In 1986 former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim launched an election bid for the presidency of his native Austria. But only weeks before the final vote, the campaign was suddenly mired in scandal. The World Jewish Council revealed that Waldheim had been a German army senior officer in the vicinity of the infamous 1942 Nazi deportation of 56,000 Greek Jews from Thessaloniki. For some Austrians, Waldheim’s firm refusal to admit guilt symbolized their nation’s unspoken culpability in wartime atrocities. For others, supporting Waldheim was an issue of national pride.
In the midst of the heated race, documentarian Ruth Beckermann took to the streets of Vienna capturing confrontations between activists and Waldheim supporters. Utilising this trove of tape along with news feed from the period, most of it never aired, Beckermann has crafted a stunning chronicle of the heady weeks leading to Waldheim’s victory. Throughout, Beckermann provides an incisive commentary that deftly navigates personal essay with historic past and its timely impact on the present.
Winner Best Documentary at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.