Photo © Roland Steiner
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||Jugend-Zeit zu zweit (Teenage Years as a Couple)|
|1981||Die Geheimnisse Südböhmens (The Secrets of Southern Bohemia)|
|1979||Jugend-Zeit … in der Stadt (Teenage Years... in the City)|
|1979||Film von gestern (A Film from the Past)|
|1976||Ein Weimarfilm (A Weimar Film, narrator)|