© Bernhard und Michael Grzimek / Okapia 

Film Programme

Animal Cinema

The film programme for Animal Cinema is an experiment. For the first time, a biologist and a curator have collaborated to create a film programme in which artistic and scientific perspectives on animals are given equal weight. The resulting short history of the animal film is also an animalistic history of film. The very first film stars were not humans but animals, such as the galloping horse in the famous photographic series by Eadweard Muybridge or the animals in Étienne-Jules Mareys motion studies, which are among the very earliest films (e.g. his Fish from 1891). There is also at least one film that was itself authored by an animal; Oedipe, by the monkey Capucine. Nieto’s documentary of the same name on the making of this film-historical sensational is part of the programme.

The programmers have excavated numerous weird, beautiful and sometimes shocking finds from various archives. There’s Kaiser Wilhelm in Hagenbeck’s zoo as well as Seine Hoheit auf Fasanenjagd (Bilder vom Hof des Großherzogs von Mecklenburg-Schwerin) [His Royal Highness Hunting Pheasant (Pictures from the residence of the Grand-Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin)].

The tragic Hinrichtung des wildgewordenen Riesenelefanten Arno [The Slaughter of the Rogue Elephant Arno] and the Soviet Theater der Tiere [Animal Theatre] have been restored especially for the programme. In the latter, the methods of animal taming can be seen in clear analogy to the conditioning of humans in Stalinism. Colonial hunting films (Im Negerdorf - Jagd der Flusspferde [In the Negro Village – Hippopotamus Hunt]) are juxtaposed to scientific films on the hunting rituals of indigenous peoples (Jagd mit Pfeil und Bogen auf Beutelmäuse [Hunting Marsupial Mice with bow and arrow] und Shooting the Animal). A highlight of the programme is the rediscovery of the films of Heinz Meinhardt, the first scientist in the GDR and one of the first in the world to study animal behaviour. In contrast to his colleague Dian Fossey, whose gorilla studies became famous throughout the scientific world, he  modestly  became a mere “honourary wild boar”.

Animals are also an important subject for artistic filmmakers. One of the most famous being William Wegman, who made hundreds of films and photos of his Weimaraner ‘Man Ray’. His short sketches make palpable the respectful way the two interact with each other. In Monkey Performance, Joanna Rytel dances for her monkeys, thus turning the tables on the voyeuristic gaze implicit in the usual practice of having animals perform for humans. Not the animal itself but rather the animal-film is the theme of Christoph Keller’s Encyclopaedia Cinematographica, a cinema-installation that will run before each programme.

Animal Cinema aims at awakening consciousness to the way humans see animals. What do people see when they look at animals? What are the consequences of this way of seeing, especially for the animals themselves? Can animal films restore dignity to animals? The focus is on ‘real’ animal films, where real animals have been filmed. The beloved anthropomorphisms of animation films, in which animals appear as symbols for the human, have been deliberately excluded.

Among the guests who have kindly agreed to take part in discussion are Dr. Johannes Grossman, primatologist from the Max-Planck-Institut, Dr. Frank D. Steinheimer, Project director of the Naturkundlichen Universitätsmuseum Halle (Saale) [Natural History Museum of the University of Halle], the shepherd Christian Winz, as well as the actor and author Hanns Zischler.

William Wegman “Dog Duet”

Shooting Animals

Fri. 14. October | 19:30

We have titled this programme Shooting Animals to highlight an affinity between good animal film makers and early hunters, both of which have to mutate in the course of their work into animals in order to follow their traces. The... [more]

Thomas A. Edison “Cockfight”

Theatre of the Animals

Fri. 14. October | 22:00

Chimpanzees in trousers, shirt and tie sitting at tables having to pretend to act like humans is probably a sight familiar to everyone from television series or circuses. Thankfully less well known are scenes in which polar bears... [more]

Internationale Jagdausstellung in Berlin 1937


Mon. 17. October | 14:12

The German Kulturfilm emerged from WWI propaganda films. Already in 1913, Franz Bergmann and Willi Warstat developed a concept for positive nationalistic films against the “tasteless, criminal and erotic-sexual films” (meaning... [more]

Moody Institute of Science “A Fish Family”

Looking at the Animal

Mon. 17. October | 14:11

Are we capable of just looking at animals or has the age of “Okulartyrannis“, as the philosopher Ulrich Sonnemann titled the image-addicted modern period, rendered our gaze permanently instrumental?At least it is possible to try... [more]

Bernhard & Michael Grzimek “Swallows on a Spit”, © Bernhard and Michael Grzimek/ Okapia

Swallows on a Spit

Mon. 17. October | 14:09

The first human-made weapons, hand axes and spearheads, were probably directed at animals. The weapons were deployed in the hunt. That means that technical devices were part of the hunt from the start and that hunting is... [more]

Joël Bartoloméo “Le chat qui dort”

About Love

Mon. 17. October | 13:43

As Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari write in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia “people who love dogs and cats are idiots”. With this statement, they mainly want to go against the usual distinction made between... [more]

Paul Bush “While Darwin Sleeps”

While Darwin Sleeps

Mon. 17. October | 13:42

Above and beyond their proper function, natural history museums have become well-loved event locations. This has not just to do with a culture of spectacle seeking ever more bizarre venues, but rather reflects the desire to be... [more]

Bernhard & Michael Grzimek “Tiere ohne Feind und Furcht”, © Bernhard and Michael Grzimek/ Okapia

Creature Comfort

Mon. 17. October | 13:41

All over the world, zoos are among the most popular recreation facilities. Evolved from royal menageries, transformed into civil education centres during the French Revolution with the Jardin des Plantes, the archetype of all... [more]

Ken Wardrop “Useless Dog”

Utility Animals, Useless Animals

Mon. 17. October | 13:39

Practically any animal that can be tamed can be domesticated. Eipo – Umgang mit Schweinen (Eipo – Living With Pigs), a documentary by the ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, follows the affectionate interaction between the Eipo,... [more]

Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Ilisa Barbash “Sweetgrass”


Wed. 05. October | 00:21

This documentary, made by the anthropologists and filmmakers Lucien Castaing-Taylor und Ilisa Barbash, accompanies the shepherds from one of the last family ranches in the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains over three summers. The... [more]