Steiner, Roland


Roland Steiner was born in Altenburg, Germany, on October 5, 1949. He left home when he was 16 and joined the army at the age of 18.


From 1968 to 1969, after high school and an apprenticeship as a metalworker, Steiner worked at the DEFA Studio for Documentary Films as an assistant cameraman with cinematographer Wolfgang Kohlert and documentary director Jürgen Böttcher. He then studied directing at the Academy for Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg from 1970 to 1974, followed by two years as a master student with director Heiner Carow.


Steiner joined the DEFA Studio for Documentary Films as a director in 1976. At first, he worked on children’s documentaries; but he was more interested in the lives and problems of young adults. In his 3-part Jugend-Zeit series—Jugendwerkhof, Jugend-Zeit, Jugend-Zeit in der Stadt and Jugend-Zeit zu zweit—Steiner explored the world of young East Germans. In Jugendwerkhof—banned by officials and not released until 1988—he focused on young people who got in trouble with the East German legal system. Steiner spent four years preparing his groundbreaking documentary Unsere Kinder, which looked at young people living on the margins of society and touched on the taboo topic of rightwing extremism among young East Germans in the late 1980s. For the first and last time in a DEFA film, young skinheads and neo-Nazis talked on screen about the causes and motivations for their beliefs; one of the interviews in the film was conducted by the important (East) German author Christa Wolf.


Steiner has created portraits of people who are outsiders, either because of their political involvement or their personal lives. Also reflections on social debates, these include films on the undercover journalist Günter Wallraff (alias Günter Wallraff); defense lawyer Heinrich Hannover (Heinrich Hannover – Rechtsanwalt); poet Erich Fried (Die ganze Welt soll bleiben); cultural philosopher and architectural theoretician Lothar Kühne (La Rotonda Vicenza); and politician Konrad Weiß (Demokratie jetzt).


From 1991 to 1993, Steiner headed the Directing Department at the Academy for Film and Television. In 1993, he adopted a second career and trained as a therapist, working at a home for people with severe mental and physical disabilities. From 1995 to 2000, he also lectured in the Journalism Department at the University of Oldenburg. In 1998, he established PROCON, a center for media education in Hanover.


One of Roland Steiner’s more recent documentaries, Zärtliche Kraft, is about the German theater legend Peter Zadek (1926–2009). Steiner met and accompanied the director during rehearsals for his last play at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich; the film gives a fascinating and unique insight into Zadek’s work.


2015 Dat du meen Leevsten büst? (Are You My Beloved?)
2010 Zärtliche Kraft (Tender Power)
1995 Was bleibt… Eine Erinnerung an Erich Fried (What Remains: In Memory of Erich Fried)
1993 Mit Angst – Ohne Gewalt (With Fear – Without Violence)
1992 Wolf Kaiser – Schauspieler. Berlin Friedrichstraße (Actor Wolf Kaiser: Berlin Friedrichstraße)
1991 Demokratie jetzt (Democracy Now)
1990 Ich will ein Fremder bleiben (I Want to Remain a Stranger)
1990 La Rotonda Vicenza
1989 Unsere Kinder (Our Children)
1988 Die ganze Welt soll bleiben – Erich Fried: Ein Porträt (Erich Fried: The Whole World Should Endure)
1987 alias Günter Wallraff
1987 Zeit-Raum – 46 ha Urwald in Böhmen (Space-Time: 46 Hectares of Virgin Forest in Bohemia)
1986 Heinrich Hannover – Rechtsanwalt (Defense Lawyer Heinrich Hannover)
1986 Was wir Leben nennen (What We Call Life)
1984 Woran wir uns erinnern... (What We Remember…)
1982 Jugendwerkhof (Juvenile Detention Center)
1981 Wolfgang
1981 Jugend-Zeit zu zweit (Teenage Years as a Couple)
1981 Die Geheimnisse Südböhmens (The Secrets of Southern Bohemia)
1979 Melanie
1979 Jugend-Zeit … in der Stadt (Teenage Years... in the City)
1979 Film von gestern (A Film from the Past)
1978 Jugend-Zeit (Youth)
1976 Ein Weimarfilm (A Weimar Film, narrator)

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