The first German film on the subject of colonial crimes

The first German film on the subject of colonial crimes♦


 “Measures of Man” is the first German feature film on the subject of German colonial crimes. It describes aspects related to the rebellion by the indigenous tribes of Namibia against the German colonial government and its suppression.


 About 120 years ago, South West Africa, now known as Namibia, was a German colony. The film titled “Der vermessene Mensch” (Measures of Men) depicts the German colonial atrocities on the people of Namibia. The director of this film, Lars Kraumme, has previously used other controversial topics in German history as the title of his films.


 Background of the story


 Lars Kraumme, the director of this film, told DW that when the Herero and Nama tribes in South West Africa, namely Namibia, stood up against the German colonial government, the German military commander, General Luther von Trotha, suppressed their rebellion. was brutally crushed. Crome said that General Trutha’s move has gone down in history books as “the first genocide of the 20th century”.


 A fictional story based on historical facts


 According to Crome, his film is fictional but based on historical facts. In which a fictional character named Alexander Hoffman goes on a research trip to this German colony as an anthologist and begins collecting the skulls of dead humans for his so-called “research” on race.

During this experience he also witnesses the genocide of Namibian tribes by the German Protection Force. These security forces were formed between 1904 and 1908 to protect the German Empire from the Herero and Nama tribes of Namibia. Alexander Hoffmann, however, not only considers these atrocities based on racial discrimination to be legitimate, but also has significant effects on his research.


 First scene of the movie


 According to Kraumme, the first scene of the film is a heart-wrenching scene, in which a German scientist, Friedrich, measures the skulls of people of German and African descent in a lecture hall at Berlin’s Wilhelm University, now Humboldt University. has gone Through these measurements, these German scientists are trying to prove, based on a pseudo-scientific, evolutionary race theory, that the skull of a German is larger than the skull of an ancient African. Their goal is to prove that Germans are “more intelligent” than Africans.


 The main characters of the film


 Researcher Alexander Hoffman is played by Leonard Schechter. In the beginning, Hoffmann wants to present this ‘race theory’ by refuting the prevailing theory of racial superiority, that all humans belong to the same “race” i.e. Homo sapiens. Hoffman has to gather material to prove his theory. In this regard, they rely mostly on the words of a Herero woman. Keziya Kumbazambi is the other female lead in the film, played by Namibian actress Girly Charlene Jazma.


 Hoffman is also in love with this woman, but he uses her as a pawn for his research

Scientific inquiry and moral decadence in the colonial era


 According to Kraume, the researcher is initially denied a chance at Friedrich Wilhelm University for his thesis, and then years later, when the Herero rebellion erupts in German South West Africa, he gets a second chance to do his work.


 He now goes on a research tour to Namibia with the German Imperial Army. During his stay in Namibia, he begins to collect bone samples and skulls of indigenous people who died in the political and military conflict for the Berlin Ethnological Museum. And as the story progresses, he is shown to be anti-Herero. Basically the film shows the moral decline of this young anthologist. While observing colonial brutality in Africa, he himself becomes a part of this destructive machinery. He begins robbing local tombs and stealing artifacts for his research purposes.


 Critics’ point of view


 Some critics have criticized Karaume, saying that the film should have been multi-angle and should have included the viewpoints of the Herero and Nama tribes. He believes that the film is showing a post-modernist analysis, which is only describing a German perspective on history.


 But Croome responds that he did not want to engage in any cultural appropriation of the subject. As a German director, it was not right for him to tell the story from the point of view of the Herero and Nama tribes. So he is only telling the story from a German perspective of a German character who does his research under a certain ideology. And this action on the one hand marks the moral decline of scientists and on the other hand highlights the side of a harsh criticism of German supremacy.

The film’s relevance to modern times


 Director Kraume also says that although his film sheds light on the dark side of Germany’s colonial past, it still rings true in many ways today, “like the science of large German industrial corporations in Africa today.” There are intellectuals and technocrats, who pretend they are working for the economic development of Africa when in fact they exploit them. However, in reality, this type of corporate culture is a reflection of the concept of a kind of modern slavery.


 The purpose of the film


 Karamey wants the public to be aware at all costs, “We were once a colonial power that committed heinous crimes and it is not helpful to refuse to acknowledge those crimes in the past.” He wants his film to create a movement to fulfill the reparations agreements with Namibia.


 Germany occupied Namibia in 1884 and the area remained with the Germans until their defeat in 1915 during the First World War.

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