Anthology Film Archives

GERMAN DOCUMENTARY SHOWCASE

February 17 – March 2

GERMAN DOCUMENTARY SHOWCASE

Streaming series runs February 17-March 2

In collaboration with the German Film Office, an initiative of the Goethe-Institut and German Films, we present a series attesting to the rich body of non-fiction films that have been produced in Germany in recent years. By no means a definitive survey, the selection nevertheless illustrates the thematic diversity, aesthetic innovation, and passionate socio-political engagement of contemporary German documentary cinema.

The selection demonstrates a wide range of documentary techniques – from the relatively straightforward but historically and culturally revelatory approach of Gerd Kroske’s SPK COMPLEX, which deploys interviews and archival materials to uncover a little-known dimension of postwar German politics, or Karen Winther’s EXIT, which delves into the experiences of former right-wing extremists struggling to free themselves from these ideologies, to the more observational style of Karim Aïnouz’s CENTRAL AIRPORT THF (a portrait of the transformation of Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport into a temporary facility for Middle Eastern refugees) and Sergei Loznitsa’s VICTORY DAY (which documents the celebration of the Soviet victory over the Nazis that takes place each year at Berlin’s Treptower Park Soviet War Memorial). Clarissa Thieme’s WAS BLEIBT | ŠTA OSTAJE | WHAT REMAINS / RE-VISITED takes a more experimental form, visiting the sites of war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, displaying blow-ups of frames from Thieme’s earlier, 2010 film made in the same locations, and inviting interactions with passersby.

We’re particularly pleased to present three brand-new films in the series. Carmen Losmann’s OECONOMIA represents a breathtakingly ambitious and vitally important attempt to understand and visualize the nearly impenetrable workings of the shadowy capitalist financial system that dominates the global economy in the 21st century. PURPLE SEA, by Amel Alzakout & Khaled Abdulwahed, is a formally rigorous yet emotionally expansive first-person account of a 2015 shipwreck off the coast of Turkey that resulted in the death of dozens of Middle-Eastern migrants. And PARIS CALLIGRAMMES – which we’ll be showcasing for a special three-day online sneak preview – is the remarkable new film by the great Ulrike Ottinger (FREAK ORLANDO; MADAME X: AN ABSOLUTE RULER; JOAN OF ARC OF MONGOLIA). An account of the formative period she spent in Paris in the 1960s, it is at once a deeply personal autobiographical essay and a cultural history of uncommon depth, detail, and vividness.

The films will be streaming from February 17-March 2, with several available to watch free-of-charge!

TO ACCESS ALL THE FILMS, GO TO THE WELCOME PAGE, OR DIRECTLY TO THE FESTIVAL PAGE (OR CLICK ON THE INDIVIDUAL FILM TITLES BELOW).

Special thanks to Sara Stevenson (German Film Office); Bob Hunter & Livia Bloom Ingram (Icarus Films); Marie Lamboeuf (Luxbox); Tatjana Losniza (Imperativ Film); Bojana Maric (Lightdox); Colleen O’Shea (Women Make Movies); Clarissa Thieme; and Chris Wells (Kino Lorber).

Co-presented with the German Film Office, an initiative of the Goethe-Institut and German Films.

Available from February 19-21, for a streaming rental fee of $8. Includes Q&A with Ulrike Ottinger!
Ulrike Ottinger
PARIS CALLIGRAMMES

2020, 129 min, digital. In German and French with English subtitles.
Ulrike Ottinger’s films are extraordinary not only for their bold experimentalism and ravishing visual qualities, but for their insistence on transporting us to profoundly unfamiliar, faraway realms – fantastic territories of the imagination, as well as, in the later phase of her career, increasingly to lands that are geographically and culturally distant to Westerners in a literal sense (she has made films in or about Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, and the Bering Sea). Even within such an expansive, questing body of work, however, Ottinger’s new film, PARIS CALLIGRAMMES, represents a departure – an exploration not of a faraway land but of an increasingly distant time, and for Ottinger an unusually undisguised venture into the realm of autobiography.

In PARIS CALLIGRAMMES, Ottinger revisits Paris, using the city of today as a window into the city that helped form her as a young woman – and a young artist – in the 1960s. It’s at once a portrait of a particular time and place, and a rapturous account of personal awakening, artistic, cultural, and political. But this is no ordinary urban valentine or sentimental gaze back to a halcyon time. Ottinger’s perceptiveness, engagement, and imaginative powers both then and now are too great to allow for that. Instead, she paints a portrait of the city and the time that transcends the superficiality of most similar films. With her usual aesthetic and intellectual flair, she offers insights, archival materials, personal revelations, and clear-eyed analyses of the artistic and political currents of the time that render PARIS CALLIGRAMMES a vital document for anyone interested either in Ottinger’s body of work or in the mid-20th-century cultural history of Paris, France, and Europe as a whole.

“In PARIS CALLIGRAMMES, Ottinger casts a highly personal and subjective gaze back to the 20th century. At the heart of her film is Paris: its protagonist is the city itself, its streets, neighborhoods, bookstores, cinemas, but also its artists, authors, and intellectuals. It is a place of magical appeal, an artistic biotope, but also a place where the demons of the twentieth century still confront us.” –Bernd Scherer

Ulrike Ottinger joined us for a live Q&A on Saturday, February 20. To watch a recording of that discussion, click here.

U.S. Premiere! Streaming for free! Special bonus: prerecorded Q&A with Carmen Losmann
Carmen Losmann
OECONOMIA

2020, 89 min, digital. In English and German with English subtitles.
Our economic system has made itself invisible and eludes understanding. In recent years, we have often had little more than a diffuse and unsatisfactory feeling that something is going wrong. But what? Beyond the distanced phrases of media coverage, which ultimately make it impossible to grasp the monstrous logic behind the basic structures of our everyday lives, OECONOMIA sets out with great perspicacity and lucid stringency to break things down to the simple rules, to illuminate the capitalism of the present. A zero-sum game is discernible, a game that places us and our entire world in the logic of an endlessly perpetual increase in capital – no matter how great the cost.

“What is money? What are debts? What are the consequences of both? And how can images be found for them? Layer by layer, OECONOMIA reveals how the rules of the contemporary capitalist game systematically precondition growth, deficits, and concentrations of wealth. With praiseworthy shrewdness and rigor, director Carmen Losmann articulates in layman’s terms the more egregious aspects of capitalist economy rendered invisible by the prevalent media coverage. Her striking visual concept contrasts the glass transparency of financial institutions with their reflecting, glittering facades, which are almost completely inaccessible to outsiders.” –Alissa Simon

U.S. Premiere! Available to watch for a streaming rental fee of $8. Special bonus: prerecorded Q&A with the filmmakers
Amel Alzakout & Khaled Abdulwahed
PURPLE SEA / DAS PURPURMEER

2020, 67 min, digital. In Arabic with English subtitles.
“When the boat on which she was crossing to Europe capsized off the coast of Lesbos, Syrian artist Amel Alzakout recorded the events using a waterproof camera strapped to her wrist. Co-directed with filmmaker Khaled Abdulwahed, PURPLE SEA is assembled from the extraordinary images captured during the period she and the other passengers spent trapped in the water. Adrift on the open sea, time seems to stand still as – beyond the chaos and a chorus of cries – a terrible calm descends. Alzakout poignantly narrates her perilous journey, and her poetic commentary feeds into a confrontational psychological reflection on this moment of personal crisis and collective tragedy.” –OPEN CITY DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL

“Alzakout recorded her journey to share with her partner Abdulwahed upon their reunion in Europe, but the shipwreck footage proved difficult for each to process. […] For Alzakout, it was not only painful to relive the trauma, but to see herself unwittingly captured as an image of helplessness, one that could fall into sensationalist mainstream portrayals of migrants as victims. Missing from such depictions are the internal lives of these figures, the universe of thoughts and experiences contained within each of them. How to make this image of herself hers again? Alzakout answers by employing a voiceover narration that composes a space of consciousness within the footage, alternately resisting and augmenting its sensational qualities. […] Rather than diminish the raw force of the viewing experience, the narration intensifies the sense of presentness. As the incident releases Alzakout’s verbal stream of deeply individual recollections, the camera drifts amidst a sea of floating bodies, each the vessel for countless other individual accounts of what it is to be human.” –Kevin B. Lee

PURPLE SEA will be supplemented with a prerecorded Q&A with the filmmakers, moderated by Róisín Tapponi, Founder, Director and Programmer of Habibi Collective and Shasha Movies. The Q&A is included alongside the film, or can be watched separately here.

Streaming for free!
Clarissa Thieme
WAS BLEIBT | ŠTA OSTAJE | WHAT REMAINS / RE-VISITED

2020, 70 min, digital. In English and Bosnian with English subtitles.
WAS BLEIBT | ŠTA OSTAJE | WHAT REMAINS / RE-VISITED is a re-encounter with the places and landscapes that played the leading role in Thieme’s earlier film, WAS BLEIBT | ŠTA OSTAJE | WHAT REMAINS (Berlinale 2010): sites of war crimes in the 1990s in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ten years later, Thieme returns – with those past recordings in tow. The new work is an experimental filmic inquiry that invites interactions from locals without coercing them. The result is a careful approach to the places as well as the people there, permeated by the questions of what was, what is, and how one can speak about it.

“In each of the locations Thieme and her team unfold a life-size transparency with a still from the earlier, 2010 film. Sometimes this comparison of ‘now and then’ is simply a silent act of recognition. At other times it sparks conversation. Some are evasive, some full of lived-through memories. Who died where, is one of the questions. Who left to build a new existence elsewhere; who stayed; who returned – are some of the others. Between the lines and between the images it becomes clear: these topics haven’t been processed yet. And, how could they? It is difficult enough to keep on living. […] The film does not unravel a mystery – it is doing something mysterious: it dives into a space between remembrance and continuation and interlocks retrospection with the present. The void is everywhere. And Thieme’s film is never finished. On the contrary, it proves that there is a chance to act through film.” –Jan Verwoert

Streaming for free!
Karim Aïnouz
CENTRAL AIRPORT THF / ZENTRALFLUGHAFEN THF

2018, 100 min, digital. In English, Arabic, German, and Russian with English subtitles.
This impeccably photographed documentary chronicles a year in the lives of asylum seekers in Berlin’s historic Tempelhof, a former airport expanded by the Nazi government as a symbol of Hitler’s Germania. The irony of the situation is not lost on Aïnouz or his subjects. Ibrahim, an 18-year-old from Syria, is studying German and waiting for his status to change from the uncertain “protected” category to the more secure “refugee.” Qutaiba, a 35-year-old physiotherapist from Iraq who was forced to flee before completing medical school, is volunteering at the clinic as a translator. The airport has become a city within a city, with box homes, spaces for the provision of healthcare, a barbershop, table tennis, and even a modest Christmas market. The men and women who work in the shelter try to accord some dignity to the thousands of people in limbo there. CENTRAL AIRPORT THF is a moving portrait of displaced people in transition, and its focus on the positive implies that Germany might be one of the few European countries generous enough to welcome them to a new home.

Streaming for free!
Karen Winther
EXIT: LEAVING EXTREMISM BEHIND

2018, 85 min, digital. In English, Danish, German, French and Norwegian with English subtitles.
“When Karen Winther comes across a few old boxes during a move she finds herself confronted with her past. On top are some swastika stickers, next to a tape labelled ‘Blitz’ and ‘Hits,’ and a lot of stuff decorated with the imperial eagle. Twenty years ago she joined a right-wing extremist organization in Norway, looking for adventure and like-minded people. ‘It’s embarrassing to look at,’ she comments in the voice over. EXIT is her film, her story, and yet the plot soon points in other directions, refuses to be constrained by its own structure. Winther travels to the U.S. to meet women who also used to move in right-wing extremist circles. She sits in the car with a former left-wing extremist activist, talking about a formative encounter many years ago. She meets Ingo Hasselbach, ‘The Führer of Berlin,’ whose career in the East German neo-Nazi scene is the subject of Winfried Bonengel’s film FÜHRER EX. And she meets a former jihadist who served a sentence in a Paris prison. In addition to surprisingly similar motivations and experiences, what they all have in common are the difficulties caused by their ‘Exits’ – feelings of guilt, but also threats from still active members.” –Carolin Weidner, DOK LEIPZIG

Available to watch for a streaming rental fee of $10
Gerd Kroske
SPK COMPLEX / SPK KOMPLEX

2018, 111 min, digital. In German with English subtitles.
In 1970, Dr. Wolfgang Huber and a group of patients founded the anti-psychiatric “Socialist Patients’ Collective,” or SPK, in Heidelberg, Germany. Controversial therapy methods, political demands, and a massive interest in the movement from patients deeply distrustful of conventional “custodial psychiatry” led to run-ins with the University of Heidelberg and local authorities. The conflict quickly escalated and resulted in the radicalization of the SPK. Their experiment in group therapy ultimately ended in arrests, prison, and the revocation of Huber’s license to practice medicine.

The SPK court cases – with their exclusion of defense attorneys, the total non-compliance of the defendants, and harsh penalties for both Huber and his wife – anticipated the later Stammheim trials of the members of the Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Group. Indeed, the allegation of having supported the RAF, and thus of being complicit in their terrorism, would cling to the SPK and obscure what the movement was originally about: the rights of psychiatric patients, resistance, and self-empowerment. SPK COMPLEX sheds light on these events that anticipated the “German Autumn,” and on their continuing relevance today.

Streaming for free! Special bonus: prerecorded Q&A with Sergei Loznitsa
Sergei Loznitsa
VICTORY DAY / DEN’ POBEDY

2018, 94 min, digital. In Russian and German with English subtitles.
“Loznitsa observes, at times morbidly, always wide-eyed, as packs of people at Treptower Memorial in Berlin commemorate the Red Army’s victory over the Nazis. Another study in crowds – their density, direction, and flow – the film paints the site as a minefield of overlapping discourses, with groups affirming unity yet also striving to set themselves apart. Germans, Ukrainians, babushkas, babes in folkloric dress, motor-bikers – no group’s too trivial for the peace medley. The site’s epic, pathos-heavy symbolism seduces even as it repels. In one mausoleum relief, thanks to Loznitsa’s forced perspective, a German plane appears small enough to be struck by a Soviet peasant’s outstretched, elegantly poised hand. The iconography evokes episodes of unremitting civilian suffering during an airstrike, yet Loznitsa captures it first in close-up, revealing an uncanny inner strength. As myriad interest groups jockey to be heard in the V-Day site’s liminal space, between canonized past and suppressed present, partisan dances and songs erupt as if spontaneously – a simulacrum of yesteryear.” –Ela Bittencourt, VILLAGE VOICE

Upcoming Screenings

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