IDFA 2021’s guest of honor Hito Steyerl examined the large parcel of land between former East and West Berlin with an archeological eye for her 1998 graduation project Die leere Mitte. After the fall of the Wall in 1989, Potsdamer Platz had to again become the center of the city, as it had been in the past. But it’s no easy thing to erase history, and walls live on even after they have been demolished.
Steyerl shows us old and new boundaries, captures the rising xenophobia and racism of post-unification Germany, raises questions about a reconstruction financed by multinationals, and reveals that few people benefit from gentrification. Much more than a portrait of an era, this ingenuously edited film is a kaleidoscopic dive into central Berlin’s past: from the destruction and renovation of the Reichstag to the boundaries of colonial Germany that were defined there. We discover that the center is a place from which people are always excluded.