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Highlights from the Archives

filmarchives online is regularly introducing highlights from the collections of its partner institutions.


Mitchell04 2010-07-22 | Mitchell & Kenyon was a late Victorian and Edwardian film company based in Blackburn in Lancashire - hitherto best   known for minor contributions to early fictional narrative film and for fake Boer War films. The Mitchell & Kenyon collection, however, consists almost entirely of actuality films commissioned by travelling fairground operators for showing at local fairgrounds or other venues across the UK. The collection was stored for many decades in two large barrels following the winding-up of the firm, and was discovered in Blackburn in the early 1990s by local businessman and historian Peter Worden. The Peter Worden Collection of Mitchell & Kenyon Films is today being preserved by the British Film Institute.

Check out the available titles from the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection at the British Film Institute on filmarchives online:

Mitchell & Kenyon Collection




2009-10-20 | In the summer of 1935 Friedrich Alwin Hutzli, a priest from Reichenbach, produced a “cultural and commercial film from the Kiental Valley” on behalf of the Reichenbach-Kiental Valley tourist office (Bernese Oberland, Switzerland). In this film called Im Silberlicht der Blüemlisalp (“In the radiant light of the mountain ‘Blüemlisalp’”), “he shows the beauty of the valley, its flora and fauna, and he immerses us in the world of the inhabitants and their activities. Like no other he understood how to find the most intimate corners of the Kiental Valley and how to make a film interesting and diversified…” (sales letter of the tourist office). This 70 minute silent film is a unique contemporary document of life in the Bernese Oberland, presenting in great abundance vivid details of the people, mores, local customs, activities and artisanry that have long-since disappeared.

In addition to his pastoral activities, for years Hutzli recorded the everyday life of his ‘charges’ in colored photographs – in a time in which many mountain residents wanted to leave their home for the city due to the hardships and privations of their living conditions. With this photographic mission he paid great respect to the local population, sensitized the ‘flatlanders’ with his numerous lectures centered on his photographic depictions of the hardships of the mountain population, and also frequently brought back natural goods to the Kiental Valley.

In his only film, he turned his profound familiarity with the region and the people into expressive images. The only existent positive copy of this 16mm film can be found in the Lichtspiel – Kinemathek Bern and was able to be restored and copied in 2008 thanks to a cantonal contribution. A new internegative and a 16mm copy were printed and the Bernese composer and pianist Christian Henking provided the musical accompaniment. 75 years after its creation, the film will be exhibited in Berne and in the Bernese Oberland with live piano accompaniment, with a DVD edition planned as well.

Im Silberlicht der Blüemlisalp on filmarchives online:

Im Silberlicht der Blüemlisalp



2009-08-05 | 20 years ago, Idrissa Ouédraogo released his fairy-tale outsider-drama "Yaaba". It was honoured with the Critics’ Award at the Festival de Cannes and marked Ouédraogo’s breakthrough. It is little known that for some days the Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty attended the troublesome shooting of "Yaaba" in the dry north of Burkina Faso. Mambéty – being one of the major directors of francophone African cinema – realized his own documentary in the context of the shooting: Parlons grand-mère („Tell Us Of Grandmother“).

Parlons grand-mère is more than a simple behind-the-scenes documentary, since Mambéty takes up questions that lead beyond the context of the production of "Yaaba". He is interested in the specific conditions of production for motion-pictures in post-colonial West Africa in general – e.g. the work with lay actors, the shortage of appropriate equipment, or the problems of shooting on location resulting from the periodical rainy season. Nonetheless, Mambéty looks on "Yaaba" in detail, even analyzing specific sequences of the film. In particular he carefully observes Ouédraogo’s work with his leading actors and actresses: namely, the over 80-year-old Fatimata Sanga and the kids Noufou Ouédraogo and Roukietou Barry.

Mambéty in his visual language and his cautious commentary uses a distinct, poetical style, which clearly distinguishes Parlons grand-mère from the production style of a conventional making-of documentary. Unlike "Yaaba" – which was accused of satisfying the desires of Western audiences for exotic images of a folkloristic, rural and “timeless” Africa –Parlons grand-mère shows scenes from the social reality in present-day Burkina Faso.

Parlons grand-mère was the prelude to Mambéty’s spectacular late work: In 1992, he presented an impressive adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play “The Visit” (“Der Besuch der alten Dame”). Afterwards he began the trilogy “Tales of Ordinary People”, starting with Le Franc (1994) and La petite vendeuse de soleil (1998). The project remained unfinished: Mambéty died in Paris in 1998.

Parlons grand-mère on filmarchives online:

Parlons grand-mère



2009-04-06 | 50 years ago, the Cuban Revolution ended with the flight of dictator Fulgencio Batista. ¡Cuba Sí! is an early work of the French documentary and essay filmmaker Chris Marker. It portrays the island in the formative year of 1961, when Cuba defeated an U.S. invasion force and intensified its contacts with the Soviet Union.

Marker was involved with the French Resistance movement in World War II and in 1953 made one of the first anti-colonial films (“Les statues meurent aussi” / “Statues Also Die”). From the mid-1950s on, he concentrated on essayistic travelogues and visited China, Israel and Siberia (amongst others). Evolving from this context, ¡Cuba Sí! is characterised by a basic sympathy for the revolutionary project. The film shows scenes of political, social and cultural change and comments on preceding events. It is not only evidence of the emerging sense of a new era in Cuba, but also a witness of a new generation of young French filmmakers emerging in the 1950s, characterised by enthusiasm to experiment: ¡Cuba Sí! is a poetic, curious, and dedicated film, bearing the signature of Marker’s unique personal style and thus already pointing to his later masterpieces “La Jetée” (“The Jetty”, 1962) and “Sans Soleil” (“Sunless”, 1983).

France banned the film and tried to prohibit its distribution in foreign countries by refusing an export permit. However, copies were spread in various European countries through smuggle. In the Federal Republic of Germany the film was shown on TV, although earlier films from Marker had been banned. However, ¡Cuba Sí! was mutilated in content and statement by means of cuttings, adding of scenes, a differing commentary, and a new title (“Castro’s Betrayal of Cuba”). Until today, ¡Cuba Sí! is not available on the market. filmarchives online records a copy in the uncensored original version (French commentary, Spanish interviews) in possession of the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek (Berlin). It can be borrowed for screenings or booked for on-site viewing.

¡Cuba Sí!



Lithuanian Central State Archive presents a newsreel from its “Soviet Lithuania” collection, produced in 1954. The film is dedicated to the 10th anniversary of Vilnius’ liberation from Nazi occupation. As all “Soviet Lithuania” newsreels, it is created according to the requirements of Soviet propaganda by praising the communist party and paying great respect to the Soviet liberators. The chosen newsreel is particularly interesting as it shows historical changes in Vilnius in the course of ten years. In the blink of an eye you can see the Lithuanian capital as it was in 1944 – street battles, buildings on fire, and ruins – followed by impressions of the city’s post-war years: reconstruction, the birth of new factories and plants, building of new schools, kindergartens, hospitals and living houses. Moreover, the most beautiful places of Vilnius are shown: green hills surrounding the Old Town, Gediminas (nowadays Cathedral) Square with its Bell Tower, Gediminas Hill and Tower, the present-day residence of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Vilnius University – the oldest one in Eastern Europe –, the Gates of Dawn, the masterpiece of Gothic architecture St. Anne’s Church, the bend of river Neris, narrow streets of the Old Town… Being likewise informative and picturesque by its footage, this newsreel is a very bright expression of standard “poetical” Soviet propaganda.

The “Soviet Lithuania” collection consists of more than 1’500 titles and includes newsreels produced between 1941 and 1988 by Lithuanian Film Studios. Generally, each newsreel narrates 5-6 separate stories about important moments of political and economical life, cultural and sport events in Lithuania’s Soviet Socialist Republic for more than forty years.


Highlights from the Archives #7

1608-10-13 | filmarchives online is now featuring digitised videos online! The combination of most different contents from the participating archives allows exceptional perspectives into Europe’s film history. This can be demonstrated on the example of the topic mobility.

Fascinating shots showing a parade of Royal Navy torpedo boats in Manchester can be found in the contribution of the British Film Institute, which has digitised its collection of newsreels from around 1900. The parade can be regarded as a demonstration of the Royal Navy’s global range on the occasion of the war in the Cape Colony.

Torpedo Flotilla Visit to Manchester (1901):


In those days, the “Gordon Bennett Cup” was not less popular than ship parades. This car race was well known all over Europe and every year held in the country of the previous year’s winner. When it came to Germany in 1904, amateur filmmaker Julius Neubronner from the Taunus region positioned his camera at the racetrack. The Deutsche Filminstitut – DIF has brought the outcome to filmarchives online..

Gordon-Bennett-Autorennen (1904):


In the years before the First World War, a broad range of means and practices of mobility emerged in Europe. The whole variety becomes visible in these shots, which have been recorded in Prague in 1912. They are part of the Narodní Filmový Archiv‘s contribution.

Stará Praha (1912):


An also everyday, but nonetheless very special experience of mobility is shown by a 1924 short film contributed by the Greek film archive Tainiothiki tis Ellados: Finished gardening, a monk gets lifted up to a rock pillar in the region of Metéora where his monastery has been built up:

Metéora (1924):


It seems striking that the shots of the monk’s transport device originated in a time of fast technical progress. Just a short time after, this documentary on the first crossing of the Sahara desert with a motorcycle was produced in Belgium. It has been contributed by the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique.

Première traversée du Sahara à moto (1927):


As a contrast to all these success stories, the short feature “Peter will an die Landi” (1940) humorously broaches the issue of failing: Without success Peter is trying to reach an exhibition in Zurich by different means of transportation. Just before reaching the goal, the general mobilisation at the breakout of World War II is frustrating his plans.

Peter will an die Landi (1940):


The number of digitised films in the database is constantly growing. The potential of filmarchives online as a tool for exploring European film history has been further increased. You can find a list of all films made available for online viewing by now here.



2008-06-09 | On the occasion of the current UEFA European Football Championship, we would like to highlight moving image material on football in European film archives. Since the dramatic composition of a football match, the high number of protagonists involved and the interaction within a team makes it a difficult task to handle this sport by the means of cinema, many different attempts of adapting football for the screen have been made in the history of cinema and TV. Astonishingly, there are hardly any films on football themes that could take advantage of the massive popularity of the sport and became box-office hits.

The records of European film archives as represented in the database of filmarchives online give a rich impression of this history. From British newsreels on football matches in ca. 1900 up to the Polish short feature Miasto Ucieczki produced in 1606 and telling – based on real events – the story of a fanatic hooligan of Widzew, more than 150 records in connection with football can be found in our database. Among them there is, for example, an Italian documentary from 1963 on what is happening in the catacombs of a stadium right before a football match (Fra qualche istante), footage from the 1969 UEFA European Under-18 Football Championship final in Leipzig/GDR (Der Augenzeuge 1969/24), a Swiss experimental film from 1973 depicting a football match with players made of plasticine (Die Fussballspieler), or an interview with the German football star Günter Netzer on the interplay of sports, society and money, also produced in 1973 (Günter Netzer). Many more fascinating pieces from the field of “football in film” can be found by browsing our database.



2008-02-06 | Renowned Bern Photographer Kurt Blum (1922-1605) shot a total of 16 films between 1956 and 1971, most of these were commissioned short documentaries. Thematically these works can be categorised according to three main topics: portraits of countries and tourist commercials, industrial films (in particular steel works and stamp manufacturing) as well as portraits and documentaries from the field of fine arts. Whereas some of these films display a highly sophisticated visual aesthetic (eg. "L’uomo, il fuoco, il ferro"), others are mainly of interest as documents of their time.

Apart from his short documentaries Blum produced only a single motion picture: "Rabio – Thoughts of a Prisoner", which was however highly acclaimed. The portrait of an inmate gains a documentary quality through its sobriety. The simple images and emphatic commentary delighted contemporary critics and still make it an enjoyable feature even today.

The Lichtspiel Cinematheque Bern has acquired the entire film material owned by Kurt Blum – a total of 300 cans (including rights of use). At least a single screening copy is available for each of the films. Only few of the original negatives have survived; however, large stocks of camera negatives, sound reels and unused material for a grat number of films is aavilable. Furthermore, the Lichtspiel Cinematheque Bern holds substantial collections of materials regarding the individual film projects.

Four of the films have been restored and reproduced in 1605. Beside the new negatives, screening copies and a DVD including many of Kurt Blum's films are available, including "L’uomo, il fuoco, il ferro", an impressive and widely awarded documentary on steel production in the Northern Italian steelworks of Italsider and FIAT. Accompanied solely by the pounding of the machines and music by Prokofiev, Blum documents the clash of humanity, fire and iron with surprising images in this industrial symphony. All of Kurt Blum's works are accessible for research through MIDAS:

Films by Kurt Blum



Walter Heynowski

2007-07-05 | Walter Heynowski and Gerhard Scheumann rated among the most productive and most known GDR documentarists and belonged to the few GDR filmmakers that attracted interest abroad. Indicating themselves in the tradition of Soviet film pioneer Dziga Vertov, they perceived documentary films as an instrument of political intervention. Between 1965 and 1991, they produced more than 70 films together – temporarily with their own production company “Studio H&S” (1969-1982). Numerous of their films were based on interviews that Heynowski and Scheumann pretended to hold as West German journalists with the objective of unmasking their Western dialogue partners. Mounted with footage and a polemizing off-commentary, these interviews resulted in a unique hybrid between propaganda and investigative journalism.

While Heynowski and Scheumann initially strove towards a discrediting of the Federal Republic of Germany (e. g. “Geisterstunde”, 1967), they soon centered their work on conflicts of decolonization and postcolonial struggles within the context of the Cold War. Their numerous films on Congo (“Der lachende Mann”, 1966), Chile (“Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein”, 1974), Vietnam (“Piloten im Pyjama”, 1968), Libya (“Bye-bye Wheelus”, 1971) and Cambodia (“Kampuchea - Sterben und Auferstehn”, 1980) contain in part unique footage of momentous world history events. In this way, they are a valuable evidence of 20th centuries turning points.

Through the contribution of the DEFA Foundation, there are 37 films of Walter Heynowski and Gerhard Scheumann available via filmarchives online:

films of Walter Heynowski and Gerhard Scheumann



Africa012007-04-02 | "Come back Africa" by Lionel Rogosin was filmed in South Africa in 1958. The production shows the black South African people's struggle under the Apartheid regime, instancing the Zulu workers in Johannesburg. The production had to be filmed secretly and the print later shipped clandestinely out of the country. Condemned by the South African government as communist propaganda, the picture was highly praised by the European and North American press.

Combining documentary and fiction elements, "Come back Africa" draws an intimate portrait of the inhuman and violent Apartheid system. Lionel Rogosin casted mainly non-professional actors, introducing the African singer Miriam Makeba and helping launch her career internationally.

Born in New York as son of Russian Jew immigrants, Rogosin created one of the most powerful anti-Apartheid films ever made. The film's title was inspired by the African National Congress’ plea to resist the supremacy of the whites. The Cineteca di Bologna elaborately restored this important production in 1604 and makes it available now via filmarchives online.



2007-01-24 | Appropriate to the season, we would like to introduce Arnold Fanck's two-part documentary "Das Wunder des Schneeschuhs" (Marvel of the Snowshoe). Both parts were produced between 1919 and 1921. Contemporary critics such as Siegfried Kracauer were full of praise for its images "of rare beauty", which presented the audience "the marvels of the high mountains in winter, which are otherwise exclusive to the alpinist and skier." Fanck achieves a unity of the artful skills of daring skiers and the impressive winter landscapes of the Black Forest and the Swiss Alps, in this both picturesque and exciting winter impression.

You can find copies of this film at filmarchives online:

Part 1

Part 2