A scene like from forgotten times. A group of adult people is gathered around a table – and doing handicrafts. Not handicrafts for the non-profit bazaar of the community center or the like. Here bottles are smashed and the broken pieces are put into hardening material. They were later to crown the outer wall and protect the Institute for German Language and Culture from attacks. Because you always have to reckon with that in Central Asian Uzbekistan, a playground for warlords, bandits and Salafists. You won’t find it on any atlas, nor on Google Earth. But somehow it slipped between Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, apparently overlooked by the geographers for centuries… But not by German foreign policy, who set up an exclave of Germanic culture here and then more or less left it to herself. Five Germans and one local are tasked with introducing the Kisbeks to the German language and culture. In a lost position, with the smallest possible budget, under difficult, even threatening conditions, in a dilapidated building that once served as the embassy to the lost GDR.
The BBC three-part “Ambassadors” was probably the source of inspiration
“Idea and book: Robert Löhr” is in the credits, and so it is probably one of these miraculous coincidences that occur more frequently in Germany that the eight-part series “Das Institut – Oase des.” Failure ”has certain similarities with the three-part“ Ambassadors ”broadcast by the BBC in 2013. Its action leads to equally fictional Tazbekistan, which is located in the same part of the world. The British ambassador working there is no fool, but often overwhelmed. Who would not be if decisions had to be made like whether to campaign for an armaments contract worth billions or for the freedom of a political prisoner threatened with the death penalty? “Ambassadors” addressed weighty domestic and global political issues in a satirical guise. A form with a long tradition in Great Britain, including films series such as “Yes, Minister”, “Yes, Prime Minister” and “The Thick of It”, based on the ZDFneo production “Eichwald, MdB”. The books of “Ambassadors” were not worked on the fast punch line in high frequency; the authors Rupert Walters and James Wood always left room for sensitive human drama. Not only the protagonists of “The Institute – Oasis of Failure”, but also the producers obviously had to make do with significantly less money than their British counterparts. So the viewer’s forbearance is required if the establishing shots do not match the location and the action is reduced to a few rooms.
The self-imposed compulsion to punch line is not always good for the joke
The German staff is much closer to the caricature than the British diplomats, who are also wonderfully played. The head of the institute, Dr. Anneliese Eckart (Christina Große) turns out to be ignorant. Her constantly sweating deputy Johannes Gmeiner (Rainer Reiners) is fairly competent, but resigned, but thrives when he can argue with the librarian Margarete Hoffmann (Swetlana Schönfeld), who filled the bookshelves with GDR literature, once with the Stasi was and is still attached to the old ideology. They have an ominous emergency case that contains a handful of semtex, among other things. This woman is not afraid of anything, not even of mountain peoples who are keen to shoot. Nadja Bobyleva as German teacher Jördis Otto gives the naughty, naive idealist, Robert Stadlober the cultural struggles with his sexual orientation, a prevented theater genius. The local Haschim Abdali (Omar El-Saeidi) works for the institute out of conviction and affection for Otto and is constantly but to no avail to arouse the Germans’ interest and understanding of the Kisbek way of life and the special problems of the civil war country. It is also biting here, whereby a self-imposed compulsion to punch is noticeable, with the result that many a gag, even if successful, appears to be imposed. As armed volunteers storm the institute, Gmeiner reports: “We have an undesirable visitor.” – “Steinmeier?” – “No, not so undesirable either.” When the German teacher Jördis Otto says goodbye to her class with a small speech, she comes to the conclusion : “The German language is like Uzbekistan – dry and contradictory and full of undiscovered mines.” Eckart’s distinction between diplomats and cultural attachés is also of delicate quality: “The diplomats do it because of the money. And we because of the money. “