German Movies (or German Films, as we call it) are not internationally competitive. We notice this particularly when we look at the domestic cinema charts: Of course, American Hollywood Cinema is always at the top, German cinema only appears very rarely. Apparently, our local audiences usually punish the national productions very harshly. But why does it have to be like this? Aren’t there any well-known contributions to pop culture from our country such as Winnetou, The Three Investigators or ghost hunter John Sinclair?
Why do we Germans find it so difficult to bring our cultural achievements to the big screen in an appropriate form? Why is it that the German cinema doesn’t find its audience?
Movies not in focus
There are many reasons why German Movies are the way they are. First of all, moving images in general and film in particular are still massively underestimated in their impact on the human psyche. And that despite filmmakers like Leni Riefenstahl, whose propaganda films already proved to have a dangerous impact in the Third Reich. Education and media skills are not the focus of interest at all. Germany is still a long way from being introduced as a school subject like in France.
German Movies are political statements
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
Teleplay instead of Screenplay
German cinema is not independent. It heavily depends on German television. This is due to the absurd financing structures that can no longer be dissolved so easily. However, Movies and TV-Movies are two different 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 perspective
The Movies only have a perspective if the filmmakers have a perspective, regardless of whether they produce, direct or write. If the country’s only chance for young talent is to make arthouse films that fail to reach audiences, then it’s no wonder big personalities aren’t emerging here. 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. Filmmakers are obviously seen by the decision-makers in Germany as suffering artists who are only good if they can’t make a living from their work. To change that, I’ve gotten involved myself with a real Movie Award in order to make at least a small contribution to removing these hurdles.