Conversations with Memory

The Summer School with film researcher and filmmaker Tanja Sakota aims to critically engage with the past through the lens of the present. Participants are invited to interrogate and explore their understanding and relevance of spaces in Berlin, using the film medium.

Memory Research with Film (Photo: Tanja Sakota)

Date: July 2021 (tba), Mo-Fr 9:30 am - 5:30 pm

(in order to capture the best light, evening shoots may be necessary)

Language: English

Number of participants: 10-12           

Location: Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF

Cost: 600,- EUR

Early Bird 550,- EUR before 31 March 2021

Students receive a 10% discount off the regular price

How do you access the abstract and invisible using the camera? How do you make invisible memory, visible? How can you explore monuments with the medium film?

Through this auto-ethnografic workshop, Dr. Tanja Sakota from the Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg invites you to explore the present through memory and monuments in Berlin. The different spaces and monuments will be interrogated from a personal, political or cultural perspective.

My interest in site-specific research is not random. My mother escaped through the sewers of Breslau (today known as Wroclaw, Poland) in 1945. Her final destination was Johannesburg, South Africa. This is where I enter the narrative. I was born during apartheid and my interest in memory and identity is clearly a result of my historical and political context.

Dr. Tanja Sakota

Content & Objectives

The central focus of the workshop aims to interrogate the present by accessing the past through memory, memorial/monument. This can be interrogated from a personal, political or cultural perspective.

The workshop will be centred on 3 themes:

  • Location, Landscape and Space
  • Identity
  • Cultural Politics

Before the start of the workshop, participants will be required to research 2 or 3 sites:

  1. Palace of Tears, Berlin Friedrichstraße station
  2. Micha Ullman’s Bibliothek, Bebelplatz
  3. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
  4. Own site - A space in Berlin that houses a personal memory that you would like to explore. Note this memory does not necessarily have to be yours, it could be a site, space where an event took place and was experienced by someone else but it has had an impact on you

At the start of the workshop, participants will be required to construct a narrative that interrogates one of these sites with reference to personal identity, political identity or cultural identity. The aim is for participants to find ways that will critically engage with the past through the lens of the present. In other words, the site has to have some historical (personal or political) relevance to the present in terms of identity, culture or politics.

By the end of the workshop, participants will be required to visit the site and create a short 2-3 minute film that crosses the boundaries of fact and fiction.The films should incorporate elements of both fact and fiction that question notions of memory and remembering. The context of the memorial does not need to be the central focus of the narrative, it should rather weave the memory of the site into the story. The film is shot and edited on your own filming device which can be a smartphone. Participants are required to install an editing app on their smartphone in preparation of the workshop.

Instructor Dr. Tanja Sakota

Tanja Sakota has lectured at Wits University since 1999. During this time she has also been a guest lecturer at ARCADA Film School in Finland, International Film Academy of Bologna in Italy and Syracuse University, United States, NAFTI Film School in Ghana, University of Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF in Germany and the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

After graduating in Dramatic Art and winning the Edgar Bold prize for the top Television student, Sakota started working in the Television industry as a Scriptwriter and Director. Since joining Wits, Sakota has taught in the Documentary and Fiction courses in both the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. She is Chair of the School Ethics Committee. From 2009-2014, Sakota coordinated the Film and Television postgraduate programme. Thereafter, from 2015-2017 she served as the Head of the Film and Television Division.

Sakota’s research has focused on the representation of conflict in different media, including the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, 9-11, the War on Terror and the Rwandan Genocide. In 2018 Sakota started the fieldwork for a book project that interrogates different interactions with memory that is housed in sites, spaces and architecture. The research involves auto-ethnography and how one can access the past and the memory of traumatic events through location, landscape and political identity.

Registration and Participation

The Workshop Conversations with Memory is directed at professionals and students in the fields of filmmaking, literature and creative writing, anthropology, ethnology, cultural studies, film and theater studies as well as any other interested person, who would like to explore the themes of identity and memory in a practical workshop setting. Participants should have a basic knowledge of filmmaking and are required to bring their own filming device which can be a smart phone.

Participants are asked to register online using our application form. Spots are limited and will be awarded based on registration date after assessment of the application and receipt of the participation fee.

The fee covers the participation in the course, materials and technical equipment. Meals and accommodation expenses are not included and must be covered by participants. We will be happy to provide you with recommendations for accommodations in the vicinity.




    Funded by:

    Science + Technolgy + Arts (S+T+ARTS)