August 28, 1988 is supposed to be a folk festival for visitors to an air show – and it ends in a catastrophe. 34 years later, an ARD film is approaching that wants more than to retell.
Ramstein – The fireball and the panic after the disaster: There are harrowing recordings of the air show accident at the US Airbase Ramstein in 1988 with 70 dead. Much has been written and shown in the more than 30 years since the devastating accident.
How can the film “Ramstein – The Pierced Heart”, which the first one shows on Wednesday (October 26th, 8:15 p.m.), tell something new? “By consistently focusing on the victim’s perspective,” says Barbara Biermann, Head of the Film and Documentary Department at SWR. “The film does not rely on effects like classic disaster films.”
On August 28, 1988, more than 350 people were seriously injured at the Ramstein base (Rhineland-Palatinate) during the largest aviation disaster in Germany. During demonstrations at an open day, three aircraft from an Italian aerobatic team collided at a height of around 40 meters during the “pierced heart” figure. A plane crashed into the crowd, burning.
Victims and survivors still traumatized
Many victims and survivors of Ramstein are still suffering three decades later and are traumatized. “It was clear from the beginning that we would approach it with a lot of respect,” says actor Ron Helbig, who acts as a nurse in the film and treats fire victims. “We tell real stories. Nevertheless, we can’t afford to play these people in all their facets.” The tragedy etched itself too deeply into many people. To counteract re-traumatization, a counseling hotline is activated during the film.
The film tells of impressive fates: of seriously injured victims, of doctors who have to make triage decisions, and of families who lose loved ones. Investigators come across a cover-up during the investigation, payments are a long time coming, and there are no plans for ongoing psychological help.
Away from the event, “Ramstein – The Pierced Heart” wants to make something else clear: How crucial psychological support and strengthening can be for victims and helpers – and often is.
Directed by Kai Wessel, the script was written by Holger Karsten Schmidt. Elisa Schlott, Jan Krauter, Trystan Pütter and Max Hubacher are in front of the camera. Filmed in Belgium.
Schlott plays a key role, in whose character as investigator Jeanine Koops the anger at belief in technology, carelessness and arrogance is bundled. “I think it’s a good identification figure, because Koops looks at the tragic accident like most viewers,” said Schott of the German Press Agency. After more than 30 years, the film can show: “The catastrophe seems far away, but many victims live with it to this day,” emphasizes Schlott.
Memorial commemorates the accident
Today, not far from the base, a memorial commemorates the accident in 1988 that made Ramstein notorious far beyond Rhineland-Palatinate. The stone with the names of the victims can be seen at the end of the approximately 90-minute film. Ramstein has also long stood for geopolitics: The airbase in the district of Kaiserslautern is probably the most important US base in Europe with around 15,000 military and civilians. In the Ukraine war, the area is once again of central importance for strategic operations. dpa