Cultural film

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From 1918 to 1945, popular science documentaries , which were mostly shown in cinemas as a supplement to the main film , were primarily designated as cultural films . These were to educational films on various subjects such as science, medicine, art, culture, geography, history, but also educational films . In the 1920s, the term was in part even broader and also included film adaptations of classic materials. In addition, the cultural film also included propaganda films and became part of the National Socialist film policy .


The development of the genre was promoted by Ufa , which set up a cultural film department on July 1, 1918, after the German Reich had made the establishment of a cultural department in addition to feature film production a requirement. Some of the most important contemporary artists found employment here: B. George Grosz , John Heartfield , Viking Eggeling , Hans Richter , Walter Ruttmann , Nicholas Kaufmann , Martin Rikli , Svend Noldan , Wilfried Basse and Hans Cürlis , some of whom later made careers as directors of National Socialist propaganda films.

The majority of cultural films were short to medium-length, and it was not until 1924 that individual cultural films of full length were produced.

In National Socialism

During National Socialism , the genre was used to spread the biological Nazi ideology, but only in individual cases for open propaganda . Since the weekly newsreels, which were required as a supplement to the cinema, became longer and longer during the war, public interest in cultural films with non-political topics increased from September 1940 onwards. SS reports show that Sunday cultural film matinees soon assumed the function of a substitute church.

On August 1, 1940, the Deutsche Kulturfilm-Zentrale was set up by order of the Reichsfilmintendanten and with significant participation of Ufa . The headquarters, which was directly subordinate to the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda , Joseph Goebbels , was intended to enable greater control of the production of cultural films, which until now had mostly been carried out by smaller companies. From August 18, 1943, cultural films were only produced by Ufa . In August 1944, most of the employees in the Ufa cultural film department were sent to the front, but the cultural film production continued with fewer staff until the end of the war.

Film samples


(in chronological order)

  • Ursula von Keitz, Kay Hoffmann (ed.): The practice of the documentary gaze. Fiction film and non fiction film between claims to truth and expressive objectivity 1895–1945. (= Writings of the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Society. Volume 7). Schüren, Marburg 2001, ISBN 978-3-89472-328-6 .
  • Reiner Ziegler: Art and Architecture in Cultural Films 1919–1945. UVK, Konstanz 2003, ISBN 978-3-89669-417-1 .
  • Ulrich Döge: Cultural film as a task. Hans Cürlis (1889-1982). (= Filmblatt-Schriften. Volume 4). CineGraph Babelsberg, Potsdam 2005, ISBN 978-3-936774-04-7 .
  • Peter Zimmermann (Hrsg.): History of the documentary film in Germany. 3 volumes. Reclam, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-15-030031-2 .
  • Ramón Reichert (ed.): Cultural film in the "Third Reich". Synema, Vienna 2006, ISBN 978-3-901644-14-6 .
  • Thomas Bräutigam: Classics of the German-language documentary film. Schüren, Marburg 2019, ISBN 978-3-7410-0322-6 , pp. 11-13.

Web links

Wiktionary: Kulturfilm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations