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Germany

RAF Victim's Son Complains About New Baader-Meinhof Film

The son of Chief Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback, murdered by the Red Army Faction (RAF) in 1977, has complained in an interview about the new film about the Baader-Meinhof group responsible for his father’s death.

Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek)

"The Baader-Meinhof Complex" has been criticized by relatives of RAF victims

Michael Buback criticized "The Baader-Meinhof Complex" by producer Bernd Eichinger in Sunday's Die Welt, saying that he and other relatives of those killed by the German terrorist organization had not been informed of the contents of the film.

"I did not even know whether there were scenes featuring my father in the film," Buback said.

Among the most powerful scenes in the new film are those of a female terrorist plucking a machine-gun from a pram on a Cologne street before mowing down Buback's father Siegfried and his bodyguards in a hail of bullets.

Buback added that some aspects of the film left many unanswered questions, particularly concerning victims of the RAF such as his father, industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer and Dresdner Bank chief Juergen Ponto.

Bundesanwaltschaft will RAF-Aussagen per Beugehaft erzwingen

Prosecutor Buback was gunned down in Cologne

"Did they become victims because of their personality or only because of their jobs?" he asked. "My father could be perceived by those who don't know their history to be a man who just wanted to destroy the Baader-Meinhof group…and therefore they may see some justification in (the RAF's) actions."

Buback conceded, however, that despite this the film was nevertheless worth seeing and that the actors playing the roles of the RAF terrorists were excellent.

Critics praise film's authenticity

Unlike some previous films on the topic, the "The Baader-Meinhof Complex" has been praised by some critics for showing members of the infamous urban guerrilla group founded by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof as brutal murderers rather than romantic desperadoes.

The film is a fast-paced account of how a band of left-wing revolutionaries caused mayhem in West Germany with a series of politically-motivated assassinations, bombings and kidnappings.

The story begins with violent student protests in Berlin in 1967 and ends in the autumn of 1977 when the hijacking of a Lufthansa airliner by like-minded Palestinians was foiled by elite German forces. Events triggered the suicide of the RAF ringleaders in Stammheim high-security prison and the murder of Hanns-Martin Schleyer.

The picture the RAF released of Hanns-Martin Schleyer

The picture the RAF released of Hanns-Martin Schleyer

Director Uli Edel said he aimed to put the record straight by focusing on the carnage and human toll of the Baader-Meinhof gang, later the Red Army Faction whose bloody exploits claimed dozens of lives.

"I deliberately put the cameras next to the victims so that we can see what they see," he told Focus magazine. He said he wanted to "destroy the myth that has grown up around the RAF."

Audiences moved by "heartbreaking" feature

Frank Schirrmacher, editor of the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, wrote that he found the film "heartbreaking" to watch and added: "This film has the potential to make people see the RAF in an entirely new light."

A VIP screening earlier this month ended with several minutes of stunned silence before the audience applauded. Some critics claimed the terrorists were portrayed as being too glamorous. The film goes on general release in Germany from September 25.

The makers had upset many reviewers in Germany by threatening them with a heavy fine if they released any details about the content of the film before its first showing.

The 150-minute production is billed as one of the most expensive German films to date and producer Bernd Eichinger and director Edel have assembled an impressive cast.

A scene from The Baader-Meinhof Complex

The film has been praised for its gtritty realism

It includes Moritz Bleibtreu as a baby-faced Baader and Martina Gedeck as Ulrike Meinhof, the prim-looking radical journalist who went underground after abandoning her children in a Palestinian refugee camp. Johanna Wokalek plays Baader's girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin.

Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, who starred as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, in the award-winning drama "Downfall," is cast as Horst Herold, the top policeman who pioneered the use of computers in an unprecedented manhunt for the terrorists.

Germany's film export board has nominated the movie for the February 2009 Oscars as best foreign film of the year and German judges said the work "gave a picture of the 1970s without glorifying" the terrorists.

"We have tried to make everything as authentic as possible," said Eichinger who based the film on a best-selling book of the same name by former Der Spiegel magazine editor Stefan Aust.

Film aims to end RAF terrorist chic

There have been plenty of movies about Baader, Meinhof and the RAF but the militants have sometimes been portrayed as cool, leather- jacketed revolutionaries with pistols tucked into their belts.

A visitor to the RAF exhibition in Berlin

The RAF exhibition was seen as glorifying the group

More than 30 years after the events, young people in Germany can now flirt with terrorist chic by buying T-shirts with the RAF's trademark machine-gun emblem and there have been exhibitions about Baader and Meinhof as pop icons.

Aust's book has been thoroughly revised to coincide with the release of the film but many RAF terrorists released from jail in recent years have refused to talk to him about what happened. Key documents on the era have also not been released by the German government.

Christian Klar, 56, one of the most notorious RAF members, is still serving a prison sentence for multiple murders after his recent appeals for clemency were turned down. His call for mercy while showing no remorse provoked a nationwide emotional debate.

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