Acclaimed German photojournalist David Klammer’s new film is taking the documentary world by storm. Awarded best documentary at the Snowdance Independent Film Festival, Barrikade was also selected to be screened at the Kassel Dokfest, SUNCINE Film Festival, and Portland EcoFest, to name just a few. Released in 2021, Barrikade depicts the lives of German climate activists who built and occupied treehouses in the Dannenrod Forest to protest its clearing for the construction of a new motorway.
Acclaimed German photojournalist David Klammer’s new film is taking the documentary world by storm. Awarded best documentary at the Snowdance Independent Film Festival, Barrikade was also selected to be screened at the Kassel Dokfest, SUNCINE Film Festival, and Portland EcoFest, to name just a few. Released in 2021, Barrikade depicts the lives of German climate activists who built and occupied treehouses in the Dannenrod Forest to protest its clearing for the construction of a new motorway. Barrikade joins a slew of other recently released films spotlighting climate activism, including Ice on Fire (2019), I Am Greta (2020), and the fictional Don’t Look Up (2021), showing a trend of interest from modern audiences and documentarians. With the ever-looming threat of the climate crisis, the conviction and strength of the Barrikade protestors resonates exceptionally well. Their story is a fantastic addition to Transitions Film Festival’s “Visions for a Better World”.
Director, writer, and producer of Barrikade, David Klammer, is already well known in Germany for his tireless coverage of events and visually compelling photojournalism. He has been accredited for his reportage and political photography, having received awards from the German Photographic Society, alongside nominations from the Hasselblad Awards and NRW Press photo of the Year. Given his background, it's easy to see how the Dannenrod Forest activists had piqued Klammer’s interest. For over a year, the Dannenrod Forest in Germany was occupied by climate activists who built treehouses up to 30 metres high, enduring multiple attempts by the police to evict them and log the forest. Klammer follows these activists over the course of twelve months, from the genesis of their movement to the time the last treehouse fell in December 2020.
Forest occupation has a long-established history in Germany. One of the best known protest camps, the ‘Free Republic of Wendland’, was first constructed in the Wendland forest area in 1980. Since then, numerous camps have been built and maintained across sites in Germany with the aim of preserving and conserving the ecological biodiversity in their regions. The most famous of these German forest defence occupations has been underway in the Hambach Forest since 2012. At the peak of its occupation in 2018, defenders built and maintained more than 70 tree houses. Near Osterholz, people have been occupying over five hectares of the Wuppertal forest since August 2019 to prevent a lime pit from being excavated in the area. In 2021, demonstrators began the occupation of the Steinhausener Forest, to protest the planned development of a Storck candy factory.
Barrikade’s cinematography deftly balances the bleak brutality of modern climate activism with the beauty of the natural world. It is shot in luscious, vivid colour, making the relevancy and immediacy of the activism all the more poignant. Armed police officers attempt to evict the protestors, and the harsh, stark black of their uniforms make a startling contrast to the lush greenery of the forest. Klammer makes wonderful use of natural light, often using the organic dappled effect of leaves to frame the activists’ faces and highlight their limbs as they deftly climb the trees and navigate the forest, all of which affirms their deep, intrinsic connection to the land. Clearly influenced by his background in portrait photography, Klammer’s cinematography lends an intimacy and vulnerability to his subjects not often seen in documentary filmmaking. The brightness and beauty of the Dannenrod Forest and its occupants are gloriously featured, a masterful portrayal by Kammer of the hope, courage, and strength under adversity demonstrated by the activists.
In classic German fashion, the ultimate tone that emerges over the course of the film is one of bleak optimism. Activists build makeshift grave markers from flowering boughs of the forest they swore to protect, people play musical instruments and sing in defiance of the attempts to silence them. Just as life and death are inexorably entwined in natural environments such as forests, so too are themes of home and protection intertwined in Barrikade. The activists find themselves creating a home, a community, and a precious environment they must protect and maintain.
Throughout his film Barrikade, Klammer seems to stress the importance of carving out space for the conservation and security, not just of one individual, but of our entire community, amidst an unjust and hostile world. In a COVID-19 ravaged world, shrunk for many to the size of a room or a house, Klammer’s film serves as a powerful imperative for us all, and a reminder of the enduring nature of the world around us.
Barrikade is part of the Transitions Film Festival’s 2022 program, “VISIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD” available 18th February – 13th March 2022
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