RETROSPECTIVE: Breaks and Turning Points

Rediscoveries from 70 Years of IFFMH

For 70 years, the International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg (IFFMH) has been discovering talent, looking through their eyes and cameras at social developments and shifts, and understanding films as seismographs of their respective eras. On the occasion of the 70th edition, curator Hannes Brühwiler and festival director Dr. Sascha Keilholz have dived into the history of the festival and curated the retrospective BREAKS AND TURNING POINTS from a selection of several thousand films.

Across the 14 programs that make up the retrospective, the filmmakers’ work speaks of turning points – at times of a sociopolitical nature, at others of an artistic nature. In doing so, they all break with the cinematographic conventions of their predecessors, each in their own way. The retrospective seeks out their voices, which are brimming with a desire for departure and expression. In total, it comprises 11 features, four medium-length films and five shorts.

"Our aim was not to highlight a representative cross-section. Rather, our emphasis was on discovery and rediscovery – we wish to offer an overview of the range of international cinema that the IFFMH has brought together up to the present day. In this sense, the retrospective is a journey across the focal points of the history of the festival and of cinema," says Hannes Brühwiler.

Auteur Cinema and Civil Rights Movements

The international auteur cinema of the so-called new waves is one of the threads that run through the decades. Last year's retrospective was devoted to French cinema in the wake of the May 1968 revolts, and now several works again focus on the formative events of the late 1960s: civil rights movements, student unrest, the Prague Spring.

Independent Cinema and the Oberhausen Manifesto

Haskell Wexler's ›Medium Cool‹ (1969), which won the Grand Prize of the City of Mannheim, climaxes with the riots of the Democratic National Convention and shows the USA in turmoil. At the same time, in Germany, Edgar Reitz, Adolf Winkelmann, Günter Peter Straschek, and Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub also sought new aesthetic means of addressing the sociopolitical upheavals of the FRG. The Oberhausen Manifesto heralds the New German Cinema. These are years marked by an overwhelming desire to experiment. The search was no longer for stars to place in front of the camera; the filmmakers realized that the camera itself had become the real star.

From there, there’s two decades left until the end of the Cold War and the end of the retrospective. 1989: the political upheaval in the countries of the Eastern Bloc is in full swing when Volker Koepp shoots a documentary in Zehdenick, Brandenburg, about the decline of the local brick factory. ›Märkische Ziegel‹ (1989) is imbued with an omnipresent disillusionment. With this specific regional perspective on the fall of the Berlin Wall, Koepp proves himself to be a great chronicler of a watershed moment in history.

Filmmakers at Historical Breaking Points

Satyajit Ray's ›Pather Panchali‹ (1955) was celebrated the world over, including in Mannheim. The lyrical narrative style, strongly inspired by Italian neorealism, was not only influential for Indian cinema. Abbas Kiarostami's ›The Experience’‹ (›Tadjrebeh‹, 1973), about a boy from a poor background who falls in love with a girl from an upper class neighborhood, is reminiscent of Ray's narrative approach and political awareness. Echoes of both can also be found in Manuela Serra's ›O Movimento das Coisas‹. This documentary emphasizes the role of women filmmakers at historical breaking points. Ula Stöckl's ›Neun Leben hat die Katze‹ (1967) is also considered a classic of feminist cinema, as is Gertrud Pinkus' ›The Woman's Greatest Value Is Her Silence‹ (›Il valore della donna è il suo silenzio‹, 1980). With Věra Chytilová's ›Something Different‹ (›O něčem jiném‹), the program also includes a film by one of the most important female directors of European cinema. Her work: angry political cinema that fiercely rattles the patriarchal status quo and, like the other filmmakers in this retrospective, joins in the upheavals and departures of her time through the means of cinema.

The Films at a Glance:

Feature-length films:

Satyajit Ray: ›Pather Panchali‹ (India, 1955)
1957, prizewinner in Mannheim

Vera Chytilová: ›Something Different‹ (›O něčem jiném‹, Czechoslovakia, 1963)
1963, recipient of the Grand Prize of the City of Mannheim

Jan Nemec: ›Diamonds of the Night‹ (›Démanty noci‹, Czechoslovakia, 1964)
1964, recipient of the Grand Prize of the City of Mannheim

Edgar Reitz: ›Mahlzeiten‹ (Germany, 1966/67)

Ula Stöckl: ›Neun Leben hat die Katze‹ (Germany, 1968)

Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin: ›Salesman‹ (USA, 1969)

Haskell Wexler: ›Medium Cool‹ (USA, 1969)

Gérard Blain: ›A Child in the Crowd‹ (›Un enfant dans la foule‹, France, 1976)

Ingemo Engström, Gerhard Theuring: ›Fluchtweg nach Marseille‹ (Germany, 1977)
1977, recipient of the Josef-von-Sternberg-Preis

Gertrud Pinkus: ›The Woman's Greatest Value Is Her Silence‹ (›Il valore della donna è il suo silenzio‹, Switzerland, Germany, 1980)
1980, recipient of the Special Award of the Lord Mayor of Mannheim

Manuela Serra: ›The Movement of Things‹ (›O Movimento das Coisas‹, Portugal, 1985)
1985, recipient of a Filmdukat in Mannheim

Medium-length films 1

Chris Marker: ›La Jetée‹ (France, 1962)
1963, recipient of a Filmdukat
Abbas Kiarostami: ›The Experience‹ (›Tadjrebeh‹, Iran, 1973)

Medium-length films 2
Roland Klick: ›Jimmy Orpheus‹ (Germany, 1966)
Volker Koepp: ›Märkische Ziegel‹ (Germany, 1989)
1989, recipient of a Filmdukat in Mannheim

Five German short films from the years 1967 to 1970

Adolf Winkelmann: ›Adolf Winkelmann, Kassel, 9.12.67‹ (1968)
Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet: ›The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp‹ (›Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter‹, 1969)
Wim Wenders: ›Same Player Shoots Again‹ (1968)
Günter Peter Straschek: ›Zum Begriff des kritischen Kommunismus bei Antonio Labriola‹ (1970)
Birgit und Wilhelm Hein: ›Rohfilm‹ (1968)

Photo: Haskell Wexler: ›Medium Cool‹ © courtesy of Park Circus/Paramount