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Communicating film culture in lively fashion is the mission and passion of Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art. As a site for research and education that works both nationally and internationally, this Berlin institution creates a network of communication as well as a space for (film) cultural dialogue.
A cinema (Arsenal 1 & 2 and, since March 2020, our digital platform arsenal 3), a festival (the Berlinale Forum and Forum Expanded), a distributor (arsenal distribution), and the archive form Arsenal’s areas of operation. The continual interaction between and intertwining of these areas allows the institution to work with films in a lasting manner and from a range of different perspectives. This structure is at once a constitutive element of Arsenal and unique worldwide.
Since its foundation in 1963, Arsenal has engaged with the history of film and current developments within the medium in critical fashion, with contemporary discourses within society depicted, reflected upon, and contextualized along the way. Arsenal combines the expertise of many different people - filmmakers, artists, actors, curators and researchers – who realize interdisciplinary projects, festivals, and events. Arsenal takes on a pioneering role in developing forward-looking models for cinema, distribution, and archival work as well as in up-to-date approaches to reappraising and communicating film history before the backdrop of technical change and contemporary image and media culture.
Arsenal is an associate member of FIAF (Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film / International Federation of Film Archives). It is organized as a charitable association and fulfils a cultural (and culture educational) mission.

The Arsenal Cinema

The Arsenal cinema offers a curated program screened in two auditoria that takes an explicitly diverse form, connecting the historical and the contemporary, the academic and the popular, and the experimental and the canonized from across the entire world. The cinema sees itself as a social space for the exploration of current discourses via aesthetic experiences and as the site of a cultural practice that takes place within society. The films are presented in their respective original formats as far as possible, with the screenings receiving additional context via Q&As with filmmakers, introductions or symposia. Fostering exchange with the audience is of central importance here. The arsenal 3 digital program takes its bearings from the series showing at the cinema, the distribution range, and Arsenal’s archival work.

Forum and Forum Expanded

The Forum and Forum Expanded stand for reflection on the medium of film, socio-artistic discourse and a particular sense of the aesthetic. Organized by Arsenal and presented as part of the Berlinale, these programs aim to expand the understanding of what film is, to test the boundaries of convention, and open up fresh perspectives to help grasp cinema and how it relates to the world in new ways. The programs can include anything that serves these ends: contemporary and historical, analogue and digital film, installation art, performance, and music.

Arsenal Distribution

Arsenal Distribution distributes films to cinemas, festivals, museums, galleries, universities, and other cultural institutions in Germany and worldwide. Its range encompasses new and historical features and documentaries as well as works of avant-garde film history and current trends in film and video art. Many of the films from the Berlinale Forum and Forum Expanded programs entered the distribution range directly. Since 2015, films have also been digitally restored and released as part of Arsenal’s Living Archive project.

The Arsenal Archive

Following 60 years of cinema and festival work, Arsenal has a film collection encompassing 10,000 titles. It is the expression of the historical impulses linked to avant-garde and political cinema, but also provides insights into the diversity of contemporary film work.
The concept of Living Archive describes an archival practice which sees the significance of an archive in relation both to the present and possible ideas for the future. Research into archival content and preserving, digitizing and restoring this content all form part of an artistic and curatorial practice that is grasped in participatory terms. The archive is an open space where research can be carried out, work conducted, and new things produced.
At the core of this work is critical reflection on the category of film heritage in relation to the history of political and aesthetic movements as well as to the history of colonialism and migration. This also includes challenging such terms as “world cinema” or “national cinematography”, which have also left their mark on the history of Arsenal. The idea of a transnational practice aimed at sharing content and structures is supported to this end.

Arsenal Campus

The campus encompasses activities in the area of teaching, research, and education for interested parties from all age groups and is aimed at school children, teachers, students, filmmakers, artists, curators, and other researchers. The Arsenal staff and any external guests see themselves as teachers and learners in this context. The merging of theory and practice, film and academia is one of the institution’s central concerns. Theoretical reflection on cinema, its archives and areas of possibility as well as how analogue film formats and digitization should be dealt with in practical terms all form the basis of workshops, seminars, summer schools, training programs and collaborations with film and archive study courses at German and international universities, with campus forming the umbrella term to this end.

Funded by:

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