Study Project "Heritage and Documentary Film"

Ever since the invention of moving pictures, heritage sites have been documented in films. Audio-visual media have become a way to help interpret heritage and to convey heritage values.

Documentary films in the past were usually aired within educational institutions or at film festivals, reaching only a relatively small audience. In the course of the past years, however, the documentary films market has grown considerably. Documentaries can be viewed on TV but also through the internet increasing thus the possibility to create awareness for a wide range of heritage issues. Documentary films on heritage are a means to (re-) interpret heritage, as well as a possibility for local people to voice the meaning heritage has for them. Aim of this study project is to provide the students with the relevant theoretical and practical tools to analyse and evaluate documentary films on heritage, and to create a short documentary film on a specific aspect of built heritage. Content of the study project is an introduction into the history and types of documentary films, filmic means and the interpretation of heritage.

The study project was offered during the summer semester 2013 for the students of the master study programmes Bauen und Erhalten as well as World Heritage Studies by Alexandra Skedzuhn-Safir and Irina Hoppe, filmmaker (Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin).

Several guests were invited to give lectures on their field of expertise:
Iryna Shalaginova on Heritage Interpretation
Thorolf Lipp, German film maker and anthropologist
Lorenzo Tripodi, Italian filmmaker and urban planner: Viewing of his film Dom Novogo Byta, followed by Q&AGuided tour at the rbb (Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg), and talk with Friederike Sittler, trained journalist and director of the department “Church and Religion” at the rbb,

Students worked in groups of two or three people focusing on one specific heritage site and the interpretation of it through documentary film.The groups worked on a wide range of topics: Former diesel power plant in Cottbus; Apothekenmuseum in Cottbus; “Conversion” of the Elias Church in Berlin; Oberbaum Bridge in Berlin; Tacheles in Berlin; St. Nikolaus Church in Cottbus; Teufelsberg in Berlin; Dresden city; Jugendstil buildings in Berlin and Posnan, and the Chinese Garden in Berlin. As an example, you find three of the films made by the students below.

BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg is not liable neither for any of the opinions expressed nor for the contents shown in the documentary films.

The Life of One Bridge

Yekaterina Lukina, Anastasiya Sherbina

The Life of One Bridge is a short documentary film presenting a unique historical monument in Berlin, the Oberbaumbrücke, the bridge connecting the two boroughs of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. It contemplates on the bridge's historical and cultural importance and also explores the connections between the bridge and the city's inhabitants.At first glance, Oberbaumbrücke appears to be an ordinary structure necessary to connect two parts of the city, but the history concealed in its bricks keeps the memory of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. The bridge witnessed prosperity in the late 19th century as well as devastation of World War II. It was closed and served as a checkpoint in separated Berlin and was endowed with a new life starting with its construction to demolition to restoration. But it only slightly lifts its veil impelling the audience to explore more about the monument on their own accord.

The House on the Oranienburger Strasse

Andra Vaida, Fersehteh Sabetian

The film is about the recently closed Tacheles, an over 100 year-old heritage building in Berlin Mitte, saved from demolition by artists and turned into a world-famous art centre. Its story is reconstituted from its unique appearance through memories of Berlin's inhabitants, or through the eyes of visitors. The film depicts the last days of the existence of the building as an informal art centre, while people remember its glorious past. In fact, this film wants to show the contradiction of an evacuated place and the stories that live in people's minds.

Tacheles was and still remains the most famous art squat in Berlin and a symbol of what made the German capital famous as well as a place creative people strived to live in. It combined  free artistic expression with an alternative lifestyle.

The 22 year-old history of the Tacheles movement also reveals the somehow tragical story of an over one century-old building complex erected in Berlin's most fancy district, Berlin Mitte. In the late 1990s, it was saved from demolition by a group of East and West German artists who made it famous and helped to put it on the list of protected monuments. Now, after last year’s eviction of the artists, the future of the site remains uncertain.

The present situation of the building calls upon reflection. What is heritage today and for whom? Can a particular use of heritage become heritage as well?

Urban Artitude

Lima Taib, Emil Bakev, Zachary Devlin

The documentary film about the Teufelsberg  focuses on art. The collection of individual shots of graffiti provide an insight of the "Urban Artitude" of the place, which in its rich history functioned also as a “Field Station Berlin” for the Western Allies during the Cold War. Today, many artistic interventions occur at the site, enriching the structure with yet another historic-artistic layer.