Thursday, 11. April 2019, Goethe-Institut Washington, Wackersdorf (2018): Film Screening and Discussion

When it comes to nuclear energy awareness, the early springtime brings remembrance of past nuclear power plant accidents that furthered international conversations concerning the safety of atomic power. From the fortunately-contained partial meltdown at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in March 1979, to the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in April 1986, to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, now is as good a time as any to take a closer look at the ongoing effects of nuclear power on our planet.
The Goethe-Institut Washington, in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, presents a screening of Wackersdorf (2018), a true story of community, taking a stand against injustice and corruption, and being a local-level politician taking on a much stronger governing power. Oliver Haffner, director of the film, will be present at the screening. Following the film, Haffner and Linda Pentz Gunter of the organization Beyond Nuclear will engage in a discussion open to guests.
Directed by Oliver Haffner. Screenplay by Gernot Krää and Oliver Haffner.
Germany, 2018, 123 min., in German with English subtitles.
In the early 1980s, Hans Schuierer is county commissioner of an economically-depressed corner of Northeastern Bavaria. Eager to find a way for his unemployed constituents to obtain jobs, he is elated when the Bavarian government decides to build an atomic reprocessing plant in his county. Despite early skepticism from some outspoken locals, Schuierer is determined to bring the project to Wackersdorf, convinced that it will do more good for the people than harm. However, soon his own doubts leave him to decide whether he will side with the growing opposition or with the powerful Bavarian government – who will stop at nothing to see the project through to the end.
Schwandorf County, Upper Palatinate, in the 1980s. The Bavarian state government is covertly planning to build an atomic reprocessing plant. And this economically underdeveloped region – with its rising unemployment rate – would seem to be the ideal location.
Hans Schuierer, county commissioner and member of the minority Social Democratic party, is lured by the boost to the local economy promised by the plant. Everything seems off to a good start: supported by his party, and in close cooperation with his political ally, the mayor of Wackersdorf, Hans is soon celebrated as the savior of Schwandorf. The only apprehensions about the plans come from a handful of local eccentrics, whom no one takes very seriously.
Yet when the Bavarian government disregards existing laws and uses brutal force to crush a harmless public protest by a newly founded action group, Hans has his first misgivings. As he begins to ask more and more questions, he painfully realizes that he is only a puppet in a billion-Mark deal orchestrated by powerful industrial and political players.
They have underestimated this simple fellow of few words from the countryside, however. Schuierer, a former bricklayer turned county commissioner, becomes a fervent critic of the processing plant. Fearlessly challenging the state government, he finally voices open opposition. His new course, at odds with his own party, also means a bitter parting from an old friend and political comrade. It also mobilizes a young and ambitious Bavarian deputy minister to suppress the resistance in Wackersdorf.
Oliver Haffner was born in 1974 in Germersheim, Rhineland-Palatinate. He grew up in Munich and briefly studied Political Science at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, before transferring and completing his studies in Theater Direction at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna. He worked as a director for the stage at the Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen), the Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern, the Schauspielhaus Bochum, Theater Ulm, the Linz State Theatre, Theater Regensburg, and the State Theater of Lower Austria. He studied Feature Film Direction at the University of Television and Film Munich; his graduation film, Mein Leben im Off (2010), was his debut feature film, and appeared in many German cinemas. Wackersdorf is his third feature film. Haffner is a professor of „Media-Specific Representation“ (film-acting) at the Konrad Wolf Film University of Babelsberg and a freelance lecturer at the Music and Arts University in the City of Vienna. He continues to be active in both theater and film. Haffner lives and works in Munich and Berlin.
Linda Pentz Gunter founded Beyond Nuclear in 2007 and serves as its international specialist as well as its media and development director. Prior to her work in anti-nuclear advocacy, she was a journalist for 20 years in print and broadcast, working for USA Network, Reuters, The Times (UK), and other US and international outlets. In 2018, Linda launched a new web platform,, which aims to reframe the anti-nuclear message through a more human lens. While focusing her writing on the Beyond Nuclear International site, Linda continues to write for Truthout, Counterpunch, The Ecologist, and others. She makes occasional appearances as an expert on television and radio programs. Originally from the UK, Linda has a BA Honours degree in English and Italian literature from Warwick University, where she also studied and wrote about film, including a dissertation on the novels and films of Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Wackersdorf (2018): Film Screening and Discussion

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