Conjuring up the Real: The Films of Jürgen Böttcher

Jürgen Böttcher: Laundry Women Jürgen Böttcher: Laundry Women © DEFA-Stiftung, Horst Sperber

Jürgen Böttcher (b. 1931) is one of the most outstanding and influential documentary directors to have worked in East Germany. Starting in the late 1950s, he made over forty short and full length films, most of them within the state-run DEFA studios until the German Democratic Republic (GDR) ceased to exist in 1990. Though commissioned by the GDR’s state-owned production system, his films were often aesthetically provocative and out of sync with the official party line. To a greater part Böttcher’s films were influenced by his practice as a painter, a practice which also brought him into conflict with the state-prescribed anti-formalist aesthetics. He was excluded from the Association of Fine Artists in 1961 and consequently strongly restricted in publicly showing his work until the late 1970s /early 1980s. However, Böttcher has carried on painting under the name of Strawalde and continues to do so on a daily basis from his home studio in Berlin.
Celebrating Jürgen Böttcher’s diverse body of work as a filmmaker, this season includes seven programmes of short and feature length films. On Wednesday, 23 October, the season will open at the Goethe-Institut with Böttcher’s only fiction feature, the banned Born in ’45. A workshop at King’s College London on Saturday, 26 October will explore the theme of looking and being looked at in three of Böttcher’s early short films. Close-Up Film Centre will present three short programmes on 27 October and 3 November, including Böttcher’s experimental Transformations-Trilogy and his late masterpiece Shunters shown on 35mm. Another highlight will be a rare screening of the beautiful travelogue In Georgia, one of Böttcher’s personal favourites, on 8 November, also on 35mm. The series will close with The Wall, Böttcher's idiosyncratic response to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Introductions and post-screening discussions will provide an opportunity to get to know Böttcher’s remarkable films in more depth.
Please find a list of events further below.
'Conjuring up the Real: The Films of Jürgen Böttcher' is presented by the Goethe-Institut in collaboration with Close-Up Film Centre, ,King’s College London and the German Screen Studies Network as well as in partnership with Life Through Cinema and Open City Documentary Festival for individual events.
With special thanks to Diana Mavroleon for initiating the season and conceiving the programmes at Close-Up, and to Franziska Nössig and Martin Brady for their substantial input into the overall programme and for organizing the workshop at King’s College. Further thanks go to Oliver Dickens for hosting the screenings at Close-Up.
We would also like to thank Mirko Wiermann (DEFA-Stiftung), Diana Kluge (Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen) and Claudia Brändle (Filmpodium Zurich).
The prints and DCPs shown in this retrospective have been provided through the DEFA-Foundation and its distribution service located at the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen in Berlin.