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German Movies: 5 Reasons why they are bad

Wo bleibt der populäre deutsche Film?

German Movies aren’t competitive internationally. If we take a look at the domestic cinema charts in Germany, this is evident: US-American Hollywood Cinema is always at the top while German Cinema struggles to reach any kind of audience. Apparently, Germans punish their national productions very harshly with their absence. But why is that? Aren’t there any well-known contributions to pop culture from Germany such as Winnetou, The Three Investigators or ghost hunter John Sinclair? Why do Germans find it so difficult to bring their cultural achievements to the big screen in an appropriate form? Why is it that the German cinema doesn’t find its audience?

In Germany, Movies aren’t in the Spotlight

There are many reasons why German Movies are the way they are. First of all, moving images in general and film in particular are massively underestimated in their impact on the human psyche in this country. Even with filmmakers like Leni Riefenstahl, whose propaganda movies proved a dangerous impact on the people in Nazi Germany – the lessons of history are easily forgotten. Education and improving media skills are not in the spotlight right now and Germany is still a long way from introducing Film as a school subject (we look at France with envy).

German Movies are Political instead of Artistical

There is an almost elitist attitude against filmmaking as a low art form. For the decision-makers in politics, the Movies appear to be quite dingy, because they are a very popular art form. The theater, on the other hand, is considered much higher in status (and the opera even higher), precisely because the “lower class people” are not particularly interested in it. If this mindset weren’t enough, the assessment standards of the public German Film Funding are in essence political, not artistical. According to my analysis, there are three points in particular that are always preferred and make the cut:

  • German Cultural Identity: In terms of genre that means Drama, Romance and Comedy, as well as a realistic narrative style
  • Social Relevance: The movies have to be dedicated to a socially important topic, reflecting the current Zeitgeist, and they have to educate the viewer
  • Brand Awareness: The movies already belong to a brand that has crossed the awareness threshold and therefore can’t be ignored

A Focus on Teleplays instead of Screenplays

German cinema is not independent. It heavily depends on German television. This is due to the absurd financing structures that can’t be changed easily. However, Movies and TV-Movies are two different kinds of media that might overlap but that have to be thought of very differently. Even the target audiences are different, and they should be our main focus. The question of who a movie is being made for should play a role from the start. The target audience for television is rather old while especially teenagers go to the cinema. And nowhere in Germany do people care for young adults and teens. Therefore, many filmmakers have been saying for a long time: German Cinema is dead.

Filmmakers without a Future

The Movies only have a future if the filmmakers have a perspective, regardless of whether they produce, direct or write. If the country’s only chance for young talent to emerge is to make arthouse films that fail to reach audiences, then it’s no wonder big personalities aren’t anywhere to be found. On top of that, if you still have to make so-called “debut films” in your mid-30s to mid-40s and you’re supposed to be happy about awards for beginners with little money attached, then there’s nothing to add. Decision-makers in Germany obviously see filmmakers as suffering artists who are only good if they can’t make a living from their work. To change that, I created a real Movie Award in order to make at least a small contribution to removing these hurdles.

If you want to read more, here are some film-related topics:

  1. The Mainstream