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Could Goebbels have filmed “Avatar”?

During orientation week, new ASC German student Andrea Harris and I had a chat about German films and she mentioned to me an article that talked about the Nazis having shot 3D movies. She sent me the piece, and I thought I give a quick summary.

Indeed, digging around in the Berlin Filmarchiv, Australian director Philippe Mora had found two black-and-white films shot with a prism in front of two lenses to create a better sense of three-dimensional space; hence the German term “Raumfilme” for this technique.

So, is this how Hitler watched films?

(Picture: http://www.futuredimensions.net/wp-content/uploads/hitler3d.jpg)

No. Film historians are not very surprised, some of them claim to have known about the experiments all along. The two films themselves are not particularly sensational or political: one is a spot for a life insurance company, the other shows Bratwursts on a grill at a local “Fest.” The German newspaper Die Welt seems a bit insulted that Australian Mora heralds his findings under the banner of “Nazi 3D films,” accusing him of sensationalism. But, then, Die Welt’s headline reads “Schon zu Nazi-Zeiten wurde an 3D-Filmen gearbeitet [Already the Nazis have worked on 3D films]”–not exactly an academically sober title either.


Renewed Interest in Weimar Culture and Architecture

For an entire semester our German 200 seminar has explored Weimar Germany’s history and culture from multiple perspectives. Here are a few links to current exhibitions and shows that demonstrate the timeliness of our investigations.

The MOMA in New York has two exhibits, one focusing on kitchen design and, especially, on the famous “Frankfurter Küche” designed by Austrian architect Grete Schütte-Lihotzky in 1926-27.

Frankfurter Küche

Click here to get to the MOMA exhibition site.

Also to be found at the MOMA is a new exhibition, starting today, about Weimar Cinema, called “Daydreams and Nightmares.” The New York Times has a review of the exhibition:

German cinema of the Weimar years has given us some of the most famous images in film history: Cesare the somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) loping through the crooked alleys of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” the proud hotel doorman (Emil Jannings) reduced to a quivering washroom attendant in “The Last Laugh,” the robot Maria (Brigitte Helm) coming to life circled by rising rings of electricity in“Metropolis.”

Yet these represent only a narrow sample of a vast national industry, which at its height was second only to Hollywood in the number of films it produced, some 200 to 500 a year.

Beginning Wednesday, “Weimar Cinema, 1919-1933: Daydreams and Nightmares,” a four-month, 81-film program at the Museum of Modern Art will help fill in some of the gaps in our perceptions of this rich and influential body of work. Programmed by Laurence Kardish of MoMA in cooperation with the Deutsche Kinemathek and theF.W. Murnau Foundation, the series includes not only perennial classics like Fritz Lang’s“M” (Dec. 9) and F. W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” (Dec. 12), but also dozens of titles that have been rediscovered and restored in recent years, many presented with English subtitles for the first time in the United States.

Read the full article here.


Der Blaue Engel

Happening in Buttrick Hall, G-4, tonight at 8pm: Screening of Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930). Get a taste…

German-Afghan Film Stirs Debate

Burhan Qurbani is not the first German film student to have a feature length film

shown at the Berlin film festival “Berlinale”. But he is the first German film student who originally hails from Afghanistan and whose film, “Shahada”, addresses the role of Islamic faith in the lives of three young protagonists.


Released at a time when German conservatives rekindle anti-islamic sentiments, Qurbani’s film attracts attention at home and abroad, as the NYT’s article demonstrates.

BERLIN — It has been many years since a German film student had a feature-length movie shown at the prestigious Berlinale, a

distinction that can launch a career. That is what Burhan Qurbani is enjoying at the moment, with his film “Shahada.”

But rising fame can be double-edged, as Mr. Qurbani, 29, now understands, as his native country casts a critical eye on his work, and his life. He suddenly realizes that he is a foreigner at home,

and that his audience sees him as an Afghan immigrant who made a movie about Islam, not as a talented German filmmaker who chose to explore issues common to all mankind.

“I’m seen as the Afghani who made the fil

m about integration, and that hurts a little,” he said the other day, sitting at an outdoor cafe and smoking one hand-rolled cigarette after another.

Read more.


Israeli Film Engages with Notorious Nazi “Documentary” about Warsaw Ghetto

Films produced during the National Socialist era are difficult to deal with, especially films that purport to be “documentaries.” It’s hard to tell what was part of the propaganda machine and what was not. For many decades, an unfinished “documentary” about the Warsaw Ghetto, titled “Das Ghetto,” was mined by historians and journalists when supposedly authentic images of life in the Ghetto were required. In 1998, film historians discovered a reel with about 30 minutes of outtakes that proved the careful staging of many scenes thought to be authentic.

Israeli director Yael Hersonski’s “A Film Unfinished” addresses the question of authenticity in the 1942 film and presents an intriguing filmic investigation of a visual text that was long considered to be an objective window into a horrific historical episode. Read the NYT review here and watch the trailer here.

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