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KINO-SINE: Philippine-German Cinema Relations(Tilman Baumgärtel, 2007)

Soon after my arrival in Manila in early 2007 at my new post as director of the German Cultural Centre (Goethe-Institut) I had the pleasure of being invited by the Mowelfund Film Institute to speak on the occasion of the official inauguration of the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Philippine Committee. In 2001 the German film Metropolis by Fritz Lang was the first film to be included in UNESCO’s “Memory of the World” list, The Goethe-Institut was asked to screen it during the opening ceremony. Metropolis was perfectly accompanied live by a group of young Philippine musicians named Rubber Inc., who had already earlier successfully composed and performed digitally generated music for other German silent movies shown in Manila. There was a panel discussion conducted by the Philippine filmmaker Nick Deocampo, whose concept was to never present a film without running an in-depth discussion in order to explain to the audience details of the form, the content and especially the film director’s personality reflecting the spirit of the time when he created his oevre.

That day I learned the following: (1) There is a Film Institute in Manila whose task is to cultivate the heritage of domestic and international filmmaking. (2) There is awareness among Filipinos for the necessity of intellectual discourse and intercultural exchange between artists engaged in mixed media art creation. (3) There is Nick Deocampo, who in his capacity as documentary film director, book author, publisher, and teacher – along with others – developed the independent movie culture in this country over the years, and who admits that (4) he is a member of the generation of Philippine artists whose love for filmmaking was generated by the frequent working contacts with German filmmakers invited by the Goethe-Institut to Manila during the 1970s and 80s to conduct workshops on filmmaking with black and white footage on 16mm, very often on Super-8 ! Those German filmmakers were: Harun Farocki, Werner Herzog, Christoph Janetzko, Thomas Mauch, Ingo Petzke, Rosa von Praunheim, Werner Schröter, Dorothee Wenner, Michael Wulfes and Christian Weisenborn. (Richard Künzel)

(1989 October - November) workshop Helga Borsche
(1988 September - January) 16mm Experimental Film Workshop under Christoph Janetzko

This book is about this “Sine-Kino-Connection”. At the same time it is about a part of German film history that few people in Germany are familiar with. Beginning in the mid-1970s and continuing through the 1980s and into the 1990s, a number of German film directors, theorists and other movie people came to work or teach in the Philippines. Some came because the Goethe- Institut Manila invited them for workshops and film presentations. Others came at their own expense because they were fascinated by the country, which – especially after the People Power revolution of 1986 that ousted the Marcos- regime – temporarily exercised its own peculiar kind of magnetism to many Europeans. The workshops that “the Germans” conducted, the film screenings that they presented, were in part responsible for the emergence of an alternative film scene in the Philippines that went on to garner recognition and awards at international film festivals.


The film programming at the Goethe-Institut Manila in the late 1970s and 1980s can serve as further proof for a hypothesis that Thomas Elsaesser develops in his book on the Neuer Deutscher Film: that the New German Cinema was the fruit of government sponsorship for independent filmmaking, and that internationally acclaimed film artists such as Herzog, Wenders, Fassbinder et al were actually state artists, no matter what kind of anti-establishment histrionics they indulged in. The criticism of (or opposition to) German society and politics that many of them expressed in their films – that were more often than not sponsored by one public institution or another – served as proof for the new tolerance of West Germany, both domestically and abroad.


This background can serve as an explanation for why the Goethe-Institut distributed German films all over the world, which might have been acclaimed at international film festivals, but for the most part were box office flops in their own country. The Goethe-Institut treated its audience to a brand of German culture that purported to be critical, avant-garde and left-field. In Manila it was not just the films of the Neuer Deutscher Film which served as a harbinger of a West Germany that had left behind the totalitarianism and the crimes of German fascism as well as the frost of the immediate post-war period. German Video Art, critical video documentaries, experimental short films, and the underground Super-8 films of the 1980s were all presented in the Philippines with only minimal delay after these movements surfaced in Germany. (Tilman Baumgärtel)


Since it was established in 1979, the Mowelfund Film Institute (MFI) has immensely contributed to producing quality films and educating filmmakers that cater to the constant development of local cinema. MFI is one of the major programs under Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Inc. (MOWELFUND) that conducts trainings and workshops not just for filmmakers, but for people (actors, producers, film enthusiasts) who are interested in entering the film industry.

Even in the early years of its operation, MFI has proudly dedicated it’s time on improving film education that brings emphasis on building the creativity and uniqueness of each of its students. Various acclaimed local and foreign lecturers are constantly invited to conduct seminars and workshops which entice filmmakers, film enthusiasts, and various students from different universities to attend.

A number of notable alumni who have entered reputable film festivals and have taken home prestigious awards include Raymond Red, Brillante Mendoza, Lav Diaz and more.

With the hopes of uplifting the state of the local cinema, MFI proudly teaches its students to produce films that are of relevance from which they could freely voice out their opinions on significant issues as well as to accentuate the importance of creating art through compelling stories that would turn into eye-opening films.


“When the Goethe-Institut flew in German artists and filmmakers to co-produce new works or facilitate film and video workshops in `Third World` cities, they usually just had a few weeks to explore these new places by themselves. Sometimes posed as dialogues, the works produced in these contexts often became a process to address and document these spaces with their students and collaborators: the city, explored as a character seen from many perspectives. In several of the workshop films there is a tendency to have an impressionistic approach to the cityscape, its histories and creative life, while incorporating micro-portraits of particular aspects within these topographies. At the same time, they are quite self-reflexive of existing biases by documenting the tensions of the urban and the rural, the foreign and the local, the insider and the outsider.

This screening continues from a previous programme recently presented in the re-selected section of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen. It is an iteration of Counter Encounters, an ongoing research on the history of the Goethe-Institut's film and video workshops and its co-productions in the Global South during the late Cold War and early post-Soviet era.” (Merv Espina)



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