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Der unsichtbare Zoo

The Invisible Zoo
Film still from "Der unsichtbare Zoo" by Romuald Karmakar. It shows a monkey lying on its back in hay.
Still from DER UNSICHTBARE ZOO by Romuald Karmakar © Pantera Film GmbH
  • Director

    Romuald Karmakar

  • Germany / 2024
    178 min / Original version with English subtitles

  • Original language

    German, Swiss German, English

On the grounds of Zurich Zoo, workers are transforming the brown earth into a savannah landscape, with concrete baobabs to serve as a feeding system and storage space. A “scenography of the wilderness” is being created here, as art historian Christina Katharina May terms this animal pen designed with an eye for detail, a combination of pared-down architecture and an almost natural appearance – a central component of the zoo’s efforts to make itself invisible. Across the seasons, Romuald Karmakar’s film gives an account of life and work at one of Europe’s leading zoological gardens. The effort that precedes the illusion of invisibility is shown, as is the logistical apparatus that keeps the whole enterprise running. The animals are also shown, which serve as an attraction. By revealing a complex network of economical and ethical questions that shape the zoo, precisely what usually remains invisible, this three-hour film expands what is shown into a reflection on the relationship between humans and animals: a mirroring and a “momentary imaginary relationship” (Sabine Nessel). The portrait of an institution – of modernity, of the present. (Fabian Tietke, Barbara Wurm)

Romuald Karmakar, born in Wiesbaden in 1965. His films include both features and documentaries, which have screened at major international film festivals and been presented in several retrospectives. His film The Himmler Project was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2013, he was one of the artists to represent Germany at the 55th Art Biennale in Venice. In 2017, he participated in documenta 14. He is an elected member of the Academy of Arts Berlin. He lives and works in Berlin.

Production Romuald Karmakar. Production company Pantera Film GmbH (Berlin, Germany). Director Romuald Karmakar. Screenplay Romuald Karmakar. Cinematography Frank Griebe, Ian Oggenfuss, Romuald Karmakar. Editing Romuald Karmakar, Karin Nowarra. Sound Dieter Meyer. Co-producer Andro Steinborn. Commissioning editor Dagmar Mielke, Matthias Leybrand, Christian Granderath, Mirjam Dolderer. Co-production Arden Film GmbH, rbb/Arte, BR, NDR, SWR.

Films (selection): 1985: Eine Freundschaft in Deutschland / A Friendship In Germany. 1987: Coup De Boule (documentary, IFB Panorama). 1989: Hunde aus Samt und Stahl / Dogs Of Velvet And Steel (documentary). 1992: Warheads (documentary, IFB Forum). 1995: Der Totmacher / The Deathmaker (IFB Neue Deutsche Filme). 1999: Manila. 2000: Das Himmler-Projekt / The Himmler Project (documentary, IFB Forum). 2003: 196 Bpm (documentary, IFB Forum). 2005: Between The Devil and the Wide Blue Sea (documentary). 2006: Hamburger Lektionen / Hamburg Lectures (documentary, IFB Panorama). 2009: Villalobos (documentary). 2013: 8. Mai / 8th of May (documentary). 2017: Denk ich an Deutschland in der Nacht / If I Think of Germany at Night. 2024: Der unsichtbare Zoo / The Invisible Zoo.

Bonus Material

Director’s Statement

  • Film still from "Der unsichtbare Zoo" by Romuald Karmakar. It shows a monkey lying on its back in hay.

    Director’s Statement

    Romuald Karmakar on the difficulties and pleasures of shooting with Mongolian wolves, stick insects and walking leaves

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur