Colonial Mentality

We begin our three-part series focus­ing on the con­ti­nu­ity of colo­nial men­tal­i­ty with a clas­sic ethno­graph­i­cal film from 1930. We do not want to accuse the direc­tors Gulla Pfef­fer and her cam­era­man Friedrich Dal­sheim, who shot their movie in a vil­lage in Togo, of having a Euro­cen­tric per­spec­tive, quite the oppo­site. MENSCHEN IM BUSCH (People in the Bush) is most likely the first German film about anoth­er cul­ture that con­sis­tent­ly assumes the per­spec­tive of the people being filmed. It is an odd fact, how­ev­er, that the film is intro­duced by Duke Adolf Friedrich zu Meck­len­burg, who was the gov­er­nor of the German colony of Togo (1912-1914). How did that happen? Adolf Friedrich became known for his early expe­di­tions to Africa between 1907 and 1911, which earned him an hon­orary mem­ber­ship in the Berlin Soci­ety of Anthro­pol­o­gy. After the First World War, he became the vice pres­i­dent of the German Colo­nial Soci­ety and was a member of the board of the German Kolo­nial­film GmbH, which was found­ed in 1917. We will dis­cuss how his intro­duc­tion with racist under­tones ended up in … read more

African Mirror

Mischa Hedinger
Switzerland 2019 | 84 min | engl. subtitled

Fri, 31-May-19 01:30 PM

Sun, 02-Jun-19 02:00 PM
For decades, Swiss trav­eller and film­mak­er René Gardi (1909-2000) explained the African con­ti­nent and its inhab­i­tants to us. In books, tele­vi­sion pro­grams and films, he waxed poetic about the beau­ti­ful … read more

Cracks in the Mask

Australia, Germany, Switzerland 1997 | 57 min | engl. subtitled

Sun, 02-Jun-19 10:30 AM
Over the last 100 years, the Torres Strait Islanders in far north Aus­tralia have been the sub­ject of many anthro­po­log­i­cal expe­di­tions. The result­ing deple­tion of their cul­tur­al arte­facts has left … read more

Menschen im Busch

Friedrich Dalsheim, Gulla Pfeffer
Germany 1930 | 64 min | engl. subtitled

Thu, 30-May-19 10:00 AM
Source: Deutsche Kinemathek

A por­trait of daily life and work in an African vil­lage. Seem­ing­ly untouched by colo­nial influ­ences, the inhab­i­tants are entire­ly self-suf­fi­cient. Eth­nol­o­gist Gulla Pfef­fer and cam­era­man Friedrich Dal­sheim found the vil­lage of the Ewe people in the inte­ri­or of Togo, which was a German colony until 1914. Work in the fields, hunt­ing, prepar­ing meals, weav­ing, pot­tery, danc­ing, and reli­gious rites govern the life of a com­mu­ni­ty whose most modern con­ve­nience is a tele­phone of tin cans and a string. Orig­i­nal speech record­ings, every­day sounds, and orches­tra music are con­cen­trat­ed into an ethno­graph­ic, doc­u­men­tary study, with drums, songs, and ecsta­t­ic dances cul­mi­nat­ing in a “finale furioso” …

People in the Bush is con­sid­ered one of the most poetic films of its day. It was the first time that German film­mak­ers con­sis­tent­ly rep­re­sent­ed the point of view of their doc­u­men­tary sub­jects. With no off-camera nar­ra­tion, the Togolese Ewe from this former German colony talk about their daily rou­tines and life in the Chelekpe vil­lage. All of the speech was re-record­ed during post-pro­duc­tion in Berlin, which was also a first in the his­to­ry of colo­nial and expe­di­tion films.” (Ger­linde Waz)