The Last Days
The Last Days
(2019; Colour; Video; 81min)
- in German and English, with English Subtitles
A film by Lalit Vachani
A documentary about the last days of an emergency refugee center in a small town in Germany, 'The Last Days' is a quiet film about some of the ordinary, and fragile acts and experiences that create refuge.
In 2015-16, close to a million refugees entered Germany following Chancellor Angela Merkel's dramatic announcement 'Wir schaffen das' (We can do it!), that enabled an "open border" policy and 'Wilkommenskultur' towards refugees fleeing wars in Syria and other parts of the world.
In small towns like St. Andreasberg, populations doubled overnight as emergency refugee centers were opened to accommodate the endless stream of refugees.
But when we began filming at the ASB (Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund) St. Andreasberg refugee center in the summer of 2016, the moment of refugee arrival with all its uncertainty, panic, and expectation had passed.
The Last Days is a film about an interminable wait for the eventual closure of the center. As ASB workers learn to pack and dismantle furniture, and trucks for "Catastrophe Management" carry away unused goods, eight German social workers share their memories and stories of fleeting moments spent with the refugees.
At one level, The Last Days is a documentary with absurdist overtones. At another level, it is a poignant reminder of a remarkable moment when open borders and new beginnings seemed a real possibility.
Co-Directed by Oliver BeckerDirector
Produced and Directed by Lalit Vachani; Camera and Co-direction: Oliver Becker; Editing and Script: Lalit Vachani; Post-Production Audio/Sound Mix: Jochen Jezussek; Color Grading/Post-production Video: Stefan Engelkamp; Additional Camera: Lalit Vachani; Additional Editing: Oliver Becker; Translations (German to English): Laila Friese, Oliver Becker; Co-produced by CeMIS - the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen, Germany A Wide Eye Film, 2019Credits
Project Title (Original Language):Die letzten Tage
Runtime:1 hour 21 minutes
Completion Date:February 2, 2019
Country of Origin:Germany
Shooting Format:XDCAM; 1920x1080
February 18, 2019
July 1, 2019
September 4, 2019
Lalit Vachani (Direction, Script and Editing)
Lalit Vachani is a documentary filmmaker, producer and video editor, with a preference for political ethnography. He is director of the New Delhi based Wide Eye Film.
Lalit Vachani’s documentaries include 'The Starmaker' (about the business of ‘starmaking’ in the Hindi film industry); 'The Boy in the Branch' and 'The Men in the Tree' (on the RSS and Hindu nationalism); 'The Play Goes On' (about the left street theatre group, Jana Natya Manch); 'The Salt Stories' (following the trail of Mahatma Gandhi’s salt march in Narendra Modi's India); 'Tales from Napa' (about a village that resisted Hindu fundamentalists during the Gujarat 2002 riots), 'An Ordinary Election' (an in-depth study of an Indian election campaign) and 'Recasting Selves' (about the soft skills training of Dalit and lower caste students in Kerala, India).
In 2007, he directed In Search of Gandhi as one of ten international filmmakers commissioned to make 52 min. films for the 'Why Democracy?' global television series, which was broadcast across 35 international television channels, including ZDF/Arte in Germany, BBC and BBC World (UK), Arte (France), Canal + (Spain), SBS (Australia), NHK (Japan) and SABC (South Africa).
Some of the venues and film festivals where his work has been shown are: Kino Arsenal, Berlin; Oberhausen International Short Film Festival and DOK-Leipzig in Germany; International Documentary Film Association (IDFA), Amsterdam; Festival International du Documentaire, Marseille; One World Human Rights Film Festival, Prague; the Asian Social Forum, Hyderabad; the World Social Forum, Mumbai; MIAAC and the Queens Museum of Art, New York.
Lalit Vachani teaches courses on the political documentary film, Hindu nationalism, media and politics, and documentary theory and production at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) at the University of Göttingen.
Oliver Becker (Camera and Co-direction)
Oliver Becker is a cultural anthropologist, filmmaker and founder of weTellmedia, a film- and media production company for science, education and cultural institutions.
His focus of research are the fields of visual anthropology and new (digital) formats of knowledge transfer. He worked severals years as research assistant for documentary filmmaking at the Department for Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology and the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen.
Oliver Becker has also been working as a music journalist for different print and online media. His critically acclaimed documentary „Kingston Crossroads“ has been screened widely and has won international awards.
How do you document absence?
How do you tell a story about refugees in a space where there are none?
How do you film routines that seem pointless, boring, repetitive and absurd?
What is the ideal form for filming a mammoth ghost building which has echoes, traces, memories and hauntings of refugees?
What is the role of the archive (found footage, home movies, personal photographs) in telling this story?
‘The Last Days’ (Die letzten Tage) is a film about absence, and the memory of refugees at the Rehberg-Klinik refugee centre during its last days. It is about the endless waiting for the refugee center to close down.
Perhaps the film is less about refugees, and more about the German social workers who were touched by their experience of being with, and caring for the refugees. Perhaps it is also a film about the large abandoned building - the hospital and the house that could never become a hotel, or a home.