Cineding Open Air Cinema at Hildegarten, Röckener Str. 44, Leipzig
Ojoboca (Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy): Her Name Was Europa, 2020, 16mm, 76min
The aurochs, the precursor of modern cattle, is considered to be the first documented case of extermination of a species. The last known aurochs died 1627 in the forest of Jaktorów, Poland. In the 20th century, attempts to revive the aurochs began.
Ojoboca (Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy), filmmakers from Berlin, in their film Her Name Was Europa look into various different projects that tried to revive the aurochs. In the 1920s, German zoologists Lutz and Heinz Heck decided to start a breeding back project. The brothers, who were directors of the zoos in Berlin and Munich, respectively, cross-bred various modern cattle breeds, hoping to end up with a creature that would resemble the original aurochs.
The Heck brothers’ fantastic goal conformed to the ideology of racial purification which at that time was glorified by national socialism. The Heck brothers attempted to reestablish the aurochs’ biological unity which they believed had been degenerated through domestication. The aurochs was considered stronger, purer, and more beautiful than domesticated cattle, and therefore corresponded to the German ideal of an unspoilt, heroic nature.
Once the largest European land mammal, the aurochs was a symbol of German power and superiority, but World War II baffled the breeding back project. Heck cattle, the offspring of those experiments, still live in Germany today. As a scientific enterprise, however, the Hecks’ project is considered a failure.
Heck cattle involuntarily embody a paradoxical view. This view values nature as something whole, pure, and untouched; and yet it tries to form it according to human needs and wishes. Even today, nature is being formed in various ways in order to preserve it. The film looks into some of the psychological traces this striving left during the course of its historical development.