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The Willy Haas Award is presented annually as part of cinefestto honor important international publications (book and DVD/Blu-ray) on German-language film.

The jury nominated five candidates per category for the prize from the new publications of the last 24 months. The final winner was announced at the opening of the 34th International Film History Congress on Thursday 18 November 2021.

Each winner received a certificate and an original graphic by the artist and filmmaker Franz Winzentsen.

Category book
category DVD/Blu-ray
Honourable mention

Jury 2021:

  • Christiane Habich (Kronberg)
  • Oliver Hanley (Potsdam)
  • Uli Jung (Trier)
  • Günter Krenn (Vienna)
  • Claudia Lenssen (Berlin)

Winner of the Willy Haas Award, Category Books:

Comment of the Jury:

Cinematographers played a key creative role in Weimar cinema, yet their work has often been criminally neglected by film historians. In his book, Axel Block analyzes the work of five Weimar-era cinematographers with respect to two films from their respective oeuvres, contrasting in each case a film by Fritz Lang with a film by another director. In so doing, Block is able to elaborate both on Lang’s style as well as the aesthetic influence Lang’s cinematographers had on him. A cinematographer himself, Block takes an in-depth, expert look at selected sequences from the specific films and offers new insights into the visual design of several classics of Weimar cinema. Of great interest, moreover, are the indications of how the introduction of sound in cinema also marked the beginning of the search for a new visual language. In an age in which the importance of the image is increasingly sidelined in favor of narrative, Block’s book comes as a breath of fresh air by emphasizing the narrative power of expressive visuals. Axel Block thus plugs a significant gap, and his book will hopefully inspire further research.

The following books were also shortlisted for the award:

Comment of the Jury:

Following Ralf Forster’s Greif zur Kamera, gib der Freizeit einen Sinn. Amateurfilm in der DDR (nominated for the Willy Haas Award in 2019), media studies scholar Dennis Basaldella has now made another important contribution to the reappraisal of East German film history beyond DEFA, shedding light on a comparatively unknown side of the film industry in the GDR. The 348-page monograph, which stems from the author’s PhD dissertation at the University of Hamburg, focuses on the individual Horst Klein (1920-1994), whose career as a »freelance filmmaker« in the GDR seems both typical and atypical. In this micro-study, Klein’s career stands in for an entire profession that has hitherto been largely neglected by researchers. In his detailed investigation and meticulous (re)construction of Klein’s life and work, the author conducted, for the first time, a thorough, systematic, and scholarly analysis of a unique source: Horst Klein’s personal estate preserved at Filmmuseum Potsdam. A commendable effort.

Begeisterte Zuschauer: Die Macht des Kinopublikums in der NS-Diktatur

by Joseph Garncarz. Cologne: Herbert von Halem 2020.

Comment of the Jury:

For Joseph Garncarz, the question of the preferences of cinema-going audiences in Nazi Germany is essential for a better understanding of Germany’s (film) history during the Third Reich. To tackle this question, Garncarz has analyzed a multitude of statistics pertaining to films screened between 1938 and 1945 and come to the astonishing (and no less controversial) conclusion that public taste would have had an influence on the film market during this period. The author first surprises the reader with a very personal family history detailed at the outset of his book. He then proceeds to examine the audience reception of Nazi German film production in Berlin cinemas using the POPSTAT method developed by the British economist John Sedgwick. This investigation is supplemented with a look at U.S. films of the time as well as a chapter on post-war re-release screenings of Nazi German productions

Comment of the Jury:

In her richly researched PhD dissertation Johanne Hoppe investigates the post-war fate of the films produced during the Third Reich. She looks at how the allied powers dealt with the Nazi film heritage; its (inadequate) reappraisal in the FRG and the role of the FSK. A particularly interesting chapter is devoted to how the Nazi film heritage was dealt with in the GDR, which stands in marked contrast to the West German approach. The allied powers banned numerous films (up to 385 at one point) for their glorification of National Socialism, racist content, or anti-allied propaganda among other reasons. In most cases the films were censored, only a few were banned outright. A mere few years after the end of the Second World War, many of the feature films made in Nazi Germany were screened again in West German cinemas. Both the allied powers and the responsible German institutions were driven by economic interests. This is particularly evident in the exploitation of Nazi films in cinemas then later television and on VHS and DVD, both within Germany and abroad. A historical-critical reappraisal of the Nazi German films has fallen by the wayside, not least since the banned films mostly only survive in the post-war censored versions. Demands made as far back as 1977 that the films be restored to their original uncut state unfortunately were ignored. In her conclusion, the author proposes tracing the history of the versions that resulted from post-war censorship requirements, which would indeed be a desirable undertaking.

Kino Welt Wien. Eine Kulturgeschichte städtischer Traumorte. Katalog zur Ausstellung

Edited by Martina Zerovnik. Vienna: Filmarchiv Austria 2020

Comment of the Jury:

»You didn’t go to certain movies, you went to the movies« was an attitude that shaped urban culture for more than a century. Kino Welt Wien, the richly illustrated companion volume to an exhibition that ran at the Metro Kinokulturhaus in Vienna until January 2021, embarks on a journey through the often barely visible traces of this everyday leisure activity which for so long was taken for granted. Featuring a wealth of fascinating photographs and documents, and with a street map enclosed, the catalog charts the large number of now defunct cinemas in Vienna, providing vivid insights into the diverse range of architectural and interior design styles as well as the seductive language of their neon signs that once characterized the cityscape. The essays vividly reflect the periods of economic and cultural-political development of Vienna’s cinematic landscape, including its historical annexation by Nazi Germany. This informative trip through time forms an enchanting monument to the cinema as a social setting »between dreams and reality«.

Winner of the Willy Haas Award, Category DVD / Blu-ray:

o.k.

Dir: Michael Verhoeven. DVD. Bonus material + Booklet. film & kunst GmbH / Filmmuseum München / Goethe-Institut München 2020
(Edition Filmmuseum 116).

Comment of the Jury:

Michael Verhoeven’s film o.k. caused a scandal when it was presented at the Berlinale in 1970, leading to the premature end of the festival that year. In the wake of this event, the film played only for a brief time in cinemas before suffering an undeserved fate and lapsing into decades-long obscurity. Adapted by Verhoeven from his own stage play, o.k. is based on a true incident from the Vietnam War. A group of soldiers rape and subsequently murder a Vietnamese woman. The director relocates the story to Bavaria and thus into the reality of the (then) contemporary West German audience. Viewed today, the film has lost none of its explosive power. The impressive young cast, which includes Eva Mattes, Friedrich von Thun and Rolf Zacher, performs with a skillful combination of restraint and forcefulness. Film & Kunst GmbH and the Munich Film Museum have now released the film, freshly restored in 2K from the camera negative, in an excellent DVD edition in the “Edition Filmmuseum” series. The extra features include an extensive filmed conversation between director Verhoeven and producer Rob Houwer, as well as Verhoeven’s equally rare short film Tische(Tables, 1969). In the informative booklet, Stefan Drößler recounts in detail the history of the Berlinale scandal as well as the legal disputes with Warner Bros. that hindered the film’s theatrical release.

The following books were also shortlisted for the award:

Chicago - Weltstadt in Flegeljahren

Dir: Heinrich Hauser. DVD and Blu-ray. Bonus material.
Absolut Medien 2020.

Comment of the Jury:

The separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of Chicago – Weltstadt in Flegeljahren celebrate the rediscovery of an outstanding historical portrait of the eponymous city. All but forgotten today, the adventurer and cosmopolitan, writer, photographer and filmmaker Heinrich Hauser immersed himself as an unbiased tourist in the vibrant life of America’s second largest metropolis in 1931. His gripping impressions of the speed and density of urban traffic, the seemingly futuristic grandiose high-rise architecture, the ultra-modern standard of engineered industrial processes, and the extreme disparity between rich and poor as seen on the streets of the working-class city easily rival the more famous »city symphonies« of the silent era. Hauser’s visual sense for the city’s jazzy rhythm together with the recorded passages from his travel diary as well as Andy Klein’s newly composed, subtly scored soundtrack make the restored version of his unjustly barely known film a veritable experience.

Deadlock - 50 Jahre Jubiläums-Edition

Dir: Roland Klick. Blu-ray. Bonus material + Booklet, restored version. Subkultur 2021.

Comment of the Jury:

With the latest release in its »Edition Deutsche Vita« series, the Subkultur Entertainment label has surpassed even its own high quality standards; an all the more remarkable achievement considering how many exemplary editions have already emerged from the label. That a number of these have met with acclaim from the Willy Haas Award juries in the past only serves as proof of this fact. In this 50th anniversary edition of Deadlock, Roland Klick’s spaghetti western alla tedesca is presented for the first time in 4K Ultra HD format as well as on Blu-ray in a breathtaking new digital transfer. On both discs, the main feature is complemented by the now customary plethora of extras, some of which are available here for the first time (such as the various alternate versions of the opening credits and the film’s ending). The classy cardboard packaging with its striking black and red design also houses a hardback photo-book featuring glossy black and white behind-the-scenes stills from Filmmuseum Düsseldorf’s archival collections. Even though Klick’s cult film already appeared in a high-quality DVD edition back in 2014, one gets the feeling of experiencing the film as if for the very first time in this impressive new edition.

Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt?

Dir: Slatan Dudow. Mediabook with DVD and Blu-ray, Booklet.
Atlas-Film 2020.

Comment of the Jury:

Pigeonholed by many as the »only unambiguously communist film of the Weimar Republic«, Kuhle Wampe remains one of the most cited productions of that era. The 2020 restoration by the Deutsche Kinemathek, the British Film Institute National Archive, the Cinémathèque Suisse and Praesens-Film appears for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray in this mediabook release from Atlas-Film. The picture and sound quality have been vastly improved compared to previous versions, and the accompanying booklet includes contemporary statements by Rudolf Arnheim, Bertolt Brecht, Herbert Jhering, and Georg Höllering, as well as the film’s censorship record issued by the Filmprüfstelle Berlin. Such a film, the Prüfstelle warned in 1932, would »shake the very foundations of the state« and must be diminished to such an extent that »any state-threatening or immoral effects are no longer to be feared.«

Opium

Dir: Robert Reinert. DVD. Bonus material + Booklet. film & kunst GmbH / Filmmuseum München / Filmmuseum Düsseldorf
(Edition Filmmuseum 117).

Comment of the Jury:

For a long time, Robert Reinert’s film Opium (1919) was available only in incomplete and poor quality copies. In 2018, the film museums in Munich and Düsseldorf succeeded in carrying out a reconstruction from three nitrate film elements that not only reproduces the original color tints and intertitles in different visual styles, but also comes close to restoring the censorship length. The restored version forms the core of this DVD edition, which also includes some scene comparisons and an accompanying booklet containing a biography of the director as well as contemporary reviews and an early text by Reinert. The set also features rare surviving fragments of Reinert’s otherwise lost two-part monumental film Sterbende Völker (1922). Now another key work from the surviving remains of the oeuvre of the once famous, now largely forgotten filmmaker Robert Reinert is once again available in an exemplary edition. This release serves as a welcome addition to Filmmuseum München’s existing DVD release of Reinert’s subsequent film Nerven (1919), nominated for the Willy Haas Prize in 2009.

The following title receives an Honorable Mention by the jury:

Comment of the Jury:

As popular entertainment venues, wax museums were an important precursor to the cinema and, perhaps unsurprisingly, both an influence on and subject in early cinema at the turn of the century. This is especially true of Castan’s Panoptikum in Berlin, which was filmed by Lumière cameramen as early as 1896. This detailed account of the history of Castan’s business enterprise is the result of years of painstaking research conducted in numerous archives and, in light of its opulent layout, represents an impressive feat of publishing.

Willy Haas-Preise 2020

Jury members 2020:

  • Peter Bossen (Hamburg)
  • Christiane Habich (Kronberg)
  • Oliver Hanley (Potsdam)
  • Uli Jung (Trier)
  • Thomas Worschech (Frankfurt)

The jury has nominated five candidates for the category Book and DVD/Blu-rayfrom new publications of the last 24 months. The winners were announced at the opening of the 33rd International Film History Conference which was held online on Thursday, November 19, 2020.

The winners were each awarded a framed certificate which features an original design by artist and filmmaker Franz Winzentsen.

Winner of the Willy Haas Award, Category Books:

Unerwünschtes Kino: Deutschsprachige Emigrantenfilme 1934-1937

by Armin Loacker. Vienna: Filmarchiv Austria 2019.

Comment of the Jury:

Working conditions for Jewish filmmakers and actors had already become severely restricted in Germany when the Austrian film industry began conducting its endeavors in line with the German Reichsfilmkammer in order to gain access to the German film market from 1933 on. The resulting modestly scaled local film production was capable of recouping its costs in Austria and, up to the outbreak of the Second World War, in a small number of Eastern European countries. It also managed to provide work and a modest income for Jewish artists and performers. In his book, Armin Loacker meticulously retraces this context and provides detailed biographical information on the key players. The commendable and insightful historical research is embellished by numerous lavish, high-quality illustrations. Es entstand eine kleine Produktion, deren Amortisierung nur in Österreich und – bis Kriegsbeginn – in einigen osteuropäischen Ländern erreicht werden musste, aber jüdischen Filmkünstlern ein immerhin bescheidenes Einkommen sichern konnte. Armin Loacker zeichnet diesen Zusammenhang minutiös nach und gibt darüber hinaus detaillierte biografische Informationen über wichtige Beteiligte. Eine verdienstvolle und aufschlussreiche filmhistorische Forschungsarbeit, die in der Publikation mit zahlreichen vorzüglich reproduzierten Abbildungen garniert ist.

The following books were also shortlisted for the award:

Maximilian Schell

Edited by Isabelle Louise Bastian, Hans-Peter Reichmann. Frankfurt: DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum (Verlag) 2019.

Comment of the Jury:

As a companion piece to its exhibition devoted to actor-director Maximilian Schell, the DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum in Frankfurt has published this magnificent volume filled with informative essays that illuminate various aspects of this multifaceted artist: his career as an actor of stage and screen, his work as a director, his documentary about Marlene Dietrich. Readers become acquainted with Schnell the art collector, the family man (who once devoted a filmic portrait to his sister Maria), and the translator. The latter is exemplified by a fascinating essay, written on the occasion of a performance of “Hamlet” at the Deutsches Theater, that deals with Schlegel’s translation of Shakespeare’s play and thus provides a unique glimpse into the actor’s artistic process. The texts are supplemented by a wide selection of exquisitely reproduced photographs and documents, including letters from Marlene Dietrich and Schell himself. The book is crowned by a short biography as well as extensive data on Schell’s work for film and theater. Ergänzt werden die Texte durch eine große Auswahl hervorragend gedruckter Fotos und Faksimiles u.a. von Briefen von Marlene Dietrich und Schell. Eine Kurzbiografie sowie filmografische und theatrografische Daten und ein Register runden das Buch ab.

Comment of the Jury:

Mariana Ivanova, a Germanist and film scholar from Bulgaria, long resident in the USA, has repeatedly dealt with the work of the state-run East German film production company, DEFA, both in her writings as well as in a series of video documentaries. In doing so, she has made a significant contribution to the dissemination of DEFA history and its reassessment outside the German-speaking world. With her English-language monograph Mit ihrer 2019 bei Berghahn erschienenen englischsprachigen Monografie »Cinema of Collaboration. DEFA Coproductions and International Exchange in Cold War Europe« , published by Berghahn in 2019, the author has turned her attention to DEFA’s international cooperation with production companies in both Eastern and Western countries. For her extensive and impressive research, Ivanova has drawn on a range of relevant sources from public and private archives, many of which she has managed to bring to light for the first time. The result is a thoroughly engaging 292-page tome on a little-known page of DEFA’s history that can be appreciated by DEFA aficionados and novices alike, and which testifies as to why Ivanova specifically was chosen to head the renowned DEFA Film Library at the University of Amherst in 2019.

Eberhard Fechner. Chronist des Alltäglichen

Edited by Torsten Musial, Rolf Aurich. Munich: et+k 2019.

Comment of the Jury:

Eberhard Fechner’s (1927-1992) feature films and documentaries rank among the most outstanding to emerge from West German television between the 1960s and the 1980s. Initially a theater actor, Fechner started appearing in feature films from 1955. Later he became one of the most important documentary filmmakers to work in West German television, with audience figures in the millions. His most significant work, Der Prozess(1984), a three-part documentary on the Majdanek trials in Düsseldorf, was the end-result of over eight years of research. This volume, edited by Rolf Aurich and Torsten Musial, draws for the first time on Eberhard Fechner’s estate, preserved at the Berlin Academy of Arts. The informative contributions explore the various facets of Fechner’s work, including his unrealized projects. A meticulously researched chronicle, an extensive catalog raisonné and carefully selected, high-quality illustrations round off this engaging publication on the artistic oeuvre of Eberhard Fechner.

Konrad Wolf: Chronist im Jahrhundert der Extreme

by Antje Vollmer, Hans-Eckardt Wenzel. Berlin: Die Andere Bibliothek 2019.

Comment of the Jury:

Extensive historical sources and interviews with contemporary witnesses provide the fundament for this biography of the most important East German film director and long-time president of the Academy of Arts of the GDR. Far more than a mere retelling of Konrad Wolf’s life story, the book also thoroughly examines his family background, especially the influence of his father, as well as the many contemporary historical events and upheavals he lived through. The authors, West German politician Antje Vollmer and East German singer-songwriter Hans-Eckardt Wenzel, take the liberty to recount the life stories of the “supporting players” in Wolf’s biographical narrative and do not shy away from speculations and pathos. As a result, they succeed in getting very close to the person behind the name Konrad Wolf, especially his (supposed) contradictions and inner conflict. Less preoccupied with Wolf’s work as a filmmaker, the authors are rather more interested in presenting his biography as exemplary for a specific historical period, something they have succeeded in doing superbly. A highlight of biographical literature. 

Winner of the Willy Haas Award, Category DVD / Blu-ray:

Peter Lilienthal Archiv 1

Directed by: Peter Lilienthal. DVD. Digital remastered.Booklet + Extras. Von Vietinghoff Filmproduktion / Lighthouse Home Entertainment 2019.

Comment of the Jury:

The extensive oeuvre of 90-year-old filmmaker Peter Lilienthal spans a period of 50 years. Once a core part of the New German Cinema, his films are now difficult to access and have largely disappeared from cinema and television screens. This compact 4-disc DVD set, supervised by producer Joachim von Vietinghoff, includes three award-winning feature films: David (1979, FRG), Dear Mr. Wonderful(1981/82, FRG),Das Autogramm / L’Autographe (1983/84, FRG/FR). The bonus documentary by Johannes Kagerer is drawn from an extended interview with Lilienthal that not only provides detailed insight into the filmmaker’s life and work but also the historical circumstances through which he has lived. The set also includes a booklet featuring an essay by German film historian Michael Töteberg and production notes by Johannes Kagerer. A significant work, which will hopefully see a follow-up.

The following DVDs / Blu-rays were also shortlisted for the award:

Berliner Ballade

Directed by: Robert A. Stemmle. Digitally restored, Booklet + Extras. DVD / Blu-ray. Filmjuwelen 2020.

Comment of the Jury:

Based on a cabaret by Günter Neumann, Robert A. Stemmle directed this post-war satire starring an emaciated Gert Fröbe as the proverbial average German, Otto Normalverbraucher, in 1948. The restoration, initiated by the Günter Neumann Foundation and carried out at Studio Hamburg, treats the film with deserving respect, forgoing overly aggressive cleaning in favor of leaving the historical look of the film material intact. The result is impressive and in no way compromises the viewing pleasure, as one might have otherwise expected. The extra features include an informative feature-length documentary, produced especially for this edition, that provides detailed information about author Günter Neumann and director R. A. Stemmle, and compares Berlin in ruin as depicted in the film with the city as it looks today. Also included are a featurette on the restoration, a short interview with Fröbe from 1985 and a booklet. All in all, an accomplished edition of one of the most important German “rubble films”. 

Die Büchse der Pandora

Directed by: Georg Wilhelm Pabst. DVD & Blu-ray. Mediabook, restored version. Booklet + Extras. Atlas-Film 2019.

Comment of the Jury:

Die Büchse der Pandora, restored in 2009, is the most famous silent film from director G. W. Pabst, starring Louise Brooks. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray with a score composed by Peer Raben for ZDF/ARTE. Robert Fischer’s informative documentary Der Schatten meines Vaters: Michael Pabst über G. W. Pabsts Die Büchse der Pandora is included as a bonus feature. The 24-page accompanying booklet contains Martin Koerber’s restoration report, a write-up of a revival screening and a wide selection of contemporary reviews. Three postcards featuring different poster designs make a nice addition. This high-quality, informative and carefully compiled mediabook edition of the restored version of the film appears in the Nero Film series from Atlas-Film. Other German film classics have already been published in equally lavish and lovingly crafted editions, including Pabst’s Westfront 1918, Fritz Lang’s Das Testament Des Dr. Mabuse and Robert Siodmak’s 1930 classic of “New Objectivity” Menschen am Sonntag

Frankfurt Kaiserstraße

Directed by: Roger Fritz. DVD & Blu-ray. Booklet + Extras. Subkultur 2019.

Comment of the Jury:

The “Edition Deutsche Vita” label has come to stand for consistently high-quality, lovingly produced and luxurious editions of West German genre films previously unavailable in DVD or Blu-ray format or available only in mediocre editions. This new release of director Roger Fritz’s cinematic swansong, Frankfurt Kaiserstrasse(1981), stands out among the most recent entries in the series, which now comprises 13 individual titles. In addition to the impeccable digital presentation of the main feature (available in both Blu-ray and DVD formats) and the extensive bonus material – which includes new video interviews with Fritz and leading actor Dave Balko, a recording of a live discussion with actor Hanno Pöschl from 2019, an image gallery and trailers – the package includes a 16-page booklet with an essay by Frankfurt-based cinéphile Gary Vanisian as well as a full reproduction of the 2nd version of Georg Ensor’s original screenplay (as a hardback!) and a brochure of glossy black and white photographs of Balko from the shooting.

Das Wachsfigurenkabinett

Directed by: Paul Leni. Restored Version, Booklet + Bonusfilm. DVD / Blu-ray. absolut Medien 2020.

Comment of the Jury:

Thedifferent stories centered on the characters of Harun al Raschid, Ivan the Terrible and Jack the Ripper are told with great accomplishment, visual sophistication and the biggest film stars of the time (Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauß). Unfortunately, the original negative perished in a fire in 1925, and the film has survived only in the form of vintage prints. The new restoration drew mainly on a print from the British Film Institute and as such has English intertitles. The German titles have not survived. The Deutsche Kinemathek and the Cineteca di Bologna have now digitized and extensively restored the film, reproducing the color tinting of the British source print. The DVD and Blu-ray edition features a new score composed by Bernd Schultheis, Olav Lervik and Jan Kohl as well as an alternative piano soundtrack from Richard Siedhoff which does justice to the film in every respect. At the beginning of the surviving fragment of the documentary Der Film im Film (1923/24), included here as an extra, Paul Leni and Conrad Veidt can be seen briefly during the shooting of Wachsfigurenkabinett. The same fragment also includes footage of other silent film greats at work including directors Fritz Lang, E. A. Dupont and Hanns Schwarz. A booklet featuring contemporary reviews and an article about the restoration completes the edition.

The Willy Haas Prize is awarded annually as part of the cinefest– International Festival of German Film Heritage to honor important international publications (book and DVD/Blu-ray) on German-language film.

Previous winners (Link leads to old website)


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