Losers and Winners
Work is Just a Part of Life


96 Min (DT, EN, CHI)

Directors: Ulrike Franke, Michael Loeken

Distribution: GMfilms

For educational institutions:

The film shows as a gigantic industrial site is dismantled, documenting the stories accompanying its disappearance: how the coke workers in the industrial Ruhr Region experience the arrival and working methods of the Chinese, their feelings upon seeing their pride in their work vanish along with what was the most modern coke factory in the world, but also the strain and conflicts the Chinese workers face during their 60-hour work week far away from home and family, caught between euphoria and doubts about their future.




2023  — Ruhrtriennale / Film Retrospective loekenfranke / Bochum

2009 — 4. DOC À TUNIS / Tunis, Turnesia

2009 — 57. Trento Film Festival / Trento, Italien

2008 — 11. CinemAmbiente – Environmental Film Festival / Turin, Italy

2008 — SIEFF / 14. Sardinia International Ethnographic Film Festival / Nuoro, Italy (Award)

2008 — One World Romania – Documentary Film Festival / Bukarest, Romania

2008 — 3. Guth Gafa – International Documentary Film Festival / Donegal, Ireland

2008 — 6. Gdańsk DocFilm Festival – Dignity and Work / Danzig, Poland

2008 — Maailmafilm – Tartu World Film Festioval / Tartu, Estonia

2008 — Deutsches Filmfestival Tel Aviv / Tel Aviv, Israel

2008 — Dialëktus Fesztivál / Budapest, Ungarn

2008 — ZAGDOX / ZagrebDox – International Film Festival / Zagreb, Croatia

2008 — BIFFES / 2. Bengaluru International Film Festival / Bangalore, India

2007 — 7. WATCH DOCS – International Film Festival Warschau / Warschau, Polen (Award)

2007 — German Film Festival / Dublin, Ireland

2007 — 10. Festival of German Films / London, GB

2007 — Týden Geografie / Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic

2007 — 4. Verzió Film Festival / Budapest, UHungary

2007 — Jeden svet / 8. Medzinárodny festival documentárnych filmov / Bratislava, Slovakia

2007 — Leiden International Film Festival / Leiden, Netherlands

2007 — 4. World Film Festival of Bangkok / Bangkok, Thailand

2007 — Astra Film Fest / Sibiu International Film Festival / Sibiu, Romania

2007 — 5. Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia / Morelia, Mexiko

2007 — DOCNZ / International Documentary Film Festival / New Zealand

2007 — German Currents Film Festival / Los Angeles, USA

2007 — Festival européen des 4ecrans / Paris, France

2007 — MIDBO / 9. Muestra Internacional Documental / Bogotá, Colombia

2007 — 7. Festival de Cine Alemán / Buenos Aires, Argentina

2007 — Stranger Than Fiction / Documentary Film Festival / Dublin, Ireland

2007 — 1. Hachenburger Filmfest (Preis)

2007 — Dokufest / International Documentary and Short Film Festival / Prizren, Kosovo (Award)

2007 — Fünf Seen Filmfestival / Herrsching, Germany

2007 — SilverDocs / Silverdocs Documentary Festival / Silver Spring, USA

2007 — Rooftop Films 2007 / New York, USA

2007 — 2. Pravo Ljudski Film Festival / Sarajevo, Bosnia/Herzegovina

2007 — 9. Festival de cine Alemán / Madrid, Spain

2007 — DOK.FEST München / 22. Internationales Dokumentarfilmfestival München, Germany

2007 — 4. CROSSING EUROPE / filmfestival linz / Linz, Austria

2007 — 40. WorldFest / Houston International Film Festival / Houston, USA (Award)

2007 — Hot Docs 07 / Canadian International Documentary Festival / Toronto, Canada (Award)

2007 — 4. dokumentarfilmwoche hamburg, Germany

2007 — CIDF / Chicago International Documentary Film Festival / Chicago, USA (Award)

2007 — It’s All True / 12. International Documentary Film Festival / Sao Paulo, Brazil (Award)

2007 —  LIDF / London International Documentary Film Festival / London, GB

2007 — 9. One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival / Czech Republic (Award)

2007 — 33. Internationales Filmwochenende Würzburg / Germany (Opening film)

2006 — GZDOC / Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival / China

2006 — 17. Kinofest Lünen, Germany

2006 —  30. Duisburger Filmwoche, Germany

2006 — DOK Leipzig / 49. Internationales Leipziger Festival für Dokumentar- und Animationsfilm / Germany (Opening film)


in context of

2018 — Kultursommer 2018 / Industrie und Kultur, Enspel, Germany

2018 — Film series / Flöze weltweit / Dortmunder U, Dortmund, Germany

2014 — Screening and film talk / Conferenc New Industries / Dortmunder U, Dortmund Germany

2011 — Industrial on Tour / HMKV Hartware MedienKunstVerein / Danzig, Tarnow, Krakow, Bytom und Lodz (Poland)

2010 — Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Csazu / Torun, Poland

2009 — Crossing Borders / Universität Hildesheim, Institut für Sozial- und Organisationspädagogik, Hildesheim, Germany

2009 — Event / Hildesheim Open University, Germnay

2009 — Series / Ethics and Economy / Goethe-Institut / Helsinki, Finland

2008 — Screening and film talk / Arbeit. Kultur. Fest / DGB-Kultursommerfestival, Germnay

2008 — Installative presentation / Where do you walk today?/ Dortmunder Museumsnacht / HMKV Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund, Germany

2008 — Lectures, Filmvfilm screenings and discussions / China Tour / Invitation of the German Foreign Office and Goethe-Institut / Beijing and Shanghai (China)

2008 — Elektrische Schatten / Bonner Gesellschaft für China Studien / Bonn, Germany

2008 — Exhibition / Shrinking CitiesKulturstiftung des Bundes / Dortmund, Germany

2007 — Wandel der Arbeit / Fachhochschule Potsdam, Germnay

2007 — visible evidence / Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany

2007 — AHCR-funded Postgraduate Conference / University of Leeds, GB

2007 — Picture gallery and documentation / DIE GAZETTE Das politische Kulturmagazin, N° 13

2007 — Maurizio Marinelli / University of Bristol, Centre for East Asian Studies / Bristol, GB

2007 — Goethe-Institut Glasgow / Filmhouse Edinburgh, Scotland


„Chinese optimism for the future, glowing from the faces and fuelled each day by Mao quotes, and European self-sufficiency that will be punished by history – probably never before in cinema have we been able to experience the symptoms of a dawn of a new era as closely as in this captivatingly accurate observation that’s seasoned with apt irony.“
Harald Jähner // Frankfurter
Rundschau // 29.11.2006

„A fantastic piece of political documentary narrative cinema that puts the current conditions of global division of labour into an unusual regional perspective and raises many questions.“  
Silvia Hallensleben // tagesspiegel.de // 13.11.2006

„For in other respects, too, the filmmakers have succeeded, above all through their close, patient observation, in constantly feeding the contradictions of the wider state of the world with new questions and suggestions, while at the same time never losing sight of what is real.“  
Silvia Hallensleben / epd-film // Nr. 3/2007

„Formal auf den ersten Blick schlicht, entfaltet der Film „Simple in form at first glance, the film only gradually unfolds its deeper meaning; it is not dogged in its approach to its subject, instead telling an almost absurd story with the help of peaceful images, and getting to the heart of many of this country’s most pressing issues regarding politics and trade unions.“ 
Hans Messias // Filmdienst // Nr. 6/2007

„Documentaries scarcely get richer and truer to life than this. This documentary film’s in-depth, multi-faceted view is coherent, exciting and honest.“ 
Extract // FBW, explanation of the rating “highly recommended” 

„Ein politisches Erzählkino in dokumentarischem
„Political narrative cinema in the guise of a documentary that turns a culture clash into an barometer of global economic shifts.“   
Margarete Wach // filmdienst // Nr. 25/2006

„A haunting, quiet and closely observed film about globalisation and its effects, a work that makes you understand both sides and offers food for thought.“
Joachim Kurz // Kino-zeit.de 

„Disillusioned Germans meet the highly motivated Chinese. With sensitivity, an eye for detail and an appreciation of unintentional comedy, the authors follow the dismantlement as it progresses.“ 
Nadja Naumann // Mitteldeutsche Zeitung // 26.10.2006

„Losers and Winners ist ein „Losers and Winners is a classic documentary film, without commentary, told from clearly constructed and calm images, with a clever narrative composition, always clear, alternating serenely from observational to narrative passages. The authors succeed in making many small and eloquent observations, as only a documentary film can. Taken as a whole, the film is also a beautiful demonstration of how important and sustainable documentary curiosity is.“ 
Extract from the jury statement // Grimme Award 

„A definitive film portraying the collision of forces driving globalization. It is a complex and deeply thought provoking film.”
Extract from the jury statement // hotDOCS 2007 // Toronto

„When Ulrike Franke and Michael Loeken heard about this undertaking, they immediately recognised the kind of broad view that opens up here – globalisation as tragedy and farce at the same time.“
Knut Elstermann // Berliner Zeitung // 13.04.2007

„At its premiere at the Leipzig Documentary Film Festival 2006, Losers and Winners caused consternation. No film had ever located Germany so convincingly on the losing side of globalisation. But optimism always has something infectious about it, even if it comes at one’s own expense: anyone can swim out into the „sea of learning“. Hans-Jörg Rother // Der Tagesspiegel // 13.04.2007

„A historical document of globalization practices, processes and effects, which is highly recommended in classes regarding East-West encounters, cross-cultural understanding, Chinese management and culture, or more generally in any class on contemporary China.“
Dr. Maurizio Marinelli // H-Asia

„Excellent… both a film of subtle ironies and one of enormous cultural contrasts… highly recommended.“
Cliff Glaviano // Educational Media Reviews Online

Loeken and Franke’s camera follows, with serene shots, how the huge coking plant is dismantled piece by piece. And as the Chinese saw through walls and steel pipes, the Germans lose self-confidence as the end of the dismantling process draws near.
LuYen Roloff // Der Spiegel // 13.11.08

„Ulrike Franke and Michael Loeken wryly turn their footage of the rising tensions into a poignant account of cross- cultural miscommunications and the emotions involved.“
Massachusetts Museum of contemporary Artdirectors 

„Das Schöne und eigentlich Interessante ist denn The beautiful and actually interesting thing is not so much the cultural gap that opens up here between China and Germany, but the historical one that becomes visible at the same time. Industrialisation meets post-industrialisation, and who the winners and losers are remains to be seen.“
Barbara Schweizerhof // Welt online // 11.04.07

„It is an allegory of the modern world, where capital shifts and migrant labour determine world politics. With subtlety and close observation, the filmmakers succeed in depicting two different worlds, each with its own work ethic and mechanisms of exploitation.“
Extract from the jury statement // 9. One World Film Festival // Prague

“The film invites us to reflect on the power of cultural stereotypes and tolerance, and even more importantly, about justice and individual rights under global capitalism. The jury salutes the filmmakers’ craftsmanship, their intellect in choosing an extraordinarily important and timely subject, and their sensitivity in portraying the lives and fates of those affected by colossal economic change.”
Aus der Jury-Begründung // 7. WATCH DOCS // Warschau



In the centre of the Ruhr Valley the famous “heartbeat of steel” has gone silent. Almost imperceptibly, nature is reclaiming the once-busy factory halls and industrial sites. The conveyor belts have come to a standstill, the cooling towers are empty – after only eight years in operation, the ultramodern coke plant at Kaiserstuhl, built at a cost of 1.3 billion DM, was shut down in December 2000.

Spring 2003: A Chinese worker dressed in the traditional blue labourer’s overall surveys the vast factory grounds, making marks on steel beams and walls. A new microcosm has sprung up in northern Dortmund, a small Chinese outpost – dynamic and efficient. A village of housing containers has been set up for some 400 Chinese – with community rooms, an industrial-size kitchen with giant woks, and satellite dishes so they can watch TV shows from home. Hungry for wealth and the status symbols of western industrial culture, scores of Breakdown workers have joined the Chinese project manager Mo Lishi in Germany, along with a young Interpreter and a few Cooks, in order to bring back to their homeland yet another “steel souvenir”. Highly motivated citizens of a low–wage country come face-to-face with financially better-off workers in an industrialized nation who are now suddenly bereft of future prospects – since the former are about to transfer the latter’s erstwhile source of power and prosperity to their own homeland.
The dismantling of Kaiserstuhl proceeds at breakneck speed, driven forward by constant pressure from corporate management and the promise of a few perks: Every four weeks the Chinese select the seven hardest workers amongst their ranks as “Workers of the Month”. Their reward consists of a photo decorated with a sash of red paper flowers, hung on a canteen wall together with a few flowery, but in any case politically correct, words of praise.

Meanwhile, the German “shutdown managers” stand by and watch helplessly as their workplace is broken down into moveable sections. At Kaiserstuhl, where up to 800 people used to work, the last 30 employees are now supervising the so-called Shutdown Department – including electricians Rainer Kruska (53) and Werner Vogt (52). Among the Germans, who are supposed to provide logistical support for the dismantling process, a mood of scepticism and a distanced stance prevail with regard to Chinese colleagues and what they view as their careless methods. Communication between the two groups is difficult, misunderstandings a daily event. By 10 o’clock in the morning, half of the shift is already over for the German workforce. During their breakfast break, they talk over coffee and rolls about the financial losses they will suffer due to their enforced early retirement, and they speculate about the Chinese workers’ attitude toward life, their working techniques and their cooking. The dismantling forges ahead, unstoppable, daily parading before their eyes the loss of Germany’s, and indeed Europe’s, industrial work base. For the Ruhr Valley workers, this is a stab in the heart, for they have worked all their lives in the coke industry.

The workday for the Chinese is considerably longer: they toil sixty hours a week, live in common quarters and save every penny for home. Some want their children to enjoy a better education. Liu Guo Heng is saving for a yearned-for, but expensive, wedding. The cook wants to purchase shares in his employer’s company, increasingly convinced of its prospects for success. But first, their mission abroad must be completed – entailing one and a half years without a visit home. Chinese television and infrequent phone calls to wives and children constitute the men’s only contact with their homeland. “Say ‘Daddy’ to me one more time”, requests one man, and thousands of kilometres away a child sings a song for his much-missed father. All in a desperate attempt to feel somehow closer to loved ones so far away.

The Chinese have neither the time nor the money to get to know Germany, or even Dortmund; a bus ticket into town seems far too expensive, even with what is by Chinese standards a bountiful monthly pay check of 400 euros. Only project manager Mo Lishi is in a position to visit the city once in a while. His favourite destination is the Mercedes dealership, where he can marvel at steel in what is for him its most perfect form. “This car is very good”, he remarks with satisfaction, grinning from ear to ear. “I’m going to take one home with me.” His tiny cubbyhole at Kaiserstuhl, in which he both lives and works, is adorned with a Mercedes poster showing both an older and newer model by the German automaker. Inspired by its message, Mo Lishi has written a few personal lines about those who depart and the new ones who come and can look forward to a life full of promise. After all, Mo Lishi is convinced that he will soon be sitting behind the wheel of a new car and driving off into a better future – just like all of China. During his next visit to Germany, Mo Lishi says, he would love to be able to take the German Airbus factories back home with him.

There is rarely any contact between the German and the Chinese workers; they merely eye each other warily from a distance. The tools of the trade favoured by the Germans are rules and regulations for safety and environmental protection – just the things the newcomers like to ignore. They use tricks to try to circumvent the rules – after all, the “old foreigners” are hardly present at the site for more than eight hours at a time, and what they don’t see won’t hurt them. But the remaining German workers at Kaiserstuhl insist on asserting their authority – right up to the bitter end. With his expert background, Kruska makes sure that the Chinese don’t simply “do whatever they want to”. Improvised electrical connections are dismantled again, ladders precariously connected by wire are pulled away from the ceiling and disposed of, welding regulations are cited for the umpteenth time. It seems as though the Germans are unable to let go, as if they unconsciously want to delay the dismantling and simply cannot resign themselves to their final loss of power and the reversal of roles. The view of the German’s fastidiousness when it comes to following rules changes, however, when a Chinese worker almost dies in an accident – a “small work mishap” for which the only remedy proffered by the Chinese consists of quotations from Mao.

The last time he walks through the field of rubble that once was the grounds of the coke plant, Kruska opens circuit boxes and doors, presses switches that have long lost their function, gazes into disembowelled cable shafts and tries to uphold the appearance of a routine check – but he and his German colleagues have changed during these final weeks of the breakdown. The confidently triumphant proclamation “They’ll see – it will never work!” is no longer heard. The Germans are increasingly tense and sad – along with their workplace, they are also losing a piece of their homeland. Creeping insecurity can be felt as to what concrete impact the impending changes will have on their own lives. How is it possible to keep busy when no longer working, and what will it be like to be at home with the wife all day long? Even before the plant is completely disassembled, Kruska and Vogt are changed to a status called “Short-time work 0”, then to “Adjustment” and finally to early retirement. None of these terms is sufficient to describe the fact that there is no longer any work for them in this society; there seems to be no need for them anymore, nor indeed for their entire occupation. What they cannot foresee is that all the economic forecasts will prove wrong and the sale of the coke plant a tragic mistake. Today, there is spiralling demand for coke on the world market, spurred not least by the booming economy in China itself. The price per ton of coke went up in the years after Kaiserstuhl shut down from 30 to 550 dollars – as if globalization had a bitter sense of ironic humour and had chosen Dortmund-Mitte of all places as its punch line.


Losers and Winners
Work is Just a Part of Life
Germany 2006
96 Min (DT, EN, CHI)

Subtitles: english, german, spanish, french, portuguese, chinese

Short Version:
Verlieren und Gewinnen
for the Centre for Civic Education of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
Germany 2006
35 Min

Directors: Ulrike Franke, Michael Loeken
Director of Photography: : Michael Loeken, Rüdiger Spott, Jörg Adams, Dieter Stürmer
Location Sound: Ulrike Franke, Csaba Kulcsar
Editor: Guido Krajewski, Timothy McLeish, Benjamin Ikes
Music: Maciej Sledziecki
Production: Christian Fürst
Commissioning Editor: Sabine Rollberg
Co-Production: WDR/arte, Goethe Institut
Supported by: Filmstiftung NRW