Wende Letters - The Story


In autumn 1989 Hannah – a young woman grown up sheltered in East Berlin’s artistic circles – travels with a group of aid workers from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to Ethiopia. Soon, not only do riots in Ethiopia begin, but also the political situation in her homeland starts to turn around drastically. The situation in both of the countries is reflected in the letters going back and forth between her and her family. They provide a frame to the story entwined with the poetry of the Ethiopian landscape and culture. Smitten by the sophisticated Haile, Hannah experiences her own private story of love, quest, arrival in a foreign land and loss of home …


The first time we meet Hannah, she is still with her mother Marianne in her apartment in East Berlin. There are weekly gatherings of authors and theater folks to discuss art and politics while having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and receiving a massage by the physiotherapist Anne. These discussions of sundry topics, theater and life more and more encompass the political turnaround in the GDR.

Hannah travels with 13 agricultural machine mechanics from the GDR to Ethiopia for development aid. The conflict between the intellectual and more dissident influenced Hannah and the true-to-party-principle representatives of the working class, is predictable.

The (original) letters, going back and forth between Hannah in Ethiopia and Marianne/Robert in der GDR, are the frame for the storyline. Due to the long shipping times the letters always arrive with a time lag. Thus, none of the players can ever tell exactly, what is just going on at the other end of the world.

In Ethiopia, Hannah undergoes a cultural shock and reflects on this. She has no qualms to engage with the foreign culture regradless. Shortly after her arrival at her destination, the agricultural farm and college Ardaita, she meets the charismatic Ethiopian Haile, who works as an engineer for the East German combine harvesters factory “Fortschritt”. Immediately, sparks fly between both of them.

While riots start in Ethiopia, the political situation in the GDR is heating up as well. Nobody knows if everything will work out peacefully. The to and fro letters describe both sides of the story. Hannah’s affair with Haile, who opens her eyes for his home country, brings her into conflict with the men of her brigade. The concrete threat of the riots here, the uncertain future there and a finally hopeless crush cause emotional chaos in Hannah. While people in Berlin are dancing on the wall, Hannah does not know, if and when she ever might leave the country at the horn of Africa. And at the same time, with every news and every letter from Europe, she realizes, that she will never return to the homeland she once left.

Based on real events.