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Verbotene Filme

40 movies from the Nazi era, censored by the Allies after the war because of their propagandistic content, are still forbidden in Germany. Are the reasons for this continuing censorship still valid? Documentary.

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The warehouse already looks like a bunker from outside. Its archived material is explosive in two respects. At the state archives there is a large collection of films that were made using old, highly sensitive nitrate film. Among them are 40 films made during the Nazi period that the Allies censored in the 1940s and haven’t been shown in Germany since. The ban includes some of the most successful German films of all time. At least 29 million viewers saw Zarah Leander in THE GREAT LOVE, which was shown in East and West Germany after the war but without the swastikas. Over 20 million saw the notorious anti-Semitic propaganda film JUD SÜSS – more viewers than AVATAR (11 m) or TITANTIC (18 m).

The documentary FORBIDDEN FILMS presents rarely shown snippets from the films, while interrogating the reasons behind the ban. The director invites historians, film scholars, and viewers from Germany, Israel, France, and the USA to take a position on the matter. One question that is continually raised throughout is what should be done with the films. Censorship is explicitly forbidden in the German constitution and at first glance the handling of banned Nazi films (Vorbehaltsfilme) seems no longer in keeping with the times. Even the Israeli audience didn’t appear to be too concerned with the modified screening of JUD SÜSS: The dominant message seemed to be that it is time to move on since this is stuff that no one believes in these days anyway. Yet in a subsequent scene, Moeller shows a man wearing typical professorial attire who explains with all seriousness after a screening of the anti-Polish propaganda film “Homecoming” at the Munich Film House that the film accurately depicts the oppression of the German minority in Poland and Polish efforts to maintain access to the German city of Danzig. The invasion of Poland was not an attack but a legitimate reaction to Polish mobilisation. This self-assured historical revisionism is even more shocking and barbaric when two former neo-Nazis talk about how they used to entertain themselves at parties by screening THE ETERNAL JEW. As Professor Moshe Zimmermann from the Hebrew University said: the films still have the potential to give space to stereotypes and for these stereotypes to take root.”
The question of how the filmic legacy of the Nazis should be handled is a topic that requires discussion again and again. In this sense FORBIDDEN FILMS is an important contribution to this process. Indeed what is missing in this film is some attention given to the afterlife of more subtle Nazi films that were not banned or were quickly re-released. The film OUR FLAGS LEAD US FORWARD is buried in the archives yet its successor QUAX, THE CRASH PILOT for example seen as a semi-harmless fast-paced situation comedy. The fact that QUAX was also made for propagandistic purposes no longer seems to play a major role.

Tom Dorow

Translation: Carla McDougall

Credits

D 2013, 98 min
Genre: Documentary
Director: Felix Moeller
Distributor: SALZGEBER
FSK: 6
Release: 06.03.2014

Website

Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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