About the project

“Tonight, as the two astronauts land on the moon, millions of television viewers will be watching, and actually, it is as far as Vietnam, which is across the room: the fifth wall.” (Navina Sundaram, letter to her parents, 21.7.1969)

The doors of the public broadcasting services in Germany are opening. An immense treasure trove of educational content, historical documents and film history lies behind them. In order to make this content accessible to a diverse public, models of future archival practice are required. Such practice comprehends the archive as a space that depicts (media) history not as a narrative of domination, but as a network of the most diverse - also contradictory - historical narratives that generate resonances in the present day. These resonances are not always melodious - that would be to misunderstand the archive as a nostalgic space; they challenge and simultaneously point to the gaps and invisibilities that every archive also produces. 

The archive The Fifth Wall gathers films, reportages, moderations, texts, letters and photos by the filmmaker and editor Navina Sundaram from over 40 years of her work in television. To take Sundaram’s perspective, to focus on her reportages, features and moderations, means simultaneously looking at West German television history from the inside and the outside. She is thus the prime focus as an author who takes a journalistic stand: on internationalism and decolonisation, the question of class, racism, immigration, on Indian and German politics. Sourced from ARD archives and Sundaram’s private archive, The Fifth Wall is a curated look at German migration and media history. What is the significance of looking at this material from today’s perspective? And what gaze does it cast back upon us?

The Fifth Wall is at once a non-linear biography, television archive and research platform. This digital archive can be browsed by type of archival material, themes, broadcasting series, year of production or by free search. Documents, interview sequences and comments that explicitly refer to individual film works can only be viewed in the context of these works. We invite you to send us questions and research paths through the archive, as well as further educational opportunities for publication, so that they can be shared with other users in the Workspace.

The Fifth Wall was conceptualised and developed by Merle Kröger and Mareike Bernien in collaboration with Navina Sundaram within the framework of Archive außer sich. Many persons have supported the project by way of research, preparation of documents and as discussion partners, in particular Rubaica Jaliwala, Philip Scheffner, João Carvalho, Roland Lauth, Emerson Culurgioni, Tim Schmalfeldt, Torsten Schilling, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, the Web-team Laura Oldenbourg, Michael Scharnagl and Sebastian Göbel, Matthias Behrens’ wave-line studio team and our fellow collaborators from pong film and Archive außer sich.

Archive außer sich is a project of the Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art e.V. in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Funded within the scope of The New Alphabet by the BKM (Federal Agency for Culture and the Media) in accordance with a resolution of the German Bundestag.


Navina Sundaram grew up in New Delhi, India, where she studied English literature before going to Hamburg in 1964 for a two-year internship at NDR. From 1970, she worked as a political editor for the broadcasting company. She has worked as a filmmaker, reporter and presenter for the programmes Weltspiegel, Gesichter Asiens, Panorama and extra drei, among others. From 1992 - 93, she was ARD correspondent and head of South Asia television in New Delhi. On leaving NDR, Navina Sundaram continued her work as an independent director of documentaries. She has also authored numerous texts and lectures. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navina_Sundaram

Merle Kröger, novelist and film author, lives in Berlin. Together with the filmmaker Philip Scheffner, she has been making feature documentary films since 2007. In her novels, Kröger combines historical research, personal history and political analysis with elements of crime literature. As a curator of the transnational cultural project Import Export. Cultural Transfer between India and Germany, Austria (2005), she began a long-term collaboration with Navina Sundaram.

Mareike Bernien lives in Berlin and works as a filmmaker and lecturer in the field of filmic research and critical archival practices. A research-based approach determines her work, in which questions of memory politics and media archaeology are negotiated. Her most recent works include: Sun Under Ground (2022), Tiefenschärfe (2017) with Alex Gerbaulet. She has been a part of the production platform pong since several years and works here, amongst others, with Merle Kröger on the archival project The Fifth Wall.

Rubaica Jaliwala, freelance editor and translator of literary, art and cultural texts and books, lives in Mumbai and Berlin. As trainer and educational advisor, she has led workshops on intercultural learning and diversity, anti-racism and gender on four continents. She has collaborated with pong film since 2005, for the German-English translation of film subtitles, essays, novels, and the entire archive The Fifth Wall, including its films, reportages and commentaries. She has also recited excepts of Navina Sundaram’s letters for audio recordings.


NDR / Studio Hamburg, WDR / WDR Media Group, pong film GmbH, Federal Archives Dept. Film Archives / Transit film GmbH, AP Archive / British Movietone, British Pathé, Christoph Maria Fröder et al.


Language, image design, visibility and invisibility of social agents bear witness to the time of their origin and are still effective today. This archive comprises historical film and text material from public broadcasting from 1964 onwards. Some documentaries, features, commentaries, manuscripts, articles, etc. contain terms, phrases and depictions that are to be rejected and no longer used today in keeping with discrimination sensitive use of language and images. We recommend that this be taken into account when viewing and addressed in educational programmes, and refer to the website Diversity Style Guide for media professionals, which offers an extensive glossary of contemporary terms and phrases:                                        https://www.diversitystyleguide.com

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