Look at This City

(Schaut auf diese Stadt)

GDR, 1962, 85 min, b&w
In German; English subtitles
Music (Score)


Documentary footage is intercut at a breathless pace to tell the story of Berlin’s reconstruction post-WWII from the East German perspective. At the center of this strikingly modern documentary is West Berlin, which is portrayed as a city rife with neo-fascism and moral decay under the watch of NATO. East Berlin is positioned as a bulwark against the evils of the West, protected from corruption by the recently-erected Berlin Wall. The film uses rare authentic footage and newsreels from both East and West Germany to create a skewed but vivid vision of West Berlin.



Karl Gass was asked to make a documentary that would justify the Berlin Wall, which had been built just one year earlier on August 13, 1961. The script for the incendiary voiceover narration that was written by Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, one of East Germany’s most controversial journalists and political commentators and host of the agitation program "Der schwarze Kanal" ("The Black Channel"). The film’s title is taken from an address made by West Berlin Mayor Ernst Reuter to 300,000 Berliners in front of the destroyed Reichstag on September 9, 1948, in response to the Soviet-led Berlin Blockade. Reuter’s words are interpolated throughout the film, their context manipulated and repurposed by Gass’s masterful editing.



2018 Images of the Future: The Cinema of East Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2016 Retrospective, Locarno International Film Festival


Press comments

“Today, Look at this City remains a provocative and informative time capsule from the Cold War.”
— Northwest Film Forum, Seattle


“A propaganda film using archive and newsreel footage to explore the reasons why the German Democratic Republic erected the Berlin Wall in August 1961.”
— British Film Institute


“The most intriguing work of Wall-era propaganda…. No other film so overtly helps us to understand the mindset of its builders and their times.”
— National Film and Sound Archive, Australia


“Gass’ most polemical, not to mention hateful work…”
— Hans-Jörg Rother, Schwarzweiß und Farbe


“Karl Gass was one of the most important propagandists for East Germany … and one of the most significant and controversial East German filmmakers.”
Spiegel online


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