March 2017, arsenal cinema

50 years of dffb

OKIANA, 1983

Film academies are not only places where students train but places where productions emerge. Since the dffb's establishment on 17th September 1966, thousands of films have been made - long and short, documentary, fiction and experimental. We are showing a selection to celebrate 50 years, from the beginnings to the present. In view of the quantity of productions, such a retrospective cannot make any claims as to representativeness. It also seems to make little sense to concentrate on graduates who are known and already prominent in daily cinema life. Instead, this is an invitation to discover aspects of filmmaking at the dffb that have remained hidden and yet are undoubtedly important components of German film and television history. There will be political films dating back to the early days of the academy, as well as contemporary productions that attempt to transpose the radical, political spirit of that era to the present. One focus will be on films made shortly before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall - a phase of institutional upheaval in which the climate at the dffb was particularly open to aesthetic experiments. The curators of the program are Hannes Brühwiler, Ralph Eue, Lukas Foerster, Frederik Lang and Fabian Tietke.

REPORTER (Ludger Blanke, 1991) To kick off, we have a masterpiece in the dffb's history of documentary history: In 1990, during coalition talks after elections to the state parliament of Berlin, Ludger Blanke followed a team of ZDF reporters to show how power represents itself and is portrayed in the media for his graduation film. He created an impression of post-1989 politics in Berlin. Jürgen Wohlrabe, the president of the parliament at the time, could be seen on the sidelines. Almost 25 years earlier, during the dffb's first year, the student Thomas Hartwig was encouraged by his lecturer, the film director Erwin Leiser to make a documentary that he called DER KANDIDAT about a young CDU politician: Jürgen Wohlrabe. Not long afterwards, it would have been impossible for a left-wing student to film a bitter opponent of the student movement and, according to Rudi Dutschke, an "exemplary fascist". (20.3.)

In the course of 50 years of dffb history, an immeasurable pool of Berlin pictures has emerged. The Croatian writer Irena Vrkljan kept the title of her graduation film short and sweet: BERLIN (1969) is a also a testimony of her outsider status during the early stages of the student movement at the dffb, exploring as it does the question of politics in film. In LINIE 8 (1983) Irina Hoppe takes the 8 subway line under the Berlin Wall and depicts the different protagonists, facets of a city, between proletarian Wedding and the Kreuzberg of squatters. In AM RAND (1990), Thomas Arslan documents the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, while in Jan Bachmann's Potsdamer Platz comedy UH, ITS GREAT HERE! (2011) the wasteland left behind by the wall has long since become a consumer paradise.

Even if they are more of a depiction of everyday life and social environments at the time of their making, the feature films IHR UND EURE WELT (Janin Halisch, 2014) and DAS GLÜCK MEINER SCHWESTER (Angela Schanelec, 1995) are also Berlin films. Angela Schanalec's graduation film seems to contain all the intellectual and aesthetic universe of her later films as a Berlin School protagonist, while we look forward to seeing how Halisch will develop. In both films, the camera work of Reinhold Vorschneider and Carmen Treichel, who both also studied at the dffb, is as outstanding as it is different. (21.3.)

Over and over again, films have emerged at the dffb that do not challenge narrative and audiovisual conventions with the foil of the traditional avant-garde but with a more or less brute crow bar of humor. At the beginning of the program, Harry Rag shows us what a farmer is doing in a parking lot in DER BAUER AUF DEM PARKDECK (1983). In FLUG IN GEFAHR (1987) Ludger Blanke depicts how dangerous it can be to fall asleep in front of the television, while in DAS FRÜHSTÜCK (1987) Christoph Willems painstakingly dissects a killer's breakfast only to have him fail amateurishly in Aktenzeichen XY. UNSER MANN IM ALL (1991) tells the story of Yuri Gagarin's son in a fascinating arrhythmic manner: While the father travelled into space his offspring barely has enough energy to get out of his bathtub. Jan Bachmann's MAN MÜSSTE RÄUBER SEIN ODER ZUMINDEST SPRENGMEISTER (2015) starts out from the dilemma: "Good food is expensive and bad food is cheap." (22.3.)

Three idiosyncratic films that combined their observations of everyday life with motifs familiar from science fiction cinema came out shortly before or just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In DIE SONNE KOMMT (1988) by Georg Maas a worker on his way home is confronted with the sudden fragmentation of reality. The Beatles imitator Klaus Beyer played the lead and Frank Behnke was responsible for the unusual sound design. Behnke also turned up as a member of the band Mutter in Stephan Settele's abstract comedy SICH NENNEN (1990), a study about the appearance of "new brains". Wolfgang Schmidt's CANNAE (1989) created an "ironic mosaic of associations, in which the audio track at times makes claims at wild autonomy" ( (22.3.)

As part of the anti-Springer campaign, dffb students made a series of films which included Harun Farocki's IHRE ZEITUNGEN (1967). At around the same time, Carlos Bustamante was making his agit-prop film about the Vietnam War DE OPPRESSO LIBER (1968). Elegiac moments were incorporated into the films from an early stage. ACH VIOLA (1971) combined footage of the political upheavals with a poetic plot, quietly anticipating a development that would culminate 20 years later with Angelika Levi's AUF GEHTS. ABER WOHIN? (1989) – the crumbling of political agitation to make way for the reflexive. (23.3.)

Two Berlins, two worlds, one time: In Ed Herzogs KUDAMM SECURITY (1997), West Berlin looks like Hong Kong in the 1990s films of Wong Kar-wai (Camera: Sebastian Edschmid). The dffb slacker star Mario Mentrup plays a conman and a wannabe security guard. At around the same time, the Korean student Cheol Mean Whang made his black-and-white 16-mm graduation film FUCK HAMLET (1996) depicting an East Berlin populated by drifting hippies, miserable looking student demos and a self-involved and fraying art and culture scene. A post-1989 portrait from an idiosyncratic outsider perspective, punctuated by amusing cameo appearances by what seems to be the entire Korean community of Berlin. (23.3.)

CON AMORE FABIA (1993): At the beginning of the 1990s, Maria Teresa Camoglio returned to Sardinia to make her graduation film, a portrait of a girl between child- and teenagehood to teenagehood called Fabia who regards the changes in her family from a distance. With calm, gentle pictures, Maria Teresa Camoglio follows Fabia as she begins to withdraw from the social expectations two of her siblings are subjected to and from the destructive and unescapable flight into addiction chosen by one of her brothers. (26.3.)

In their films, Stephan Settele, José van der Schoot and Matl Findel created a wide panorama of fine humor, which are among the program's discoveries. In just a few years, Settele made numerous shorts of his own and worked on about the same number by others. His ERFINDEN / WIDERLEGEN (1989) is a portrait of three people who invent price tag holders and refute the theory of relativity on the spot. In José van der Schoot's MISE-EN-SCENE (1991) a director (Hanns Zischler) tries to make a film that does not seem to want to develop as he would have hoped. This extremely cheerful film goes from one absurd scene to the next according to the motto "The show must go on". Finally, Matl Findel animates the Eberswalder Straße/Danziger Straße intersection with Tati-esque life and literally cancels gravity in DAS BLAUE VOM HIMMEL (1992. (27.3.)

A quiet scene in the snow, a black child in an anorak runs mumbling towards the camera. The pictures of Skip Norman's CULTURAL NATIONALISM (1968) are underpinned with a powerful monologue by the co-founder of the Black Panther Party Bobby Seale. Fast forward to 1985: Gray urban architecture is the starting point of an atmospheric appraisal in Raoul Peck's MERRY CHRISTMAS DEUTSCHLAND (1985), brown sauce spills onto the plate and table in Wolfram Kohler's collage-like exploration of politics in South Tyrol during the explosive and nationalist commemoration year of 1984 (TIROLER HELDEN-GEDENK 84, 1985). Julian Radlmaier's EIN -GESPENST GEHT UM IN EUROPA (2012), starts with the director dressed in costume sitting next to his co-student Max Linz, who is also dressed in a frock and carrying a cane. The film re-enacts European helplessness in the 19th century. (27.3.)

Aesthetics has to be political! A LA ORILLA DEL RÍO (Ricardo Iscar, 1991) is an observation of the everyday life of Spanish Roma in a camp on the edge of a city, in black-and-white images that seem to be timeless and featuring an abstracted audio track. DER EINSAME WANDERER (Philip Sauber, 1967) recalls the silent movie era, a cross between Murnau and Dreyer, and takes place during the student movement; no less political - in hindsight perhaps even more radical - than filming a demo. Max Linz’s farce DIE FINANZEN DES GROSSHERZOGS RADIKANT FILM (2011) about "the (neo-feudal) sell-out of local film and art production" (Madeleine Bernstorff) was inspired by Murnau because of its title but also by the Tatort TV series. EIN SCHWEIGSAMER SOMMER (Yingli Ma, 1990) confronts black-and-white dreamlike images of a young ethnic Chinese woman drifting through the Berlin summer with television footage of Tian'anmen Square. (28.3.)

One of the most beautiful tracking shots of dffb history leads us into an apartment in a back courtyard of Kreuzberg. Over the next hour and a half, in her graduation film GÖLGE (1980) Sema Poyraz depicts the life of her of her teenage protagonist - the enormous quantity of schoolwork and  her conflicts with the family from whom the only refuge in the apartment itself is the television. Filmed with amateurs, in German and Turkish, GÖLGE is an all too often ignored milestone of German film history. "The film is pioneering in its conceptual severity and in the portrayal of society and family as an ongoing negotiation process and in the sympathetic, not victimizing enactment of  the teenage Gölge's sexual fantasies." (Madeleine Bernstorff). Over 25 years later, Sema Poyraz appeared in Hakan Savas Mican's FREMD (2006) as a mother who comes from Turkey to Berlin to see her son for whom she has become an alien from his Kreuzberg perspective. (28.3.)

Two camera operations join two dffb films of the early 1980s with each other as well as with the district of Kreuzberg. With a 360° pan shot MAMMA HEMMERS GEHT MIT IHREM PASTOR ZUM LETZTEN MAL ÜBERN HEINRICHPLATZ: KREUZBERG ADIÖ (Rosi S.M., 1981) captures the historical buildings and political graffiti of "Kreuzberg 36". In Lilly Grote's feature film ODER WAS SONST NOCH GESCHAH (1982), which moves with relaxed coolness between observation of daily life, hints of a crime plot and a disillusioned life, against an ideally matched minimalistic electro backdrop, there is still time for a panorama of Moritzplatz and its surroundings. (29.3.)

The films that Ute Aurand and Ulrike Pfeiffer made in the early 1980s, sometimes on their own, sometimes together, are unique in the multi-faceted production environment of the dffb - sensual, uninhibited (in the best sense) avant-garde cinema remote from all forms of dogmatism. SCHWEIGEND INS GESPRÄCH VERTIEFT (1980) opens with light reflections and mirror effects, UMWEG (1982) begins with a train journey, GALA (1983) comes to a standstill in a dazzling bathtub scene. OKIANA (1983) soars with positively orgiastic excesses of color and pretty much sums up all the previous films. "We are moving forward in a real unreality - on a ship in the middle of the city, surrounded by the sea."(Aurand/Pfeiffer) (29.3.)

The collective enterprises WOCHENSCHAU II (1969) and INFERMENTAL 1 (1981/82) were two projects which explicitly understood themselves as alternative journalism. The first "publication" consisted of following the internal conflicts between students and management, brought into context by the confrontations triggered by the visit of US President Richard Nixon to Berlin: different but connected locations of politicalization. The second "publication" - INFERMENTAL - was a serious international magazine about video art, initiated by Gábor Bódy. The "pilot issue" was produced under the direction of Gusztáv Hámos at dffb. We'll be screening the first section from INFERMENTAL 1: THE MIRROR AS MOTIVE. (30.3.)

In her graduation film WEGE GOTTES (2006, Eva Neymann filmed two street children in Odessa and followed them in their daily life. Using what has now become historical MiniDV material, she was able to capture the children's tough existence very gently. "They're street children, they have no future. Why not? God works in mysterious ways but perhaps that means we can hope for a miracle." (Eva Neymann) Astrid Ofner's medium-length 35 mm documentary JETZT UND ALLE ZEIT (1993) about a congregation of Dominican nuns translates the intimacy of the convent in a condensed observation lasting one day. The main focus is not on the convent as an institution but on the structured life of the nuns, which develops a lyrical rhythm through work, prayer, song and contemplation. (30.3.) (hb/re/lf/fl/ft) A dffb event. With the support of the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin.

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07:00 pm Cinema 2

Vojta Lavička: Nahoru a dolů

Vojta Lavička: Nahoru a dolů
Vojta Lavička: Ups and Downs Czech Republic 2013
DCP OV/EnS 89 min

arsenal cinema: 50 years of dffb

08:00 pm Cinema 1

Der Kandidat


*Der Kandidat Thomas Hartwig FRG 1967 16 mm 15 min
*Reporter Ludger Blanke Germany 1991 16 mm 62 min

Thomas Hartwig in person