The Business Year 1978


As part of our excursions into the Arsenal archive we are concentrating on 50 films that were shown in the International Forum of New Cinema in 1978. We are also following up on the group’s fondness for cinematic self-reflection, experimental form, films from or about the so-called "Third World", and documentaries. Aside from written material and documents from the archive, the discussions that we want to conduct with Erika and Ulrich Gregor, as well as other eyewitnesses, will also play an important role for our research.


The group will decide on one film at the end of the viewing process. It will be digitalized and will form the basis for a filmic film analysis. An "educational film" of 10 to 15 minutes in length will ensue from the film's sounds and images and the results of our research. The film will then be screened at Arsenal alongside our filmic analysis. Ideally, a DVD of both films will be produced at the end of the project.


To systematically access the ca. 8,000 films in the Arsenal archive poses problems for professional archivists, to say the least. It is impossible to start at the "beginning" (in chronological or spatial terms, or at "Shelf 1") and watch ones way through thousands of hours of film material. We have two rules we can follow while we attempt to get a grip on the vast amounts of matter – hedonism and contingency. Therefore, without making an inventory we will set one rule and let it decide for us. One such rule could be to randomly choose a year – 1978 for instance.


There have been different attempts in recent years to instead of looking back into the past in vertical terms cut a horizontal slice of it and inspect a particular year more specifically, taking samples of culture and history so to speak One book: "1926: A year on the edge of time," an exhibition in Bielefeld’s Kunsthalle: "1937"; a symposium at Solitude Palace: "Around 1973. Historicism, Self-Cause, Popular Culture"; another exhibition in Barcelona: "1979. A Monument of Radical Moments". Two different conjectures can form the starting point of such projects: (1) The hypothesis that this year – without it being sufficiently acknowledged – was a particular year in historical, economic, cultural terms or from another point of view. (2) The speculation that the fact that a year was normal and unspectacular could in itself be informative regardless of the year selected. This second hypothesis is what forms the basis of our work with the year 1978.


But what does 1978 mean when talking about a film archive? It can be the year an archived film was produced but it can also be the year it came out in the cinemas. It can also be the year a film entered the archive. With regard to the Arsenal archive in particular it can also mean the year a film was shown in the "International Forum of New Cinema" the Berlinale category organized by the Friends of the German Kinemathek since most (or all?) of the shown films have found their way into the Arsenal archive. What is crucial for us is which films came into the archive in 1978, whether because they had been shown in the Forum or for other reasons. Every year, a tree ring marks the passing of 12 months in the archive, just as on growing trees. We want to take a closer look at the tree ring for 1978.

An ENTUZIAZM project
Michael Baute, Volker Pantenburg, Stefan Pethke, Stefanie Schlüter
More about ENTUZIAZM. Freunde der Vermittlung von Film und Text