The Free Orchestra

(Das Freie Orchester)

GDR, 1988, 17 min
In German; English subtitles
Production Company


Day in, day out, Barbara sells screws at a store in the East Berlin Market Hall. She is frustrated about having to tell her customers most of the time: “Ham wa nich!” (We don’t have that!) In the evening, she is the loud and wild singer of the legendary East Berlin avantgarde and punk band Das Freie Orchester. Playing music with her friends helps her escape the monotony of her job, convey feelings of unfulfillment with everyday life in East Germany in the 1980s and dream of a different life. The short ends with a performance of the song “Ham Wa Nich!” at the famous Erich Franz Youth Club at Prenzlauer Berg.

The music collective, Das Freie Orchester, was formed in 1984 and was part of an East German sub- and counterculture.



The film is also available for a Digital Site License for educational partners. Please find more information here.


2023 Film series HER VIEW: East German Women on Screen, Montreal, Canada
2023 Hamburg Short Film Festival, Germany
2023 Homage Petra Tschörtner, achtung berlin, Film Festival, Germany
2021 Dresden Film Fest, Germany
2019 Retrospective Spät-Vorstellung: 30 Jahre danach – Wende Flicks und mehr, Braunschweig International Film Festival, Germany
2014 DOK Leipzig, Germany

Press comments

“In their lyrics, the band Das Freie Orchester deals with everyday experiences that culminate in the standard phrase "ham wa nich." By 1988, this résumé was no longer a provocation, just the daily mantra of a society exhausted by shortages and unfulfilled promises.”   —Hamburg Short Film Festival


“An elegant making-of of the performance of an industrial band. Tschörtner visits the members in their everyday lives, using the sounds that play a role in the car workshop or during welding to end up in the final noise performance by The Free Orchestra.”   —Matthias Dell, Tagesspiegel, 2023


“The orchestra members—simple workers in real life—process the unfulfilled aspects of their lives in their music and create musical worlds that contradict the often dreary reality.”   — achtung berlin


“A film from the GDR agony of the late 1980s, in which the will for a change is expressed musically.”   —Ralf Schenk,



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