Case study: WER SIND WIR? (Who are we?) is a bold documentary from Switzerland by Edgar Hagen which has inspired us to develop a campaign for greater togetherness between people with and without disabilities.
Campaign development team
- Filmmaker: Edgar Hagen
- Producer: Pascal Trächslin, Cineworx Filmproduktion
- Director of the host organisation: Lena Grimm, Moderner Kunstverein e.V.
- Campaign strategist: Ben Kempas, Film & Campaign
- Communications and project management: Lia Gänzler, Film & Campaign
- Research and outreach coordinator: Dubi Petrak, Film & Campaign
- Consultant: Axel Lankenau
- Graphic design: Daniel Dilger, Moderner Kunstverein e.V.
WER SIND WIR? (Who are we?) follows characters Helena (19) and Jonas (11), two severely disabled young people with high support needs that raise huge challenges for their parents, families, schools, and society. The film breaks down the wall that separates them from our world, shows how language and community develop from the ground up – and poses the question of who we are.
The film had its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and has won several awards since, including a ‘special mention’ at the Inclus International Disability Film Festival in Barcelona. There, the jury particularly appreciated how the film “reflects being different and shows us as a reflection of ourselves”.
Long-term campaign development
First for Cineworx Filmproduktion (supported by Zürcher Filmstiftung) and then for German non-profit Moderner Kunstverein, we have been developing an impact campaign, using the film as a hook to enable face-to-face encounters between people with and without disability.
Film & Campaign brought three core team members of our successful 2019 campaign DIE KINDER DER UTOPIE (Children of Utopia) to drive research and development of this new project: outreach coordinator Dubi Petrak, communications specialist Lia Kessler, and campaign strategist Ben Kempas.
Initially, we worked closely with filmmaker Edgar Hagen, producer Pascal Trächslin, and protagonist-turned-consultant Axel Lankenau to come up with ideas for the campaign. At the time, the circumstances of the pandemic made it difficult to convince potential partners to commit to a radical large-scale campaign focusing on personal encounters.
Finally, Axel was introduced to an enthusiastic non-profit in 2022 that is ready to host the project, and we have since been refining the concept with Lena Grimm and Daniel Dilger at Moderner Kunstverein in Freiburg. It has been a long journey, but the campaign will now be ready to launch in 2023 and will use an impact licence to bring this Swiss film to Germany for the first time.
What we want to change
Around 8 million people among Germany’s 80 million inhabitants live with a disability. Yet the worlds of people with and without disability rarely mix. A study by non-profit Aktion Mensch has shown that more than half of people in Germany don’t really notice those with disabilities, a third have no contact with them at all. Our campaign aims to change this.
Many of us may offer solidarity with other minority groups and campaigns, such as Black Lives Matter or LGBT+, but when it comes to disability, it is almost always only those affected and their loved ones who stand up for their rights. Is it because of inhibitions, insecurities, ignorance? Or are we just missing the right opportunity to get to know each other?
Still from Edgar Hagen's documentary WHO ARE WE? Photo: Cineworx Filmproduktion
The campaign proposal: 'Who do we want to be?'
Slated to launch across Germany in 2023, our campaign is designed to create a framework and a platform for mutual exchange to take place between people with disabilities and those with "non-disabilities". We aim to create empathy and responsibility — and avoid pity.
We want to provide opportunities for encounters, exchange, and friendship between people with and without disabilities — beyond personal or professional care. We want to show the diversity in which our society could be shaped, how real inclusion can work — and open up discussion on what is needed for this. We want to help people get to know each other and show that, despite obvious differences, there is more that we all share in common. Above all, we want people to have fun! This will be an enriching experience for everyone involved.
All along, the campaign builds on the documentary and is supported by a high-profile media partnership. We are also talking to interest groups, associations and foundations about getting involved.
Building on the film’s question ‘Who are we?’, the campaign will ask ‘Who do we want to be?’.