This playlist includes three short documentaries that are relevant for understanding director Slatan Dudow’s Weimar-era film classic Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World? (1932).
How the Berliner Worker Lives
(Germany, 1930, 12 min., b/w, no dialogue) This short documentary, meant to be the first in a series on current issues, was Slatan Dudow’s first film. As it turned out, it was also the only one made for the series. Dudow shot his film in the streets and courtyards of depression-era Berlin. The film aesthetic and editing style he later used in Kuhle Wampe are already evident in this documentary.
Slatan Dudow – A Film About a Marxist Artist
(GDR, 1974, 29 min., b/w) One of the first works by acclaimed (East) German documentary director Volker Koepp, this portrait of filmmaker Slatan Dudow (1903-63) follows his life and work in exile, painting a detailed picture of the Marxist artist. It includes many clips from Dudow’s early films, including Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World, which was banned by the Nazis, and Soap Bubbles (1934), which Dudow finished in French exile.
Prolog to Kuhle Wampe
(GDR, 1958, 4 min., b/w) When director Slatan Dudow returned from French exile to eastern Germany in 1946, he joined the newly founded DEFA Film Studios. He wanted to release his Weimar-era communist film classic, Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World? (1932) in his new chosen country—but did not have a copy of it. In the late 1950s, a 35mm print of the film was given to the GDR’s State Film Archive by the Cinémathèque Française, where it had been in safe keeping. Dudow found the funding needed for the production of a duplicate negative and prints and arranged for the film’s theatrical distribution with PROGRESS Film-Verleih, the only East German film distribution company.
Dudow thought it might be very important to explain the circumstances of the film’s production to its audience in the 1950s. He asked his friend Herbert Jhering—one of the best-known German film and theater critics—to work on a film prolog with him. Kuhle Wampe was re-released, accompanied by Jhering’s short spoken introduction on February 26, 1958. This Prolog was discovered by the DEFA Film Library during the restoration of Kuhle Wampe in 2008 and restored by the German Federal Film Archive for the DVD release.