In February 1962, at the eighth annual Oberhausen Short Film Festival, a brief but impassioned manifesto was signed by 26 filmmakers and film professionals roundly criticizing conventional contemporary German cinema and calling for the creation of a new type of feature film based on new freedoms and a new type of film language. This exhortation to radical change set the intellectual and spiritual groundwork for the blossoming of Das Neue Kino (The New Cinema), as practiced by signatories including Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz, Peter Schamoni, Haro Senft, and Herbert Vesely, along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and many others. To mark the 50th anniversary of the manifesto, the organizers of the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, with funds from the German Federal Cultural Foundation and with the cooperation of the Bundesarchiv and the Deutsche Kinemathek, have prepared a touring exhibition of new 35mm prints, with English subtitles, of short films made by most of the manifesto’s signatories.
Following is the Oberhausen Manifesto as translated by Eric Rentschler for his article “Declaration of Independents,” Art Forum, Summer 2012 (reprinted with permission).
The collapse of conventional German film has finally removed the economic basis for a mentality that we reject. This gives the new kind of film the chance to come to life.
German short films by young filmmakers, directors and producers have in recent years received a large number of prizes at international festivals and gained the recognition of international critics. These works and their successes show that the future of German film lies with those who have proven that they speak a new film language.
In Germany, just as in other countries, short film has become a school and place of experiment for feature film. We declare our right to create the New German feature film. This new film needs new freedoms. Freedom from the conventions of the established industry. Freedom from the outside influence of commercial partners. Freedom from control by special interest groups.
We have concrete intellectual, formal, and economic ideas regarding the production of the new German film. Together, we are prepared to take economic risks.
The old film is dead. We believe in the new one.
Bodo Blüthner, Walter Krüttner, Fritz Schwennicke, Boris v. Borresholm, Dieter Lemmel, Haro Senft, Christian Doermer, Hans Loeper, Franz-Josef Spieker, Bernhard Dörries, Ronald Martini, Hans Rolf Strobel, Heinz Furchner, Hans-Jürgen, Pohland Heinz, Tichawsky, Rob Houwer, Raimond Ruehl, Wolfgang Urchs, Ferdinand Khittl, Edgar Reitz, Herbert Vesely, Alexander Kluge, Peter Schamoni, Wolf Wirth, Pitt Koch, Detten Schleiermacher
Organized by Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, Department of Film. Thanks to Ralph Eue and Alexandra Hesse of the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen.