Parchim international, which will replace berlin airport

Parchim international to replace berlin airport

Image: © New Visions Film Distribution

A tragicomedy of stalemate

Jonathan Pang runs. Whether in the smog-covered streets of Beijing or at the provincial airport Schwerin-Parchim, the Chinese investor is relentlessly making his moves. Pang acquired the former military airport in the winter of 2008, just a few months after construction began on the Berlin Brandenburg Airport Terminal. The most frequent guests on the runway since then are field hares. Planes are rare here.

Mostly hobby pilots use the airport as a training ground for their small planes. But for Pang, the Mecklenburg hinterland is the heart of Europe – right between Berlin and Hamburg. Here he wants to build a center of goods handling and passenger aviation coordinated from China. An airport "which will replace the Berlin airport", as the Chinese proudly announces on his airfield.

Even without the barren panorama of the empty, rainy runway and the tractor parked next to it, Pang’s statement comes across as a satirical sideswipe in the direction of Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER).

Symptoms of the rough project

Parchim International remains true to this mocking gesture over long stretches. Stefan Eberlein and Manuel Fenn stage the documentary as a comedy of investment mania. The film alternates with pleasure between images of the province of Parchim and the mega-metropolis of Beijing. A retail and free trade zone of the Chinese capital, so vast that it would take a year and a half to cross it if one spent only a minute in each shop, is juxtaposed with a Parchim snack bar, where an old woman with a walker rolls by.

Parchim international, which will replace berlin airport

Image: © New Visions Film Distribution

The vision from Beijing arrives in the provinces, and, apart from humorous frictions, nothing emerges at first. Rough projects consume not only money, but primarily time.

Stefan Eberlein and Manuel Fenn form the vacuum created at Parchim Airport into a comody in the asthetic cloak of standstill. For seven years, they have accompanied Pang in his rough vision, which is already suffering from the symptoms of the rough project before it could even muster the financial strength to be defined as such. The airport’s runway has serious safety deficiencies, the approach route is blocked by the woodland of a cemetery, and the adjacent rural road stands in the way of further expansion.

The visionary rough project gradually turns into a stagnant small construction site where a lonely hydraulic hammer pounds holes in the runway. A haphazard poking at the dilapidated concrete pavement, witnessed only by Pang’s Bavarian advisor Werner Knan – a wonderful surrogate symbol to the groundbreaking ceremony. Only a few hundred meters away and only a few years later, construction of a new tower begins to replace the barely tree-house-sized Vorganger.

"Progress after all.", the lone air traffic controller, who realizes that he will be watching the unfinished new building from his little pulpit for years to come.

Capital, shot from the hoof

The mental leap from Parchim to Berlin, which the Chinese entrepreneur likes to make in the context of the future of air travel, is actually very easy to make. Construction stop, dispute over flight routes, lack of security: Parchim Airport almost seems like a little brother of Berlin Brandenburg Airport. But where the federal government and the FBB are only hoping for a lack of further delays, Pang still exudes optimism and forward momentum.

Parchim international, which will replace berlin airport

Image: © New Visions Film Distribution

While residents and airport employees continue to wait for the promised air traffic and Airport City, Pang pushes one investment idea after another out of the hoof. During a car ride he discovers the Mecklenburg Lake District, and with it the potential of the fishing market. Scaled up to 50 tons a year, the mitten crabs (ironically a China import) could be exported to China from the Havel’s fish traps, via Parchim.

The Havel fisherman, with whom Pang and Knan soon hold a meeting, visibly tries to take the Chinese seriously, but cannot suppress an amused shake of his head. 50 tons exceed the entire crab population of the Havel river. The shot misses, but Pang continues to run. Er reist zu neuen Meetings, trifft Lokalpolitiker, Investoren aus Russland, China und Nigeria, die die Filmemacher gar nicht erst vorzustellen versuchen.

The results of the business meetings prove them right: It remains with abstract formulas and empty gestures. Investments stay out. The bill is left to Pang himself. Four million euros a year he pays to run the airport, while his income comes from amateur pilots who book touch-and-go training flights at the airport for 10.06 euros.

Taking Care of Business

For all their mockery of capitalist absurdities, Eberlein and Fenn do not lose their sympathy for their protagonist. Parchim Airport is a life project that gradually becomes the personal tragedy of a man who worked his way up from a small village to the top of the Chinese ascent.

Parchim international to replace berlin airport

Image: © Neue Visionen Filmverleih

The price he had to pay for this is shown in the film during a visit to his home country. His mother, who still tills the fields, can’t do anything with the money he brings her. While she sits in the background, the investor tells about his father, to whose funeral he could not go – business did not allow it. Then Jonathan Pang collapses. All energy, all optimism, all visionary breaks in front of the image of his father. "In China you make business or you go home", he finally brings out under tranes. He has made his choice. Soon he will walk again.

Parchim International, which will replace Berlin’s airport

Parchim international, which will replace berlin airport

Image: © New Visions Film Distribution

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