New York Film Festival
That so much of the archival footage from Karl Marx City is banal only makes it more troubling. The material comes from the surveillance records of the Stasi, the East German secret police that conducted extensive domestic surveillance during the Cold War era to weed out the disloyal. As such, the copious video of public spaces—buildings, streets, parks—speaks to the totality of the state’s monitoring of citizens, so extreme that all of those areas aren’t simply documented, but covered from every conceivable angle, allowing directors Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker to piece together continuity editing of 30-year-old footage. As Epperlein grimly notes at one point, the high level of coverage used to spy on unaware citizens walking around the city produces perhaps the closest thing to documentary truth, a complete record of lives unperturbed by knowledge of the cameras.