Some call it the ‘Baltic German Exodus’, some call it the ‘Great escape over two seas’, but whatever you choose to call it, the exodus of over 750,000 souls displaced from their homes is a crucial chapter in the aftermath of World War II. Helpless families were
divided over the decision, whether to stay back or join the swelling mass of humanity, on the streets of their villages. Sucked into the current, the journey takes them over 1100 Kms to the west, across the Baltic sea, traversing a landscape ravaged by war and destruction. Little did they know that there would be no return for them to the land they were leaving behind, their home and homeland. This mass movement of humanity is a treasure trove of stories. Every person is a unique story, and so is every family. But, political crosscurrents have prevented these stories from being out in the open for many years now.
‘Plantain’ is an experimental film from director duo Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes, more popularly known as VestandPage. Stanke’s ancestors were amongst the thousands who had migrated from East Prussia during the evacuation of 1945. This part of their past was something the family chose not to discuss, or to brush off with the passing ‘we came from the north’ answer, whenever the topic came up. In 2015, on the 70thanniversary of the exodus, artists VestandPage undertook a journey, retracing the route their ancestors once travelled, from Hemmingstedt, Northern Germany, to Chernyakhovsk (former Insterburg) in the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast. In this performance-based experimental film, they relive the experience of their ancestors through seven individual chapters, each one told through the perspective of one of Stanke’s family members who had undertaken the journey seventy years ago. The film tells this story through snippets of creative interpretations of the events and the emotions that confronted the travellers, often shot at the real locations. The artists recreate the story with brilliant imagery that produces a film that can be a case study in conceptualism.
‘Plantain’ is not a documentary; it is an artist’s interpretation of the circumstances that compelled his forefathers to make difficult choices a very turbulent phase in human history. This film is about human emotions and relations as much as it is about the aftermath of war and the effects of human greed for power and dominance.