1968 is much more than a mere date. 1968 stands for a movement, for a myriad of individual movements that set their sights on great changes. 50 years have gone by in the interim – to mark this anniversary we wish to turn our attention today back to the years around 1968, which left an indelible mark on contemporary history and that of cinema itself.
“With our programme, we would like to show that ‘around 1968’ a great number of documentary and animated films were made which serve as seismographs,” according to Ralph Eue, curator of the Special Programme RETROSPECTIVE: ‘68 – AN OPEN SCORE and programmer at DOK Leipzig. “They pointed to radical changes in our social, cultural and intellectual histories, and, last but not least, our media history too, they traced these changes and even provoked them as well at times.” Instead of focussing on the hotbeds of revolt – Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris – DOK Leipzig would like to explore the outlying areas of “’68” with this Retrospective: What was happening out in the sticks? How did the echoes of unrest resonate out on the periphery?
In the scope of seven programmes made possible with the generous support of the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany, the Retrospective devotes itself to the culture of the ’68 generation and their longing for a new kind of cinema that brought about radical changes in content and form. Where does the focus of this gaze lie, where are the blurry edges? Who actually has the right to report what? And shouldn’t the previously untold play a role in challenging the validity of that which had been told up until then? Questions like these burst onto the scene like so much ripe fruit in the filmmaking of the years around 1968.
With Vietnam, sexual liberation and the advent of subcultures, ’68 not only delivered new subjects for film and television – it also leads to the questioning of traditional forms of production, distribution and reception of films. As a result, existing structures and institutions were forced to change and adapt.
In the Retrospective, the central themes of ’68 – namely the occupation of Prague by troops of the Warsaw Pact countries and the Vietnam War – are only treated explicitly in two cases. “Instead we have been working towards a deliberate decentralisation, yes even a fragmentation of the perspectives, in order to properly portray the fractured nature of the orders of the day,” explains Ralph Eue.
Filmmakers such as Klaus Wildenhahn were fond of turning their backs on the great events of the time, preferring to concentrate on what was unfolding outside of the hotspots: for instance in The Tire-Cutter and His Wife, in which one can only just make out the sounds of a big anti-Nixon demonstration in Berlin from off in the distance. Similarly, the upheavals of the era are only palpable on the periphery in Marion Zemann’s Life’s Magic Horn, depicting a young woman working in a bakery in Ulm. In Pasolini’s The Sequence of the Paper Flower (Love and Anger), a young hippie dances through the hustle and bustle of Rome “armed” with a paper flower, while the reality of the news intrudes aggressively into the film by way of monochrome double exposures.
Again and again, the Retrospective returns to issues of sexuality and gender, treated here and there through the concept of “Expanded Cinema”, wherein the traditional space of the movie theatre is fundamentally called into question. For this reason, among the films shown are a documentation of Valie Export’s legendary TAP and TOUCH Cinema street performance as well as Exprmntl 4 Knokke by Claudia von Alemann and Reinhold E. Thiel, in which the two directors recorded their impressions of an experimental film festival in Knokke, Belgium. Beyond that, the exciting parallel history shared by the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and DOK Leipzig will be examined in one of the Retrospective’s programmes. For the latter, Tobias Hering and Andreas Kötzing have selected films from the years 1968/69 which were inspired by the gesture of the boycott, or even by refusals, evasive manoeuvres and clever retorts.
The ’68 movement will also be the topic of a matinee event organised in co-operation with the State Archive of Saxony and treated in greater detail and contextualised in the scope of a panel discussion.