Three crimes – three punishments – three conflicts
Three men who killed and three families who lost someone. In the usual notion of guilt and punishment, this results in three to be punished and three to be forgotten. It is unthinkable that both sides should come closer. The film observes the impossible three times: meeting one’s enemy, in one’s mind, in messages, in real life, in Germany, in Norway and in the US.
A campaign was developed for the film, aimed at reaching those affected directly. In keeping with the spirit of the film, not just outside observation should take place – but dialogue should be possible. The perpetrators are not looked at from a distance, but those affected are addressed directly and involved.
Throughout Germany, BEYOND PUNISHMENT was shown in 39 prisons in front of hundreds of offenders and numerous prison employees, social workers, lawyers, etc. The director Hubertus Siegert was present at 15 screenings. There were film talks and discussions that showed what chances the film opens up for those affected to consider the topic.
“Anger, which, far sweeter than trickling drops of honey, rises in the bosom of a man like smoke.“
“Since Homer’s time, people have worked to control anger and violence. Laws came into existence, criminal justice came into existence, and prisons came into existence. For the time of the punishment, the victim and the perpetrator were strictly separated.“
Hubertus Siegert, Regisseur von BEYOND PUNISHMENT
A young love in Norway ends in a murder when Stiva kills his sixteen year old girlfriend Ingrid-Elisabeth out of jealousy. Her father Erik can’t stand the fact that Stiva is already, after only a few years in prison, allowed to return to his hometown on leave. Erik is scared that he may run into Stiva.
Leola and Lisa live in the Bronx near the supermarket where their sixteen year old son and brother was shot without warning. Mother and daughter have been waiting eleven years for Sean – twenty one at the time of the murder and sentenced to forty years in prison for that crime – to admit his guilt.
Patrick’s father Gerold von Braunmühl, a senior official in the foreign ministry, was killed in 1986 by the militant Left Red Army Faction (RAF). Despite a letter claiming responsibility that was left near the crime scene, the names of the perpetrators remain unknown to this day. Patrick has thus been denied the possibility of engaging with his father’s murderers.
The former judge and law professor is an advocate of “Restorative Justice”. In 2005 she founded the “Restorative Justice Initiative”: “This is about the following: Who was injured and what effects did this injury have? What type of injury was it? And how can you heal this injury again?”
Restorative justice is a concept of justice that overcomes the traditional logic of retribution and punitive philosophies and focuses on the harm suffered and its compensation. The UN resolution “UN Basic Principles on Restorative Justice” describes this as follows: “Any process in which the victim, the perpetrator and other subjects or communities affected by a crime are actively and jointly involved in solving and settling the consequences resulting from the criminal offense; usually with the support of an external specialist ”. In Germany, restorative justice takes place within the framework of the perpetrator-victim settlement. Through the professional mediation of an uninvolved third party, the perpetrator and victim should be supported in agreeing on a mutually acceptable compensation for the damage caused by a criminal offense. In the 1980s there were several private initiatives that carried out perpetrator-victim-settlement projects with delinquent youths. Due to the positive experience, the perpetrator-victim settlement was encorporated in law in the Juvenile Court Act in 1990. In 1994 there was a legal regulation in the criminal code for adults, and at the beginning of 2000 a provision in the code of criminal procedure. Worldwide there are two experts in particular who research the area of restorative justice and repeatedly prove the enormous social relevance of this practice: On the one hand, the protagonist of the film judge Janine Geske (USA) and the criminologist Kristel Buntinx (Belgium).
Punishment is something deeply human. There is no society, no religion that renounces punishment. The punishment has accompanied people since ancient times. There is no society, no religion that renounces punishment. Originally, punishment was based on the need for compensation for injustices suffered, be it through making reparations or through revenge. Punishment has always served a need for purification. Plato already names all these aspects that people who have committed injustice should be punished until they have been “steered back into the right direction”, “Nobody punishes the wrongdoer because he has wronged others – because what has happened can not be made undone, but for the sake of the future, so that neither the perpetrator himself does injustice in the future anymore nor someone else who witnessed his corporal punishment.” So punishment for the sake of deterrence (deterrent theory) and as rehabilitation (improvement theory). Both perspectives are part of our criminal law today. The aim is not to clarify between those responsible for the crime and those affected what exactly happened, but rather to make the judgment before the law and its sentence come to the fore.
CREATION OF THE FILM
When a child is born, the question of the right upbringing soon arises – this was also the case with director Hubertus Siegert. Together with the mother of the child, he realized that the concept of punishment played practically no role in their upbringing. Whereas with other parents he experienced punishment as a decisive element of upbringing. He met the American psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg, who developed the concept of nonviolent communication and took the opportunity to get to know his way of working better. How does nonviolent communication affect the concept of punishment? And what would happen if this principle were applied to the usual way of looking at the “perpetrator” and “victim” of acts of violence? He began to research whether this could be material for a film. It quickly became clear: there have been many films about prisons. But not one that does not polarize. There were films that called for more punishment. The others wanted less punishment and more support for prison inmates. However, there was no development in any of the films that could be observed. Instead, only positions that you could take or reject. “Those who suffer on the victim side remain emotionally bound to the past, continue to feel as impotent victims of the tragic events and often feel terribly left alone by the state and the courts. The other side is also stagnating. In the hermetic system of defense attorney, judge, public prosecutor, prison officer and forensic expert, the delinquents are often taught to downplay their offenses to the maximum and at the same time to be “remorseful” in order to keep the punishment as low as possible.” (Hubertus Siegert) So Siegert set off, visited countless prisons in the USA, Germany and Norway, met murderers and victims – and found people who implemented revolutionary concepts, such as the law professor and former judge Janine Geske.
At first, the director Hubertus Siegert shot everything on his own – on the one hand because the film was not yet financed at this stage. But above all because the protagonists in a two-person arrangement could more easily get involved with the difficult topics. The shoots were very calm. Markus Winterbauer and Fanny-Lou Ziegler later took over the camera work. During the editing process, the director makes a radical decision: There is no music anywhere in the film, not even in the credits: “Anne Fabini initially edited the film without music and when I looked at the rough cut I realized: That’s it! I didn’t want to create a ‘mood’ or ‘musical commentary’.”
“Hubertus Siegert establishes connections between perpetrators and relatives of the victim, he is much more than just an observer. He draws strong images, captures oppressive moments of silence and thus portrays the people involved in three murders who finally want to close this chapter. In the end you can guess the inner workings of perpetrators and victims.”
Zitty, Johann Voigt
“A disturbing film that questions our notion of guilt and atonement. Exciting! “
TV Movie Digital
“Siegert looks for emotional states beyond punishment and retribution, observes how the relatives of the victims slowly come to terms with the direct confrontation with the perpetrator. Siegert has chosen the – only correct – way of distancing observation.”
“In one of the most harrowing scenes, she [Lisa] describes how she is torn between hatred and forgiveness. Hate is her demon, it incites and strangles her, and if Lisa would forgive her brother’s murderer, then her soul would finally have peace. No, this great young woman interrupts herself, that would be a barter, a cheap economy of forgiveness, with which she would betray her brother.”
BEYOND PUNISHMENT premiered at the 36th Film Festival Max Ophüls Preis, where it received the Best Documentary Award 2015. It was also nominated for the German Film Prize, Hessian Film Prize and the Metropolis Prize for best director.
98 min, 1:1.85, DCP 5.1 © S.U.M.O. Film 2015
Script, director, production: Hubertus Siegert
Editing: Anne Fabini
DOP: Marcus Winterbauer, Jenny Lou Ziegel
Sound department: André Zacher
Coproduction: Udo Bremer, ZDF/3sat; Christian Popp, DOCDAYS