Berlin, 1979. Jürgen Baldiga moves from a rural mining province to Berlin, quickly becoming one of the city’s foremost queer artists. After contracting HIV in 1984, as the AIDS crisis sweeps Berlin’s LGBTQ community, he switches mediums to photography – up to his own death – to ensure something became of the stories and people lost in these years. The photographer’s work is the subject of Jasco Viefhues’ new documentary Rescue the Fire (Rettet das Feuer), which combines archival and new footage with Baldiga’s film and photographs, overlaid by talking heads interviews from those who knew him.

Rescue the Fire exists primarily as a delivery vehicle for Baldiga’s work; outside of the artist’s eye-catching images, the documentary’s eighty minutes are straightforward and without structural experiment. It is hardly fair to call this a drawback, however; the film’s short length prevents the tone from becoming monotonous and its purpose is to showcase Baldiga, not break new cinematic ground. The piece is almost more of a virtual exhibition of Baldiga’s filmed and photographed work than it is a film – a record that serves a unique purpose in preserving one man’s voice.

Baldiga brings a fiercely individual, assured lens to images of his life, his friends, and the shared health crisis. Sometimes the people and places he captures are framed performatively, other times in seemingly un-staged intimacy; this framing creates a holistic view of a crumbling community while never leaving the authority of Baldiga’s lens in question. The result is a small scale yet deeply human window into a global crisis.

Rescue the Fire is a testament to one man’s efforts in capturing a rapidly disappearing reality. Berlin is cast in a new light through Baldiga’s meticulous preservation, and the reactions and recollections of former friends and collaborators add additional emotional significance to the records.



DIRECTOR: Jasco Viefhues

SYNOPSIS: Jürgen Baldiga photographed his life and death from AIDS in 1980s and 1990s Berlin. This documentary explores his archives and those he knew.