, with their strong message and impeccable fashion sense, are just what the president needs to revitalize her voting base. I’d say more, but I don’t want to ruin the fun.

A. J. Goldmann is a regular contributor to the Forward. He lives and works in Berlin.


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