'Blood Must Flow' - Undercover Among Nazis: Berlin Film Review
Director Peter Ohlendorf's doc goes undercover to explore the European neo-Nazi music scene.
An hour-long German-TV documentary padded out to feature length, Blood Must Flow - Undercover Among Nazis ("Blut muss fliessen" - Undercover unter Nazis) celebrates a risk-taking investigative journalist's travels around the European extreme-right rock-scene. Built around some shocking clandestinely-shot concert footage, this scrappily uneven eye-opener remains an edit or two away from justifying festival berths or foreign small-screen slots.
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Filmmaker Peter Ohlendorf - a 20-year TV-doc veteran - chronicles the exploits of pseudonymous reporter Thomas Kuban, who hides his identity by means of a fake-looking wig, ever-present sun-glasses and a garish off-yellow suit. From 2003 to 2010 'Kuban' would often don what he refers to as "Fascist pig get-up" to infiltrate neo-Nazi gigs across many parts of Germany, especially the former East. Necessarily rough-and-ready both visually and audio-wise, Kuban's hidden-camera footage nevertheless records in audible detail the deeply offensive - and, in Germany, illegal - lyrics of bands such as Tonstörung, whose viciously anti-semitic anthem 'Blood Must Flow' provides the film's title.
The fact that such activities can continue without attracting police attention is one of Kuban and Ohlendorfer's principal sources of indignation - they show that in urban areas such as Berlin a more pro-active hands-on approach from the cops has paid dividends. "It is crucial to show what is going on here," says Kuban of a topic that "has been brushed under the carpet far too often" as neo-Nazi violence is deprioritized in favor of targeting "international Islamic terrorism" and even extreme-left activism.
The enigmatic Kuban's zeal borders on the obsessional, though his dogged persistence in questioning complacent authority figures - often to their faces - pays dividends. During one such confrontation he comments frustratedly on his own lone-wolf status, dropping in the startling detail that he has "multiple murder charges" against him, a wild assertion which bears no relation to anything that we see or hear elsewhere in the film.
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But there are larger, more structural problems here. The second half moves away from Germany, ranging across Europe to Hungary and Italy in a somewhat arbitrary geographical detour that adds little to the picture's overall impact. Kuban's raw material is strong stuff, but Ohlendorfer can't quite find a coherent framework within which to showcase it - there's insufficient editorial distance here between subject and film-maker. Ohlendorfer's attempts at flashy editing flourishes fall repeatedly flat, while there's a counterproductive overuse of a jazz-inflected, horn-heavy score obviously designed to emphasize the tense, thriller-type elements of Kuban's dangerous crusade.
Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 16, 2012.
Production company: FilmFaktum
Director / Screenwriter/ Producer: Peter Ohlendorf
Directors of photography: Peter Ohlendorf, Thomas Kuban
Editor: Peter Ohlendorf
Sales Agent: FilmFaktum
No rating, 87 minutes.