Thomas Heise was born in Berlin, capital of the German Democratic Republic, in 1955. After school he trained as a printer. After his military service in the East German armed forces he began to work as an assistant director at the DEFA - Studio for Feature Films in Potsdam Babelsberg in 1975. Between 1978 and 1983 Heise studied at the Academy of Film & Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg (HFF/B). His first film, the documentary Wozu denn über diese Leute einen Film/Why a Film About These People - produced entirely with materials bought on the black market - was banned from public screening. Since 1983 he has worked as a free-lance writer and director in the areas of theatre, audio drama and documentary. Until the end of the GDR all his documentary efforts were however either blocked by what was – in official jargon – called 'operative means' or destroyed or confiscated.
Since the beginning of the 1990s Heise's documentaries have attracted national and international attention. Since 2007 he is teaching as a Professor for Film and Media Art at Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe.
Thomas Heise's earlier films dealt with social phenomena in the GDR and the country's bureaucratic apparatus. From the late 80s his focus has moved to the changes individuals, families and regional communities have had to undergo in the aftermath of the German reunification. The works of the filmmaker encompass a wide range of contemporary socially relevant topics such as privatisation, the re-organisation of the formerly industrial sphere, unemployment and rightwing radicalism to name but a few.
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