Description from TIFF 2006 catalog by Thom Powers:

The Hans-Joachim Klein belonged to a radical faction of the German left. He achieved infamy in 1975 when he joined the terrorist Ilich Rami~ rez Sa~ nchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, in a plot to kidnap OPEC officials in Vienna. Three captives were killed; Klein suffered a bullet wound. After tense negotiations, Austrian authorities allowed the terrorists to fly to Algeria with forty-two OPEC ministers and employees as hostages.

How did leftist ideals turn so violent?

Dutch filmmaker Alexander Oey persuaded Klein to tell his story after he was released from prison. My Life as a Terrorist: The Story of Hans-Joachim Klein weaves evocative archival footage into a contemporary road trip; as Klein revisits landmarks from his past in Germany, Italy and France, Oey frames landscapes and faces with great care. Klein is disarmingly casual in his descriptions of guns and arson. Unlike some of his cohorts, he didn~t come from privilege or academia. He was a mechanic from a troubled family who was drawn to Frankfurt~s radical fringe. His recollections take us into the worlds of the Revolutionary Cells (RZ) and the Red Army Faction (RAF).

Klein calls the Vienna killings “senseless murders.” He thought the mission~s purpose was to support the Palestinian cause. Later he learned there was an ulterior motive, which is revealed near the end of the film. Although Klein didn~t kill anyone in Vienna, he felt responsible and remorseful. He went into hiding and gave interviews exposing an international terrorist network. His denunciations earned him a death threat from Carlos and financial support from Jean-Paul Sartre, Re~ gis Debray and Simone Signoret during his years in hiding.

Authorities finally arrested Klein in France in 1998. His trial re-opened old wounds, as former comrades-turned-mainstream politicians were called to testify. Among them was the European Union delegate Daniel Cohn-Bendit. “For some… the armed struggle is a holy mission,” said Cohn-Bendit. “[Klein] not only managed to recognize the madness but was also able to stigmatize the madness.”

About the director:
Alexander Oey was born in Amsterdam. He has directed numerous documentaries for Dutch television, including Jeff Wall (99), Bijlmer the Rough Guide (03) and EuroIslam According to Tariq Ramadan (05). He has also directed episodic television. My Life as a Terrorist: The Story of Hans-Joachim Klein (05) is his most recent film.

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