The Filmverlag der Autoren collective of independent film-makers
Cradle of the New German Cinema

In the early 1970s, several German film-makers, including Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, caused a sensation abroad, and especially in France, with particularly original author movies. Thus was born the “New German Cinema”. The essential impetus to this revival came from the Filmverlag der Autoren, a collective of independent film-makers bringing together 13 film-makers rebelling against the older generation of big cinema producers from West- Germany. Their purpose was to produce movies independently and with self-determined working conditions: “We, signatories of this collective, wish to share the production means of our future films, to renounce our profits as producers and to divide the income of each film according to their takings between members and owners.” Wim Wenders, Uwe Brandner, Michael Fengler, Peter Lilienthal, Thomas Schamoni, Laurens Straub and many others ranked among initial members. With 30.000 marks as share capital, they set up a cooperative that followed a film from its very first sparks to its showing in movie theatres. The collective’s activities covered many fields: readings, production, financing, making of contracts, collection of payments, and even national and international distribution. Their beginnings were crowned with success. Although the first movies produced – Fassbinder’s Les larmes amères de Petra Von Kant, Herzog’s Aguirre, Colère de Dieu, and Wenders’ Alice dans les villes – hardly covered production costs, they were well received by critics abroad. The collective really achieved international recognition when Fassbinder’s Tous les autres s’appellent Ali (Angst essen seele auf) won the Prix de la Critique at the 1974 Cannes Festival. But this tour de force also marked the beginning of the end of the project. Once the collective became a limited liability company, some film-makers didn’t accept to receive only tiny bits from their movies’ profits any more. Editor of weekly news magazine Der Spiegel Rudolf Augstein saved the Filmverlag from bankruptcy by acquiring 55% of the company’s shares. In the meantime, apart from a few political films like L’Allemagne en automne, the production company moved towards clearly more commercial cinema. When the editor left in 1986, the Filmverlag almost withdrew from production and reoriented its activities towards the distribution of its films, which had become classics. Today, the company still exists as a subsidiary to Kinowelt.
In fact, the most creative period of Filmverlag der Autoren was already about to end in the late 1970s, the period our programming focuses on.
In their documentary Contrechamps - La rébellion des cinéastes (Reverse Angle – Rebellion of the Filmmakers, 2008), Dominik Wessely and Laurent Straub, a cofounder of the Filmverlag now departed, explain to viewers the rise and fall of this collective of authors. Other cofounder Thomas Schamoni drew his inspiration from a poem by Arthur Rimbaud to shoot a wild independent movie, Le grand oiseau gris bleu (A Big Grey-Blue Bird, 1970). In his short film L’Allemagne en automne (Germany in Autumn, 1977), Fassbinder expresses in an extremely personal way his despair over the political situation of federal Germany then.

Andrea Wenzek

Dominik Wessely et Laurens Straub
Allemagne, 2008, 121’



R.W. Fassbinder, A. Brustellin, A. Kluge, M. Mainka, E. Reitz, K. Rupé,
H.P. Cloos, V. Schlöndorff, B. Sinkel, P. Schubert, B. Mainka-Jellinghaus
Allemagne, 1978, 124’


Thomas Schamoni
Allemagne, 1971, 95’


























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