Bread and Music (Brot und Töne)

A group of 57 unemployed musicians struggle for work in East Berlin. After the public funding of their symphony orchestra is cut, they dare to do the seemingly impossible. They attempt to rescue their orchestra within the framework of the German employment promotion laws.

At the beginning of 1999 Lutz Daberkow, former director of the public theater in Halberstadt, founded a symphony orchestra for unemployed musicians in the easternmost districts of Berlin (Hellersdorf, Marzahn, Hohenschönhausen) – a reaction to the closing of approximately 30 orchestras in reunited Germany. For two years, the city council and employment office paid the musicians a salary that was only slightly more than their unemployment benefits. When the city of Berlin declared a spending freeze, the so-called “structure-adjustment measure” was abruptly ended.

But the musicians still do not given up on their orchestra. They are almost all older than 35. Which means they are not invited to auditions. For most of them, the H.M.H. Symphony Orchestra is the last chance to practice their profession. Three members of the orchestra – Simona Popa (contrabass, 37 years old), Jakob Richter (horn, 41) und Jürgen Dempewolff (violin, 57) talk about their life as musicians in Bread and Music. “When you decide to dedicate your life to being an orchestra musician, you are dependent on having an orchestra to play in,” says Jürgen Dempewolff.

Lutz Daberkow does not conceal the slim chances for the project’s success but simultaneously tries to motivate them to persevere. “There is reason for curbed optimism,” he says repeatedly. The film follows the orchestra’s struggle to persist during the first months in which the musicians maintain the concert schedule without public funding.


Starter Film Prize, City of Munich 2004

Excerpt from the statement of the jury:
"Judith Malek-Mahdavi and Jens Schanze have captured a piece of the present. Bread and Music draws close to the people it portrays, without false sympathy, patronization or commentary. The film incidentally shows how the constant threat of unemployment, a major social problem, is handled. The music is effective artistic means for representing the refusal to give up in face of the hopeless situation. One is with the musicians, hoping with them. And so the film successfully conveys a lust for life in spite of the weighty subject.”


Simona Popa, contrabass
Jakob Richter, horn
Jürgen Dempewolff, violin
H.M.H. Symphony Orchestra, Berlin
Reinhard Heinisch
Lutz Daberkow
Helmut Kontauts
Pia Golke
TONART Music School Choir, Strausberg
Potsdam Singing Academy Chamber Choir
Strausberg Mixed Choir


Script, Direction, Camera, Sound, Editing: Judith Malek-Mahdavi, Jens Schanze
Mixing: Manfred Schmid
Post Production: Uwe Wrobel
Colorist: Peider A. Defilla
Editor for Television: Ulrike Dotzer, NDR /Arte
Legal Advisor: Christian Füllgraf
Graphic Designer: Peter Junge
Producers: J. Malek-Mahdavi, J. Schanze


On a Holiday!, Without a Care! (Josef Strauß)
Roses from the South, On the Beautiful Blue Danube (Johann Strauß)
Leuchtkäferln Waltz (Eduard Strauß)
Cadenza for Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’s Concert for Contrabass and Orchestra in E (Heinz Karl Gruber)
Piano Concert Nr. 2 (Frédéric Chopin)
Duo Nr. 5 for Two French horns (Carl Theodor Henning)
Duet Nr. 5 (Otto Nicolai)
Nile Aria from Aida (Giuseppe Verdi)
Requiem - Hostias, Communion (W.A. Mozart)

Production Notes Daten

Country: Germany
Year: 2003
Shooting Format: Mini-DV, Pal, 4x3
Screening Format: Digibeta
Sound: Stereo
Running Time: 52 minutes