Achtung Berlin 2018 – “Eingeimpft”

     |    Tuesday April 24th, 2018

What happens if an anti- and a pro vaccinationist have a child together? After the birth of his daughter, David Sieveking pursues the question in his latest film “Eingeimpft” in the usual conscientious and autobiographical manner. Andrew Horn took a close look at the documentary at the Achtung Berlin film festival.

When I was a little kid, I hated getting shots (still do!). I remember being dragged to the doctors office kicking and screaming and declaring I would rather get polio than have the shots. Of course I didn’t know what polio was, but I was sure the roulette of could be-maybe-possibly was better than having the shots.

But of course I got the shots. And dyptheria. And smallpox. And maybe even some other stuff. And then I had my karmic comeuppance when some years later, my family moved to India and, including booster shots, I was subjected to a total of ca 30 injections including tetanus, typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, hepatitis and stuff I don’t even remember. Some of them hurt like hell.

As you can see I am still here to tell the tale and so nowadays when I hear the stories of parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children, I really don’t understand it.

I should also add that when I was a school boy, I had what were then the usual run of diseases, measles, mumps, chicken pox, German measles and something called scarletina (a sort of scarlet fever lite). As did most of my friends. Today kids are being inoculated for these now too.

On the one hand, again, I’m still here to tell the tale, but then as a parent, why should my child go through all that if he/she don’t have to? And especially as measles is now believed to be a much more dangerous disease than previously thought.

When documentary filmmaker David Sieveking began his film, “Eingeimpft” (Inoculated), he more or less thought as I did. In fact, when he began his film it was not about this topic at all. As someone who makes personal diary films, his object was to tell a light-hearted story of his transformation from being a Kreuzberg-loner-artistic type to becoming a father and ultimately a suburban family man. As he described it in the audience discussion, a sort of cinema vérité rom com.

But when his first child, Zaria, was born, and the baby was scheduled for her first round of shots, David’s girlfriend Jessica revealed that she had a very different view on the subject of inoculation and the question was raised: which is more important, the risk of disease or the possibility – however small – of potentially dangerous side effects. Because even if, as they were often assured, bad things happen to only a very few, what if your child is one that few?

And so this issue began to take over David’s project, and when he found out his film production subsidy was approved, he used the money to go on a journey – both personal and scientific – to find out what it all meant. And we get to go along as he interviews the family doctor; visits clinics and conferences around Europe, speaking to doctors and scientists as well as representatives of drug companies; and picks up on some stories of “the few” who suffered. We even follow him to West Africa where he interviews a doctor leading a long term study on vaccination, infant mortality and disease eradication. All this is interspersed with animated sequences explaining, as he learns, what vaccinations do and how the bad effects happen – in a style sort of like a children’s educational film.

But at the same time, David’s original theme of the trials and tribulations of his new found family life continues on in parallel, as he and his wife deal with being working parents, their growing child, Jessica’s second pregnancy, neighborhood parent issues, and their discussions about moving to a house (she wants it, he doesn’t feel ready to give up city life). And of course their ongoing discussions on when and if Zaria, and now the new baby, are going to get their shots.

Suffice to say, while the debate goes on, David does find some useful answers and he imparts them to us in a light handed spoonful-of-sugar kind of way. Not every parent has the luxury of subsidy money to deeply research these questions like David did, but we can all go see the movie.