The Empty Grave2024

  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
  • The Empty Grave
Songea, Tanzania. The young lawyer John Mbano in on a mission. His great-grandfather Songea Mbano, a leader of the Ngoni people, was executed by the German colonial army. His head was taken to Germany for racist research. The family is haunted by this pain to this day.

John and his wife Cesilia embark on a life-changing journey. Their research and resilience culminate in a courageous decision—to travel to Berlin in search of their ancestor's remains.
There, they join forces with activists challenging Germany's culture of denial. What follows is a rollercoaster of triumphs and setbacks. Not even the historic visit of Germany's Federal President to John's hometown heralds the return of their beloved ancestor. Yet, the Mbano family refuses to relent.

In Northern Tanzania, the Kaaya family is hopeful: Their ancestor’s remains have been found in a museum in New York. However, the struggle for return is unending as they find themselves battling institutional bureaucracy.

The Empty Grave offers a personal angle amidst the global discourse on repatriation. Beyond the debates lies the poignant tale of violated lives and the struggle for a future disentangled from a painful past.


Agnes Lisa Wegner &
Cece Mlay


Marcus Winterbauer

Additional DOP

Nicholas Calvin


Donni Schoenemond


Oliver Stahn

Additional sound

Victor Tinga

Music composition

Hannah von Hübbenet

Production coordinator

Wilson E. Nkya

Commissioning editor

Sara Günter, ZDF - Das kleine Fernsehspiel


Christoph Holthof, Daniel Reich, Amil Shivji, Luna Selle