Young inmates portray their stories in the film documentary "Von Innen nach Außen"

On 19 June 2014, the premiere of the documentary "Von Innen nach Außen" (From Inside to Outside) took place in the young offenders' prison in Berlin. The film is part of the project "Winterreise – HipHopOperFilmTheater", in which young offenders stage theatre productions, rap songs and videos on the basis of Franz Schubert's song cycle "Winterreise" (Winter Journey). In the film, eleven male young prison inmates give very personal insights into their live stories. For the video footage from outside the prison, the inmates were supported by Berlin pupils, with whom they communicated via video messages "from inside to outside".

Schubert's song cycle "Winterreise", the texts of which come from the Romantic poet Wilhelm Müller, deals with separation, lonelyness, exclusion, xenophobia, hate, hope, freedom, pride and insults – motives reflecting the young inmates' experiences with exclusion and migration.

On the basis of "Der Wegweiser", "Frühlingstraum" and "Rückblick" the young people work on topics that relate to their biographies, finding their very own voices and individual artistic expression. The result are documentary film portraits showing intimate insights into the youths' personal stories and allowing the audience to take a look behind the prison walls.

The project winterREISE aims not only at teaching the young people artistic and musical competences but also basic social skills such as team skills, perseverance, conflict and communication skills. The access to the German "high culture" and intercultural understanding are promoted. One barrier, however, remained, namely the prison walls. Soon, the quesion arose "how would it be to be able to film outside?", says film maker Sophie Narr, who together with Ralph Etter  accompanied the young people during their work. This is how the idea with film partnerships with Berlin pupils from schools in the districts of Charlottenburg and Mitte came about, which the film makers knew from previous cooperations.

In the film portraits, the young inmates describe how the life behind bars feels like and how it is not to be able to decide over ones own lives and not to have much private sphere anymore. Not only the prison walls determine life in prison but also the fixed daily schedule: At 6 am, the prisoners are woken up, until 3 pm they work (1.30 pm on Fridays) and afterwards they have freetime. Not to be able to take one's own decisions was "the biggest change", says Ahmad. The inmates think a lot about their families outside. Ibo especially misses his small nephew and points to a photo of a baby on his pinboard.

It is with great openness and relentless honesty with themselves that the young inmates tell their stories. Many of these deal with recognition, exclusion and the wrong friends. The story of Momo, who wanted to become a professional swimmer before he went down the criminal path, is especially well told. In his film portrait, he describes the pain he feels in having disappointed his teacher, who believed in him and who supported him. Another very intense film portrait is that of Marcin who tells the story of the death of a friend who was electrocuted while spraying graffiti in a train tunnel. Marcin tortures himself with feelings of guilt as he was the one who introduced him to the sprayer scene.

Momo's and Marcin's stories are backed by film pictures of swimming competitions and graffiti sprayers. To underline the film portraits' artistic expressions, it needed pictures from "outside". This is where the Berlin pupils have done great work and – on specific instructions by the inmates via video messages – went to film places which were important to the inmates and interviewed friends and relatives.

The documentary "Von Innen nach Außen" is part of the three-year prizewinning project winterREISE, during which male, young prison inmates stage Franz Schubert's Winterreise with the help of musicians, dancers, dramaturges, theatre and film makers.

In different modules of three months each, rap songs, videos or stage performances are developed on the basis of nine songs from the 24-piece song cycle. The idea for the project came from
Jörn Hedtke alias kronstädta, who already has some experience with crossing over classical music and rap ("Hip H’Opera Cosi fan tutti" 2006 at Komische Oper Berlin and "Rap der Nibelungen" 2010 at Stadttheater Freiburg) and who is the artistic director of the project.

The prison theatre aufBruch – KUNST GEFÄNGNIS STADT was founded in 1997. In 2011, they were  awarded the Tabori prize and 2012 together with the young offenders prison Berlin (JSA Berlin) the first integration award of the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf for the project winterREISE. aufBruch is internationally active with the European Prison Network cooperates with prison theatre productions in Latin America.

The aim of aufBruch is to bridge the gap between the world within the prison walls and the rest of the population and to allow for a respectful encounter between the offenders and the „innocent“ population outside the prisons.

The documentary "Von Innen nach Außen" will soon be shown to a larger audience after the reopening of C/O Berlin (which supported the pupils with their video work) at Amerikahaus.

Further information on winterREISE and aufBruch:

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