Anthology Film Archives


September 16 – September 24


This program constitutes the most comprehensive U.S. retrospective to date of the work of German filmmaker and multimedia artist Lutz Dammbeck. Dammbeck is not entirely unknown on this side of the Atlantic thanks largely to his ambitious non-fiction film, THE NET – a profoundly thought-provoking exploration of the links between Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), modern communications networks, and late-20th-century thinkers such as Marshall McLuhan and Timothy Leary. But THE NET is only the tip of the iceberg of a body of work that is extraordinary both for the radically different modes it contains – morphing from East German animations to decades-spanning experimental collages to documentary explorations of hidden corners of 20th century history and culture – and for the ceaselessly probing, deeply interdisciplinary nature of Dammbeck’s sensibility.

Dammbeck began his career in the context of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Born in Leipzig in 1948, he studied painting and graphic art, and eventually directed six short animated films for East Germany’s DEFA film studios. At the same time he was working on his own, more experimental short films, including METAMORPHOSES I – one of the first experimental films to be shown publicly in the GDR. This work marked the beginning of his long-term art project, the HERCULES CONCEPT, which Dammbeck conceived of as a total artwork (Gesamtkunstwerk) comprising research materials, media collages, photographs, texts, painting, dance, film, and music. He has continued to work on various sequences for and variations on his Hercules project ever since, as well as a related website,

In 1986, after many obstacles and official interference in his work, Dammbeck and his family moved to Hamburg, West Germany, where he continued working on the HERCULES CONCEPT and soon began creating the full-length documentaries that he’s become known for more recently – complex, carefully-researched, philosophical works that treat the topics of art, power, radicalism, and science.

This extensive retrospective – which will feature an in-person appearance from Dammbeck himself – encompasses all these varied dimensions of his body of work, including two recent films that have yet to be seen in New York: OVERGAMES, a brilliant examination of the history and influence of television – and, in particular, game shows – as a vehicle for mind control and manipulation, and BRUNO & BETTINA, which is structured around an interview with the 80-year-old Japanese scriptwriter, director, and guerilla fighter, Masao Adachi. Dammbeck is a filmmaker who freely and effortlessly dissolves the borders not only between cinematic forms but also between intellectual and historical realms that are usually strictly demarcated, and this retrospective represents an opportunity to rethink recent world history through the lens of his mind-expanding cinema.

The retrospective has been organized by the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has been supported by the DEFA Film Library, DEFA-Stiftung in Berlin, and the program Wunderbar Together, an initiative of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany and the Goethe-Institut, with the support of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Special thanks to Hiltrud Schulz (DEFA Film Library) and Sara Stevenson (Goethe-Institut New York).

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