Der Mensch! – Contemporary German Film

Women‘s football and unexploded ammunition, genocide survivors and AIDS orphans, gymnastics equipment and fortune sellers; the portal offers an interesting variety of films made at the Film and Television University (HFF) in Potsdam-Babelsberg.

For a start, let’s introduce the oldest and significant film school in Germany. The HFF was founded only six years after Prague’s FAMU. It was the then East German culture minister Johannes Becher, a one-time outstanding expressionist poet, who finally “converted” to socialist realism and political pragmatism, to sign the founding charter in 1951. Besides the firm “brotherly” bond of the Eastern Bloc, the two universities were further interconnected by the fact that the HFF adopted FAMU’s organization system. In 1985, the university was named after Konrad Wolf, a famous East German filmmaker, three years after his death. Since the future president of GDR’s Academy of the Arts grew up in the Soviet Union and fought in the ranks of the Red Army on WWII’s front as a young man, it is no surprise that in his filmmaking career, he remained true to the themes of war, peace and anti-Nazi resistance (and, of course, leftist ideology).
However, let’s get back to the twelve film “apostles” of Potsdam to appear on the portal.
Made by young German directors (and especially female directors within this selection), the documentaries are very compact, maintaining a firm, genuine “documentary” form. In their well-crafted dramaturgy, they do not experiment with the form; which is no surprise in case of a German film school. Taking up the position of careful observers, the young filmmakers rarely enter the story as direct participants. They rather stick to the classic form of the documentary narrative, which corresponds to the needs of those spectators who approach documentary film as an objective record of reality. The fact that this is the best fit for the German filmmakers becomes clear when watching the film Die schönste Nebensache der Welt / That Old Funny Game. Trying to convey its story; that of the history of German women’s football; in a playful way, the film is not really convincing in this respect. However, what is really positive about the classic film style is the fact that it actually focuses on the protagonists. Thus the young German filmmakers capture man as an individual; an “owner” of a concrete, unique story. Rather than describing social phenomena, admiring the beauty of nature or surprising by their sophisticated form, the films follow individual people and their problems in a concrete environment; be it a German housewife with seven children or Vietnamese recruits collecting unexploded ammunition.
Out of the twelve German student films, half will be available to the portal visitors for free. These include:
Mein Mallorca / My Mallorca – an intimate and humorous portrait of a mother of seven children, illustrating the integration of family life and self-realization; Märchendising/ Selling a Fairy Tale – a film depicting another middle-aged woman who tries to save a “fairy-tale forest”; Von Mädchen und Pferden / About Girls and Horses – a portrait of a friendship of two young gymnasts; and two more films taking place in Vietnam; the above mentioned film dealing with the dangerous service of collectors of unexploded ammunition carrying the title UXO – Unexploded Ordnance; and Tage des Regens / Days of Rain telling about the integrity of a poor Vietnamese family, the construction of a new house and about relishing frog meat – enjoy!


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