Salon – Future German Cinema. Where's the place for documentaries? Festivals and cinemas – digital platforms and the public broadcasting (late evening) slot

Things are moving, albeit unintentionally. Covid-19 is posing massive challenges to the world and transforms a state of emergency into everyday life. The consequences of the corona crisis for cinema and the film industry have led to a rethink in Germany. Old structures that had not changed (or could not be changed) for many years had to be revised in a very short time. Although many of the current ideas are not new, the pandemic and its consequences have led to theories and concepts being (or having to be) put to the test in practice.

Documentary films, which have long been searching for their rightful place, along with the newly awakened interest in streaming, have stirred up a fundamental debate: Where and how can the cinema documentary find its audience?

Although AG Dok has been instrumental in driving forward the demand for alternative distribution opportunities via the Internet for years – let us remind you of Thomas Frickel's 2015 guest article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine ("Direkt ins Netz") – the debate really took off only recently when the DOK.fest München sent out a press release saying that more than 75,000 viewers had watched the films presented as part of DOK.fest München@home. A sensational result for the documentary film.

This raises interesting questions:

  •  What new and fundamental questions emerge for the documentary film when it comes to production, distribution and marketing?
  • Which different perspectives and positions need to be considered, discussed and evaluated in this context?
  • Which legal issues that have to be cleared up are fundamentally important?
  • What is the role of cinema in this process?
  • Which alternative chains of distribution must be discussed?
  • Does streaming have an impact on the film distribution chain?
  • Are television schedules now at last obsolete?

 The organizers of the LICHTER Filmfest are addressing the current need for discussion and action and are organizing – together with the Kassel Dokfest – their second event on the future of German cinema, focussing on documentaries.

 The teams of festival organisers from Kassel and Frankfurt have jointly planned and organised the Salon – Future German Cinema. Where's the place for documentaries? Festivals and cinemas – digital platforms and the (late evening) schedule.

Experts from German-speaking countries are invited to participate in a shared thought process. For one day, there will be a private creative space at the Kassel Dokfest to exchange ideas - in a closed session -, to reflect on the state of the documentary film regarding its evaluation, and to discuss future models and develop a vision.

This should be the starting point for concrete initiatives for reforming the system - beyond all thought limitations. The Salon is intended to develop specific recommendations for action and to bring proposals to the table that political decision-makers cannot simply brush aside.

The expected outcomes of the Salon will lay the groundwork for the 2020 congress The Future of German Film, which will take place on December 3 and 4, 2020 in Frankfurt/Main.

Participants in the Salon:

// Dunja Bialas studied Romance philology and general and comparative Literature in Munich and Paris. Since 2000, she has been editor-in-chief of the film magazine "artechock". She has been working as a film critic for "artechock", "Tagesspiegel" and "Filmdienst", among others. From 2002 to 2013 she worked as a curator at Dok.Fest Munich. In 2006 Bialas founded the international film festival UNDERDOX with Bernd Brehmer. Since 2013 she has been spokesperson of the board of the German Film Critics Association. 2014 she founded the VIDEODOX Förderpreis – Bavarian Biennial for Video Art. She is co-founder of Hauptverband Cinephilie (2018) and member of the AG Filmfestival. She lives in Munich.

// Susanne Binninger, as a filmmaker she is interested in social phenomena such as the construction of identity and gender: “Reine Männersache“ examines male role models (nomination for the Grimme Prize 2011), the feature documentary “Fighter“ deals with mixed martial artists (pre-selection for the German Film Preis 2018). Susanne Binninger is a producer in her company Oktoberfilm (with Andreas Goldstein), teaches documentary film and, together with David Bernet, is chairman of AG DOK, the professional association of German documentary filmmakers.

// Thomas Frickel, born 1954, studied German language and literature, journalism and sociology. For several years he worked as a freelance journalist focusing on cultural reporting and historical topics. As an author, director and producer, he is responsible for numerous short and feature-length documentaries (including "Keine Startbahn West – Eine Region wehrt sich", "Der Kinomann", "Der Störenfried – Ermittlungen zu Oskar Brüsewitz", "Deckname Dennis", "Die Mondverschwörung", "Wunder der Wirklichkeit"). From 1986 to 2020 he was chairman and managing director of the AG DOK, the professional association of German documentary filmmakers.

// Judith Funke lives in Cologne and since 2020 she has been head of the documentary film initiative at Filmbüro NW. As a freelance film mediator and curator she also works in the selection committee of the Berlinale Shorts. She is co-initiator of the documentary film mediation project "Reality Bites" in NRW. From 2013-2019 she was part of the short film selection committee of the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival and from 2016-2018 director of "Kino im U" in Dortmund. She is a member of the board of Hauptverband Cinephilie.

// Jens Geiger is a film festival programmer, cinema and exhibition curator based in Hamburg. For more than ten years he has been curating film programs in a variety of analog and digital spaces. Since 2011 he works as a festival programmer at Filmfest Hamburg, since 2018 as program consultant for Kasseler Dokfest. From 2017 to 2019 he was the artistic director of Kinemathek Karlsruhe and continues to work in cinemas, film festivals and all kinds of spaces.

// Ulrike Kiesche studied business administration at the Martin-Luther-University Halle. After holding positions as head of department in the Hessian State Chancellery and the Hessian Ministry of Justice, she is currently head of department in the Hessian Ministry of Science and Art, where she is responsible for the film and media sector.

// Stefan Kloos, born 1968, is managing Director of Kloos & Co, a production company for international co-productions in cinema and TV. He also heads Rise and Shine World Sales, a world sales organization for documentaries and Rise and Shine Cinema, a theatrical distribution company for documentaries, which focuses on innovative forms of distribution and target group strategies. Kloos is a winner of the Grimme-Preis and member of the German and European Film Academy. His award-winning productions and co-productions include the Oscar-nominated "The Last Men of Aleppo". For his production "Hi, AI" he was nominated for the German Film Award for "Best Documentary" 2019. 

// Mala Reinhardt, born 1989, lives in Berlin and studies directing at Filmuniversität Babelsberg. Before she studied ethnology in Cologne, New Delhi and Kampala. She works as a director and producer of documentary films. Her film "Der zweite Anschlag“ (“The Second Attack“), an independent production about right-wing violence in Germany, premiered in 2018 at DOK Leipzig in the German Competition. It has also been shown at the German Documentary Film Award, the Kassel Dokfest, Docs Against Gravity and the International Women's Film Festival Dortmund Cologne.

// Daniel Sponsel, studied visual communication at the HfbK Hamburg. He finished his directing studies at the HFF Munich. After that he worked as director, author and director of photograohy. Between 2002 and 2009 he worked as a lecturer at the HFF Munich. Currently he is a guest lecturer with a focus on dramaturgy and development at the ZHDK Zurich and ZELIG Bozen. He is author of various publications and text contributions on documentary film theory and documentary work. Since September 2009, Daniel Sponsel is the director of DOK.fest Munich.

// Irene von Alberti studied at HFF Munich and has been working as a director, producer and author since 1992. With her company Filmgalerie 451 she produces arthouse cinema films such as "Der Hauptmann" (Director: Robert Schwentke) or the documentary "Schlingensief - In das Schweigen hineinschreien" (Director: Bettina Böhler). She also wrote the scripts for her own films, which are more focussing on the experimental low-budget range: "Der lange Sommer der Theorie", "Tangerine" or "Stadt als Beute".

// Lysann Windisch managed several art house cinemas in Munich and Berlin for more than 5 years, while also programming and organising festivals and film events with a focus on Eastern European film. In 2018 she joined the Chinese-European producers association "Bridging the Dragon" as festival and relationship manager. Since 2019 she has been running the international NEXT WAVE training program at the German Film & Television Academy Berlin (DFFB), focused on innovative exploitation strategies in the film market. She mentors for the CICAE training program in Venice. Since 2020 she has overseen the marketing activities of MUBI Germany while being in charge of the project MUBI GO.


Gregor Maria Schubert (LICHTER Filmfest Frankfurt International)


Henning Adam (LICHTER Filmfest Frankfurt International)

Johanna Süß (LICHTER Filmfest Frankfurt International)

Gerhard Wissner Ventura (Kasseler Dokfest)