Caught amongst the fragile ruins of post GDR East Berlin, a community of queer people occupied a house in the near derelict Mainzer Straße (number 4, to be exact). The street became a hotbed of revolutionary and anti-fascist activity with close co-operation between all the squats.
Director Juliet Bashore’s documentary offers an intimate yet brief glimpse into the squatter’s lives. Though occasionally raising ethically concerns (Bashore proceeds to interview people from the fascist squat against Tuntenhaus’ wishes), the film provides a fascinating insight into the determination and resilience of a queer community at a time of political and social chaos. Many of the occupants from both the east and the west allude to finding a sense of belonging in the Tuntenhaus, previously denied to them.
On the morning of 12 November 1990, the Mainzer Straße was raided by the German Police. In response, the squatters barricaded the street and the armed Police attacked with tear gas, tanks and helicopters. After a vicious confrontation, the 1500 strong paramilitary Police force overpowered the barricades and beat and arrested many of the occupants. We can only imagine members of the Tuntenhaus were on the front line of the fighting.
The second part of the film finds Bashore reconnecting with Basti two years later. The members of the Tuntenhaus are scattered around Berlin, their community seemingly fractured. It’s clear that the eviction had an extremely harsh effect on the mental and physical health of the occupiers. Berlin was changing and old assumptions and ideologies were being swept away.
Despite the documentary’s profoundly saddening ending, we were left with a feeling of hope. Although cut short by brutal state violence, the utopia of the Tuntenhaus was real and you can never destroy an idea. The spirit of the Tuntenhaus lives on.
Interview With Director
In the first episode of the Queerzone3000 podcast, we interviewed Juliet Bashore about the documentary. Many thanks to her for agreeing to take part, we had a great chat. We also discussed her 1986 film Kamikaze Hearts which you can stream and download here (commercial paid service). An extended interview about Kamikaze Hearts (conducted by a site called The Rialto Report) can be found here.
Interview With The Tuntens
Members of Queerzone3000 meet the Tuntens on a snowy rooftop in Berlin. L-R: Louis, Leo (Qzone), Helga, Basti, Arnie, Thomas (Qzone).