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Experiences of escape and migration are not only part of reality but also of 125 years of film history. They are reflected in the biographies, production conditions and stories told by the cinema. Called “Cinematic Migrations”, the sixth edition of Film Restored features 18 programs that focus on the many international connections between escape, emigration and film history.

PALERMO ODER WOLFSBURG (FRG/CH 1980, 3.11.) Premiering in its restored version at the festival opening, Werner Schroeter’s epos, tells the story of migrant workers. Awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, it combines documentary with operatic scenes and a satirical take on West Germany and its work ethic. The escape from poverty in southern Italy is a recurring theme in film history.

IL VALORE DELLA DONNA È IL SUO SILENZIO (Gertrud Pinkus, CH/FRG 1980, 7.11.) sheds light on the invisibility of the wives of “guestworkers” in a double sense. The southern Italian code of silence (omertà) prevented the female protagonists from appearing in front of the camera; their stories of everyday life are heard off camera and lend a female voice to the experience of migration.

LO STAGIONALE (Alvaro Bizzarri, CH 1971, 6.11.) With echoes of Italian neorealism, this mobilizational film made by and for the community of seasonal workers in Switzerland, depicts the inhumane constrictions regarding family reunification, taking for example a widowed worker and his son.  

In DÉJÀ S’ENVOLE LA FLEUR MAIGRE (Paul Meyer, B 1960, 5.11.) immigrants stand before the camera in order to draw attention to the deplorable working and living conditions of miners in Belgium’s Borinage region. The narrative focuses on the experiences of a young boy who is the son of immigrants. The life of the children is portrayed in an authentic and moving manner. Affected only secondarily by the migration of the adults, the child protagonists illustrate an existential vulnerability in an oft-hostile environment. At the same time, they also herald hope for a better future. The difficult working and living conditions of immigrants in northern Europe are at the center of the two documentary films LO STAGIONALE and DÉJÀ S’ENVOLE LA FLEUR MAIGRE.

In 300 MIL DO NIEBA (Maciej Dejczer, PL/DK/F 1989, 7.11.) the children themselves become actors and set off on an adventurous journey to escape the lack of prospects at home, where their Solidarność activist father is harassed by the authorities.

ISABEL AUF DER TREPPE (Hannelore Unterberg, GDR 1984, 7.11.) The emigration of a 12-year-old girl and her mother from Chile to East Germany after the putsch in Chile also has a political background. The two wait years for news of their father/husband.

THE KILLERS (Robert Siodmak, USA 1946, 4.11.) Politically-driven exile has been formative for international film history. Not all filmmakers who escaped Nazi Germany were able to gain a foothold in Hollywood and pursue a career like Robert Siodmak. His THE KILLERS is a prototype classic of film noir that does not disavow his origins and German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s.

DOÑA FRANCISQUITA (Spain 1934, 4.11.) Hans Behrendt ended up in pre-Franco Spain where he and other exiles made DOÑA FRANCISQUITA – an operetta sound film with a Weimar touch in a Spanish environment.

HORTOBAGY (Georg Höllering, HU 1937, 6.11.) The Austrian Georg Höllering also passed through many stations of exile, including Hungary where - before settling in Britain -  he made a narrative documentary about the Pannonian Steppe (Puszta) and its inhabitants. The original version seen in the cinemas was cut considerably but now the restored film will enjoy its premiere.

INSEL DER DÄMONEN (Friedrich Dalsheim, D 1933, 4.11.) is a documentary film with a plot that has been digitally restored and can be seen on screen. Dalsheim’s ethnographically precise “culture film” about a Balinese village and the prevailing belief in spirits was received very positively in Nazi Germany. However, its Jewish director was forced to emigrate soon afterwards.)

A program of five animated films (GDR 1977–1988, 7.11.) by Kurt Weiler illustrates the artistic scope of East Germany’s most important avant-garde filmmaker. After 1945, a number of exiled filmmakers returned to Germany, including Weiler who made a career at DEFA. Others tried to gain a foothold in West Germany, often with little success. Peter Lorre’s DER VERLORENE (FRG 1951, 7.11.) provides an illustration of this. The director plays a scientist driven by obsessions whose Nazi past catches up with him. The post-war German audience did not want to connect with either the film’s topic or its style.  
HELEN LA BELLE (Lotte Reiniger, GB 1957, 6.11.) and A NIGHT IN THE HAREM (Lotte Reiniger, GB 1958, 6.11.) Lotte Reiniger went into self-imposed exile in the 1930s: In Britain, she made some of her best silhouette animation films, taking themes from opera and turning them into colorful animated works.  

UN CHAPEAU DE PAILLE D’ITALIE (René Clair, F 1928, 6.11.) It is perhaps less known that the Russian Revolution of 1917 also caused a mass exodus, including among filmmakers. In Paris, White Russian émigrés set up a studio called Films Albatros, in which the French filmmaker René Clair made this wonderful comedy. The boulevard piece about the straw hat of a married lady, which is stolen by a horse while she is having fun with a lover, skillfully combines the tradition of silent film comedies à la Max Linder with American slapstick.

EL DÍA QUE ME QUIERAS (John Reinhardt, USA 1935, 4.11.) The festival also pays tribute to works produced particularly for migrant communities. In a representative example, a spotlight is cast on Spanish-language film culture in the US, where cinema hits were made with the tango star Carlos Gardel.

ULKOMAALAINEN (Muammer Özer, Sweden/Finland 1983, 5.11.) transposes onto film the alienation and increasing delusion of a Turkish farm worker in a montage of documentary footage and surreal images. TRAVERSÉES (Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud, B/Tunisia 1982 | 5.11.) depicts the Kafkaesque situation of two asylum-seekers turned away by various border authorities, who shuttle back and forth between countries on a ferry.

FRANTZ FANON: BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASK (Isaac Julien, GB 1996, 5.11.) using reconstructions, archive material and interviews with important theorists, the film tells of the life and work of the influential anti-colonialist activist and writer Frantz Fanon and reflects upon the experience of otherness and othering in a (post-)colonial context.

Films such as ULKOMAALAINEN, TRAVERSÉES and FRANTZ FANON: BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASK show how experiences of feeling other are illustrated with unique, sometimes experimental stylistic means and translated in a non-linear narrative.
The diverse film program will be complemented by lectures and podium debates to shed light on the background of the productions as well as the challenges of trans-national archival work. In his opening lecture, guest of honor Jan-Christopher Horak will illustrate how the Los Angeles film industry has become a melting pot of different migrations and experiences over the decades. Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud will present the restored version of his film TRAVERSÉES and workshop reports and introductions will give an insight into contemporary restorations. A selection of the festival films, discussions, introductions and other bonus features will be available online at www.film-restored.de (ah).

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media