Waste Land

a film by Jens Schanze

Waste Land

Germany | 2001

By 2045, twenty localities in Germany will be resettled because of brown coal open pit mining. The film Waste Land follows the inhabitants of three villages in the Rhenish coal-mining district during their last years in their old home and documents how an entire region prepares for its collective relocation.

“I wish you much joy planning your new house!” That is what the director of the Rheinbraun AG calls out to several dozen people in the gym of a small town near Cologne. Floor plans for one-, two- and multiple-family houses hang on exhibition walls. Rheinbraun AG, a subsidiary of RWE-Energy, has big plans. It wants to relocate 17 Rhenish localities in order to mine the brown coal lying below. The coal will produce power, which will contribute to the energy supply of the Federal Republic of Germany for decades to come. For 12,000 people, that means the loss of their home.

Brown coal open pit mining has a long tradition in Rhineland. Since WWII, 30,000 people have already been resettled as a result. The largest of three Rhenish coal mines is named Garzweiler I. Garzweiler was one of the towns that had to yield to the pit mine in the 80s. In November 1998, the North Rhine Westphalia state government issued the permit for a subsequent pit mine, named Garzweiler II. Preceding that was a 14 year ongoing fight between opponents and supporters. During the project, 50 square kilometres will be stripped away to a maximum depth of 210 metres – with everything that lies on top of it. The mining will be finished in 2050. Another 50 years will be needed for the complete re-cultivation of the area. At the very end, around the year 2100, a 23 km²so-called “residual-lake” will remain.

Statement of the jury for the 38th Adolf Grimme Award:
“A beguilingly beautiful film, simple and stringent and black & white. Understandably, there is much attention to a suitable format: because it requires stillness and room to experience what it looks and sounds like, when entire towns disappear.
The film – brilliantly captured by cinematographer Börres Weiffenbach – lays out a mental map with unusual depth of insight and clearly contoured perspectives. Here, the descriptions, the memories, the outlooks of locally rooted lives. There, the, completely non-sarcastic, formulas of the planners. And in between, up front, the almost abstract industrial beauty of the huge excavators. Schanze does not simply take advantage of this tension by choosing sides. Instead, he uses it as an energy field for exact observation. Of people, who do not recklessly distort the idea of home, but simply live it. And of landscapes which are often more foreign to us than exotic worlds – as living space for an unagitated and undenounced province.”
Cast and Crew
  • Director Jens Schanze
  • Screenwriter Jens Schanze
  • Director of Photography Börres Weiffenbach (Grimmepreis/Bayerischer Fernsehpreis/ Deutscher Kamerapreis)
  • Editor Jens Schanze
  • Editorial Jounalist Margrit Schreiber
Original Languages



Production Company
Mascha Film
Kochelseestr, 81371 München

Phone: +49 89 76755352

Fax: +49 89 96198370

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