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Gorbachev and Kissinger
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Gorbachev and Kissinger
Early this morning, driving to Schonfeld Airport (in the former Eastern sector) to catch the Ryanair flight back to London; staring slightly mournfully out of the limousine window at the cold grey light falling on slush and snow as we journeyed through the suburbs of the old East, with its massive (and now restored) apartment buildings, I was flooded with memories. Crossing Checkpoint Charlie, when it still existed, being fixed by the trained eye of the passport controller under a merciless neon light; walking along the enormous imposing avenues in bitterly cold wind, trailing around the huge empty squares and public spaces; marvelling at the absence of billboards and advertising; the small ladas belching cheap petrol fumes; drinking coffee and eating impossibly sweet cakes in the dimly-lit dour cafes; gazing at the old theatres: the legendary ‘Berliner Ensemble’ where Brecht, Eisler and Lotte Lenya had first performed ‘The Threepenny Opera’.
And then, on another trip, being invited to participate in a strange and very short-lived organization. Gorbachev, who had just been deposed as leader of the Soviet Union, was setting up an East/West Cultural Initiative, and had invited, via his emissaries, a group of writers and filmmakers from the West and the East to travel with him into East Germany to have lunch and a discussion. The Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov was there, the writer and theatre director Heiner Müller, and the novelist Irene Disch. But also, bizarrely, so was Henry Kissinger. We travelled in a convoy of cars through industrial wastelands to a small eating house – I think it was in Dresden – where a banquet had been prepared.
After lunch, we each had to make a short speech. There were about a dozen of us. I think I had been invited because of having worked in Russia with ‘Orlando’. I had direct first-hand experience of Len-film (the studios in St. Petersburg); the wonderful technicians whose skills were now in danger of being lost, for with the collapse of the old economic systems most of them were now out of work. The idea of the “East/West Initiative” was, I think, to try to support Soviet filmmakers during the difficult years of transition; but I never heard any more about it.
SP (on sledge) filming ‘Orlando’ in St Petersburg
Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated