100 years of Frankfurt School, 5 years of the Frankfurt Positions – this title may irritate, may even appear presumptuous. Hopefully, it has made you curious. In any case, the rather small anniversary shows that there cannot be a true comparison made. Far more, the title condenses the 3rd congress Future German Cinema in regards to the theme, which will be held in Frankfurt am Main from April 19th to April 21st during the 16th Lichter Filmfest. The presented publication aims to prepare as well as guide the congress.
With the Frankfurt Positions on the Future of German Cinema, a paper that demands the fundamental renewal of the German film business, the first congress Future German Cinema as part of the eleventh Lichter Filmfest 2018 garnered attention throughout the country. For the first time in a long time and way past due, 100 experts formulated ideas, on how the often lamented lack of reform in German film may be overcome. These were followed by debates during the film festivals of Munich, Hof, Saarbrücken and the Berlinale. Gathering numerous groups and unions and forming the Initiative Zukunft Kino + Film (IZK+F).
At the same time, the first congress revealed that film politics may be the business of states rather than nations, but the future of film must also be discussed beyond borders to support exchange and shared learning. In many European countries, film and its funding are faced with similar problems and challenges. Nonetheless, they choose different avenues with varying successes.
The 2nd congress, having taken place during the 15th Lichter Filmfest in May 2022, focused on Europe as a result. Experts from 22 European countries came together in Germany with the cooperation of FERA, the Federation of European Screen Directors. In public talks, panel discussions and closed sessions they discussed film funding laws and film education, committees and film distribution, the future of cinema space and streaming offers. During the grand closing event at the Paulskirche with the Greek-French star director Costa-Gavras, Frankfurt displayed a strong commitment to European Film.
Now, while the 3rd congress Future German Cinema will be hosted, the founding of Frankfurt’s Institut für Sozialforschung will celebrate its 100th birthday. It is the birth of a school of social theory that later became known and famous worldwide as the „Frankfurt School“ and to this day holds significant influence on social studies and the humanities. The 3rd congress Future German Cinema would like to use this anniversary of the Frankfurt School as an occasion to discuss questions of film culture from the perspective of critical theory. Various events are planned in cooperation with the Institute for Social Research (IfS) to discuss film criticism in terms of critical theory and explore the cinema as a social space.
Scholars such as Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Erich Fromm, Leo Löwenthal and Walter Benjamin were interconnected by an insight Bertold Brecht summarized in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with just a few words: “Something is missing”. Their critical theory avows itself to a utopian moment and aims for change as it suspects that the world could be different and more humane. In no way is it an attempt to replace the „wrong” world with a “right” one. Far more, it assumes that the existing society enacts an inner dynamic that points to an outside. Criticism is therefore not introduced from outside but developed by its subjects. It is important to note that the Frankfurt School, other than classical Marxism, does not see culture as merely built on top of an economic foundation but emphasizes culture’s self-reinforcing tendencies and gave it significant importance.
Someone who carried the Frankfurt School’s critical position into the world of film like no other is the Frankfurt-born film sociologist and history philosopher Siegfried Kracauer. Kracauer was a columnist at the Frankfurter Zeitung during the Weimar Republic, where he penned numerous film reviews and reflections on cinema. In addition, he was a novel writer, essayist and architect. In a way, all these skills add to his main works in film studies: From Caligari to Hitler and Theory of Film. The literary scholar Inka Mülder-Bach calls Siegfried Kracauer a “crossover scholar between theory and practice”.
This exact way of crossing borders, typical of the Frankfurt School, is the goal of the 3rd congress Future German Cinema by combining theory and practice, reception, production and thinking about films – with a critical view to the past and a productive change forwards. The existing archive of materials aids – consisting of essays, talks, protocols, statements and theses, many of which are owed to the past congress. The four disciplines – film production, film funding, film spaces and film criticism – will all be introduced with excerpts of chosen Kracauer works that will act as an exciting background for all following textual formats.
We hope you enjoy the reading.
Gregor Maria Schubert, Johanna Süß and Kenneth Hujer