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German Cinema

Custom Culture Short Films
Photo: Pixabay, edited by Daniel Chaffey

​My previous post pulled back the curtain on Lodderbast, Germany's smallest cinema, offering one example of how great cinema can come in rather small packages. In short, pun intended, the same can be said for the actual films themselves.  

By Daniel Chaffey

The importance of short films as a vibrant medium for telling larger stories within a short time frame is engrained in the history of German cinema. On November 1, 1895, German inventors and filmmakers, Max and Emil Skladanowsky presented the world's first motion picture program to a paying audience at the Wintergarten Varieté theater in Berlin, marking the birth of German cinema and the German short film.  Decades later, Pioneering animator and filmmaker Lotte Reiniger, whose 1926 The Adventures of Prince Achmed is recognized as the first full-length animated feature film, and a milestone in cinema history, made over 60 films, most of which were shorts. Germany's International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, founded in 1954, is not only the oldest short film festival in the world but the birthplace of the 1962 Oberhausen Manifesto, a confrontational group statement signed by 26 young German filmmakers (among them, the now prominent directors Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz) that called for a fundamental change in the way German films are produced. During the 70s, the festival became a springboard for female filmmakers, including Helma Sanders-Brahms, whose first film Angelika Urban, Sales Agent, Engaged premiered there. At the time, the number of film festivals in Germany was growing, offering up-and-coming filmmakers a new home to show their short films. 

Fast forward to today, and German short films are approaching another milestone. With Germany's nearly 400 film festivals, many of which specialize in short films, the demand for short films seems endless. However, there are institutions in Germany whose sole objective is to help navigate this vast short film landscape. The German Short Film Association (AG-Kurzfilm) acts as an ambassador/film policy lobbying body for the support and promotion of German short films, assisting professionals, students, and the public with all things related to German shorts. 

Unfortunately, in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, film festivals across Germany have been forced to reschedule, cancel, or present their 2020 programs online. But luckily, for lovers of German short films, there is still plenty to see. For the first time, Ag-Kurzfilm’s annual showcase of German short films from the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, SHORT EXPORT MADE IN GERMANY, was made available online for free through the Goethe-Institut. The first (and hopefully last) edition of the Berlin-based online CORONA SHORT FILM FESTIVAL, showcases 35 shorts (from over 1200 international submissions) created by filmmakers in self-isolation. All films, including the Grand Jury winner, Bottle of Wine, by Anne Isensee, can be streamed here for free. The Hamburg Short Film Agency that produces the Short Film Festival Hamburg, has continued to offer a free German “short film of the week,” via their YouTube channel, while the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg’s YouTube channel highlights recent short films from their students and graduates. Ag-Kurzfilm's online magazine shortfilm.de has also published Short Film Specials in Times of Corona, a curated resource of German short films available as online streams. With some exceptions, the majority of these streaming offerings are available with English subtitles, which for English-speaking fans of German short films, is no small change.