A selection of Jürgen Böttcher's early films, from Three of Many
(1961) his personal portrait of three artist friends in Dresden, to Laundry Women
(1972), his second film about women at work.
The screening will be introduced by Diana Mavroleon.
Three of Many (Drei von vielen)
Böttcher’s first film for the state-run production company DEFA (Studio for News Reels and Documentary Films), it was also his first key film, a rarely personal work in which he used the opportunity to present a portrait of three of his artist friends from Dresden. Even though it showed workers making art and thus followed the “Bitterfeld Path” declared by the GDR government in 1959, it was immediately banned on completion and remained unseen until 1988. His depiction of the creative worker was too informal and individualistic. Three of Many
links three essential elements of Böttcher’s biography: his relationship to Dresden as well as to his WW2 and post-war experience; the connection to his parallel life as a painter; his love of jazz.
GDR 1961, b/w, DCP (35mm), 33 mins. With English subtitles.
Furnace Makers (Ofenbauer)
In this explicitly observational work, Böttcher documents how in the Ironworks Combine East, a new blast furnace, over 65 metres high and weighing almost 2000 tons, is moved by 18 metres to replace its predecessor. Instead of taking the usual 80 days, the goal is to complete the task in half the time. The film thus implicitly illustrates an important propagandistic theme of the GDR - workers exceeding a planned objective through camaraderie, Herculean work and meticulous planning. The film was much admired by state officials and awarded the Silver Dove at the important International Leipzig Documentary and Short Film Week. Böttcher, however, avoids all drama and from the opening shot onwards, Böttcher’s signature becomes increasingly apparent: no mood-building music over the titles, minimum propagandistic phraseology in the commentary, authentic/original sounds from the construction site, action led by the workers themselves, direct observation, (revealing Böttcher’s close relationship to cinema verité), and a choreographic approach through the dynamics of montage.
GDR 1962, b/w, DCP (35mm), 15 mins. With English subtitles.
The Party Secretary (Der Sekretär)
Regarded by Böttcher as his penance for making the banned Three of Many
, this is the portrait of Grimmer, a selfless Party secretary serving in the Chemical Combine Buna in Saxony, where he is trying to support the mainly female workforce through understanding and training. Grimmer seems out of place with his authentic idealism, appears as an almost novelistic character scarcely existing in the industrial reality of the GDR.
GDR 1967, b/w, DCP (35mm), 29 mins. With English subtitles.
Laundry Women (Wäscherinnen)
Again Böttcher takes up the theme of portraying people engaged in a collective work effort. Here it is apprentices in the large-scale, state-run laundry VEB Revatex in Berlin whom Böttcher observes across steam-filled work areas. Sound is used in layers and to punctuate the images. At ease with themselves and Böttcher’s questions, the women use the space they are given to speak their own language and to express their small and large concerns in life, including criticism of their work place: ”Finally, one could hear a few more truthful words, at least a few small bits of truth, even if only through gestures.” (Jürgen Böttcher).
GDR 1972, b/w, DCP (35mm), 23 mins. With English subtitles.
Total Running Time: 100 minutes
works with experimental and documentary film; a programme maker for Resonance Radio, a founder member of European Media Arts Network and a correspondent for S.E. Asia. She is currently researching a documentary feature on: ‘The impact of globalization on the hereditary musicians of the Thar Desert in Western Rajasthan’. Diana is also a qualified bio-dynamic gardener and landscape/garden designer.