films and documentaries Bambule [Registered]

A film written by Ulrike Marie Meinhof

Directed by  Eberhard Itzenplitz

1970 – Südwestfunks Public Broadcaster

The television film “bambule” is intricately connected to the history of the Baader-Meinhof group; its deep connection is what turned this minor TV film film into one of the great “lost” films for almost 25 years. (The lowercase “b” was apparently intentional).

The film, produced by Stuttgart’s regional public broadcaster Südwestfunks, was set to appear across Germany on May 14, 1970 on the ARD public broadcasting network. But the film was pulled from the schedule because the writer of the film, Ulrike Meinhof, had become Germany’s most wanted fugitive four days earlier for her role in helping break convicted arsonist Andreas Baader from police custody in Berlin. What had been an effective and evocative portrait of life in a girls reform school, became political nitroglycerin; untouchable and locked in the  Südwestfunks archives for decades.

Bambule tells the story of girls from society’s margins, confined to a state boarding home. The conditions of their care leads to an uprising amongst the girls; though eventually the uprising fails and the girls find themselves even worse off then before.

It was a shame that bambule became so closely associated with Meinhof and her actions; because by all accounts the film accurately detailed the oppressive and reactionary conditions in girls homes at the time. It was intended to provoke, and surely had it appeared on TV in 1970 it would have helped spur a debate (ultimately German laws were reformed in the 1970s, eliminating many of the abuses documented in the film).

The film represents a bit of a challenge for a casual German speaker; many of the actors were former and current residents of Berlin girls homes; all spoke in the peculiar and idiosyncratic idiom common to the residents of these homes. Even for a typical German the language is often hard to follow; though it adds considerable “realism” to the presentation.

In 1994, state public Broadcaster ARD finally decided it was time to pull bambule out of mothballs and show it to the world (Meinhof’s screenplay for the film had been published by Verlag Wagenbach in 1971). The 1994 broadcast is, so far, the only public showing of the film; and it has never been released on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray.

 Watch the movie

Watch the entire movie below in it’s entirety. Do you speak German and English and want to help out? Help translate Bambule so I can add English subtitles. Even if you took a five minute chunk it would be greatly appreciated!

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