Germany has a well-developed festival scene. The established festivals in Berlin, Mannheim and Oberhausen were founded in the 1950s. These new festivals met the need to 'bring the outside world' to the young republic after years of cultural provincialism and isolation (during the Third Reich) and to keep pace with international trends.
A second wave of new festivals made their appearance in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Production of high-quality international films was steadily declining, along with the number of cinemas showing such films. To an increasing extent cinema programmes were crammed with short-lived, Hollywood-style bestsellers.
Today little has changed in this plight of cinematic culture, at least not in the regular movie theatres. But film-loving audiences in many large, mid-sized and, meanwhile, also small cities now have the opportunity to see a wide variety of films at festivals and film weeks. There are now hundreds of German cities with festivals of their own and in recent years the number has increased quite dramatically. Festivals and Film Weeks have become part of an alternative film scene. This has also been recognised by most national and international distributors; they charge rental fees from the festivals, a kind of substitute, as it were, for the income from cinema distribution that no longer functions for many films.
There are festivals for all genres: for short films, feature films, documentary films, children’s films, animation. Some ‘Film Weeks’ have a regional or national focus: Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, France, Italy, Turkey… Some international festivals offer special screenings of German films.
The festivals in Germany's new states also present plenty of variety. Festivals whose roots date back to the GDR era have carried on with new concepts, and new ones have been founded.
Nearly all festivals publish catalogues. Books are also frequently published on individual film series and retrospectives, sometimes by the festivals themselves or in cooperation with publishers. Many festival books are published in bilingual editions in German and English.