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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Can’t be Silent

Germany 2013
Starts August 15, 2013

Directed by: Julia Oelkers
Writing credits: Julia Oelkers, Lars Malbaum
Cast: Documentary: Sam, Nuri Ismailov, Hosain Amini, Olga, Jacques Zamble bi Vie, Revelino Mondehi, Heinz Ratz
Length: 85 minutes

Can’t be SilentMany Germans have no idea what really happens to refugees seeking asylum in Germany. They cannot imagine that these people, who have fled impossible situations in their home countries, find themselves in almost equally impossible situations in Germany. They are stuck in refugee camps, share rooms with many others, have limited – or  no –  travel rights, are isolated and are looked down upon by outsiders. Heinz Ratz is a “political” musician-singer-songwriter who performs with his group called “Strom und Wasser” (Electricity and Water). He explored all of Germany by bike and visited 80, fenced-in, refugee homes or camps. He met talented, lonely musicians who had no opportunity to perform before an appreciative audience. He gathered five of them from Gambia, Dagestan/Russia, the Ivory Coast, and Afghanistan (via Iran), picked up 17-year-old Olga from Hamburg and incorporated them into his band. They went on tour under the name “Strom und Wasser featuring the Refugees.” Director Julia Oelkers accompanied them for a year, and, although often unavailable to photographers, she still filmed refugee camps in Gifhorn, Reutlingen, etc., in order to show the reality of how refugees live in this country. All of the musicians were excellent; some, who were shy and silent in the camps, came alive on stage. Financially, the film struggled and many of the crew members, e.g., sound, camera, editors, translators, etc., worked for free. There was some crowd funding, support from autofocus videowerkstatt, and finally Neue Visionen, which assumed the responsibility of distribution.

The film is an eye-opener, a way of making those of us with German citizenship or residency permits aware of others less fortunate. This is quite a pertinent topic considering that just recently, in June 2013, 300 African refugees fled from Mali and Ghana via Libya and then Italy to arrive in Hamburg. Seventy-five of them have found sanctuary in a church in Hamburg-St.Pauli. They have set up an information stand at Steindamm in Hamburg-St. Georg. Now Hamburg is planning five more locations for temporary housing for refugees including one next to its famous Hagenbekstierpark (Zoo). But the problem is not solved and we cannot ignore it. See the film, and, perhaps, you can contribute to some kind of solution for an impossible situation and, if not, at least you can definitely enjoy the excellent music and be impressed by the generous input of some thinking Germans. In English, French, and German with German subtitles. (

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