A narrow road riddled with potholes leads through small Romanian one-street villages to Timisoara… A distant hill is revealed to be a Turkish cemetery now being used as a rubbish dump… Female street traders sell single cigarettes or self-caught, self-smoked fish, self-roasted sunflower seeds, self-grown vegetables… Outside the villages, men and women let their horses and cows graze on the small strip of grass between the road and the ditch while passing motorists are offered apples, tomatoes, melons and plums from gardens behind rustic homes…
From village to village, Ottinger captures marketplaces, bus stations and the abandoned ghost towns of the rural areas, documenting the newly-nomadic population, and the questionable progress of Eastern European societies.
Based in Berlin, Ulrike Ottinger gained notoriety in the mid 1970s as a fiercely independent and original experimental filmmaker. Her later features include Freak Orlando, Madame X and Johanna D’Arc of Mongolia. In recent years, she has turned to more documentary-based practices as in Taiga, a film about the nomads populating the rolling hills and valleys of the Mongolian steppes. At 366 minutes, South East Passage is a seminal work from one of Germany’s most celebrated filmmakers.