Borderland Memories merges historical images with new recordings, following filmmaker Edie Steiner’s quest to locate her father’s ancestral home in Lower Silesia. His family were among the millions of ethnic Germans expelled from Silesia when it was annexed to Poland after WW2. After the war it was too dangerous for a former German naval serviceman to cross into Soviet territory, so the young man who became Edie’s father never returned to Silesia, instead immigrating to rural northern Canada, where he died long before the fall of Communism.
The project’s themes explore the loss of intergenerational cultural belonging the filmmaker experienced as a German immigrant child of the mid-20th century, a post-Holocaust identity implicated in the crimes of the nation she was born into. Over several journeys to Silesia between 2015 and 2018, and in later interviews into early 2020, she traces her Jewish ancestral line at national archives in Poland, interviews scholars and local residents in the village of her ancestors, and throughout the film, engages in discourses with cultural scholars and experts in migration and border studies. Performing most of her own cinematography, Ms. Steiner’s project investigates borderlands as negotiated spaces mediated by images, culture, and language.
The film’s narrative travels between signs and images of what is now almost a century of history. The recorded dialogues reveal contemporary issues alongside prior histories and always shifting national and social boundaries. What began as an exploration of post-WW2 forced migrations and the filmmaker’s family history in these events, the work is contemporized by Germany’s current role in cultures of migration and immigration.
Natural landscapes and built environments unfold throughout the intersecting audio recordings. We see post-Communist villages set in pastoral landscapes, the cities of Berlin and Wroclaw, and images of the Oder and Neisse Rivers, the Oder-Neisse line forming the border between Germany and Poland, as both a dividing and uniting boundary.
Working between still photography, moving images, archival sources, family documents, original artwork, on-screen text, and sound recordings, the film is constructed from a variety of technologies and both digital and analogue processes.
Edie Steiner Director and Cinematographer
Ian Pearson Editor
Joshua Hemming Sound Design
Chip Yarwood Original Music
Michaela Pohl Original Artwork
Mary Traill Graphic Design
Speakers in the film
Dr. Agata Stanisz: Anthropologist of Sound, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan ; Dr. Łukasz Kaczmarek, Cultural Anthropologist, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan; Dr. Michaela Pohl: Historian, Artist, New York State; John Paul Kleiner, Researcher in East German History, Toronto; Michal Mlynarz, Historian, Toronto and Poland; Malgorzata Murao, Institut für angewandte Geschichte, Frankfurt-Oder/Slubice; Alicja Zaremba, Cultural Anthropology Scholar, Wroclaw; Piotr Zadworny, Jewish Studies Scholar, Wroclaw; Bozena Ludke, Resident, Ludwikowice; Dr. Harald Bauder, Migration & Human Geography Studies, Toronto; Dr. Heather MacRae, European Union Studies, Toronto; Lottie Steiner, Toronto.
My work explores meanings of kinship and memory, complicated by personal intergenerational and historical narratives, at times exposing family connections to larger social histories and contexts. I usually begin my explorations by recording images in sites particular to the themes I am exploring and as I immerse myself in witnessing the locations of my inquiry, stories arrive from the places where I record my impressions and from persons I meet in these locations. The interviews and visual recordings for the film Borderland Memories, including archival sources, were gathered between 2015 and early 2020. The Canada Council for the Arts funded the initial research in 2018 and later the final post-production stage of the project in March, 2020, just as the Covid19 lockdowns began. All picture and sound editing, music composition, graphics and artwork were performed working at distance with the creative post-production team.