How was the communist ideal reflected in the visual language of film? How did communist films regard the regimes and their leaders? How is the iconography of communism reflected in political and media discourse today? Divided into eight categories, this year's Retrospective explores Marx's notion that history repeats itself - first as tragedy, then as farce.
One hundred years after the October Revolution, the festival will screen films that were made during the communist era and others made more recently, some deeply rooted in ideology, others looking at it from a distance, thus providing a multi-faceted insight into communism.
Der Sekretär (1967); Director: Jürgen Böttcher
The programme starts with the magic, the fascination and the enthusiasm that accompanied the idea of communism. Then, how communism portrayed itself in film as the ideology imposed itself on daily life. Der Sekretär depicts the daily life of an SED party secretary at the Buna factory near Halle by the DEFA documentary filmmaker Jürgen Böttcher - it is a filmic hymn to the dialectic of plight and pathos.
Films of different geographical origins rotate around some key terms in the history of communism, including cult of personality and revisionism. The ambivalent relationship with religious traditions is explored in Peter von Bagh's A Day at the Grave of Karl Marx. Two works by the Cuban filmmaker Santiago Álvarez depict how the ideology took hold in what was then widely known as the Third World. In The Missing Picture, which won an award at Cannes, the Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh uses clay figures to retrace the history of the Khmer Rouge genocide powerfully and in a way which remains unreconciled with Cambodia. Works about Rosa Luxemburg, about the Black Panther Party in the US and Angela Davis and Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver give an insight into the role of ethnic background and gender with regard to communism.
The Missing Picture (2013), Director: Rithy Panh
Finally, in a podium discussion, the journalist Jörg Becker and cultural scientist Christian Schulte will show excerpts to guide audiences through Alexander Kluge's opus magnum News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx–Eisenstein–The Capital. They will also examine his polemical thesis that "good revolutions" only come about every 800 years.
Two matinees will complement the Retrospective:
In the Saxony state archives programme, some splendid documents of daily life in the GDR will be presented to the public for the first time. How did high-ranking representatives from the GDR leadership in Berlin present themselves in Leipzig? How did they want to be perceived? How were they received unofficially?
The DEFA Matinee focuses on Karl Gass, the "documentary filmmaker in socialism" who would have turned 100 this year. In 1954, he was made responsible for the artistic direction of the popular science department at DEFA. He was also a co-founder of the Leipzig Documentary and Short Film Week, as DOK Leipzig was originally called. The festival will pay tribute to Gass' oeuvre with two of his films.
The topic of the Retrospective will be also discussed at a symposium that was developed in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe.
Ralph Eue is responsible for the Retrospective. This year, he became DOK Leipzig's programmer, as well as the chairman of the Selection Committee, of which he has been a member since 2007.