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    30 Years of KINO – German Film: How it all began …

    By Martin Blaney | December 8, 2009

    In 1976, Ron Holloway and Dorothea Moritz made the move from Hamburg to Berlin after Ron was invited by the newly appointed Berlinale festival director Wolf Donner to become a member of the Berlinale selection committee with responsibility for Russia. Ron also played an instrumental role in the setting up of the »German Films« sidebar  which was launched at Donner’s first Berlinale in 1977 at Filmbühne am Steinplatz to spotlight certain types of cinema which had been neglected beforehand. In addition, Dorothea was on the selection committee of the Berlinale’s Kinderfilmfest from 1976 for 19 years. Three years later, in autumn 1979, a new film magazine dedicated to German cinema was born: KINO – German Film.

    How did you come to launch a magazine in English about the German cinema?

    Dorothea: Ron had seen a number of really good German films by people like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Reinhard Hauff and Uwe Brandner, but realised that nobody knew them in America. He went to the late Jochen Wilke at the German Federal Film Board (FFA) to see if they could give support for a German Film Tour. Ron then put the programme together and we needed a catalogue to accompany the Film Tour – and that’s how the first issue of KINO came about.

    Ron: The German Film Tour was the first time we broke the ice with regard to the aesthetics of German cinema in America. We knew that there were about 20-30 arthouses in the States which were all hungry for German films to be shown in subtitled prints! The first issue was dedicated to Lotte Eisner and that was very important because she was a great supporter of Werner Herzog who was also one of my favourites.

    The FFA supported three Film Tours – in autumn 1979, spring 1980 and summer 1980 – along with the costs for the publication of the first three KINOs. However, an essay by the American film academic Eric Rentschler about the wave of literary adaptations in the New German Cinema in KINO issue No. 3 unexpectedly resulted in the FFA pulling the plug on the continuation of the Film Tour or any further funding for KINO.

    Ron: But the Goethe Institut was keen to keep the magazine going through their system. It became something of a cause celèbre  at the time because the Goethe Institutes weren’t really supposed to be supporting films as such. Interestingly, though, there were different Goethe Institutes that liked different films: we had places that liked Niklaus Schilling’s films and others were fans of Lothar Lambert’s work, and their film programmers were the ideal address for our magazine along with other subscribers at film institutes and university libraries throughout Europe and the United States.

    After the third KINO issue, KINO remained independent of any support from government or cultural funds and held true to own particular editorial line with an unwavering focus on German film.

    Dorothea: The idea was always to help the German film. Naturally, there were films over the years which were not so good, but then we didn’t write about them. If the filmmaker came to me and complained: »Dorothea, you haven’t written anything about my film«, I’d reply with a little white lie and say that I hadn’t seen it! After the end of the FFA’s support, we kept on financing the magazine out of our own pockets, but, at some point, our good friend, the late producer Manfred Durniok, said »You can’t carry on like this. You need to get some advertising.« He  contacted Thomas Geyer [then of Geyer-Werke] to take an advertisement and, between them, they helped contribute towards the production costs.

    Initially, the magazine appeared four times a year, but eventually, Ron and Dorothea concentrated on two issues per year: for the Berlinale and the Cannes Film Festival. Moreover, from the 1987 Berlinale onwards, the magazine’s title was expanded to KINO  – German Film & International Reports to feature international film festivals which had programmed German films in their competition sections or sidebars.

    Dorothea: That was my idea to change the title. We received so many invitations from international festivals that we thought it only right to write a few sentences about them as well. But this was just an addition – the focus of the magazine remained on the German cinema.

    Was KINO already reporting about the East German filmmakers before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989?

    Ron: Yes, I was a great supporter of Konrad Wolf and had helped organise a retrospective of his work at  the Berlinale in 1977. Frank Beyer was another favourite of mine because of the human aspect of his films – he wasn’t political at all. And I also followed the films of people like Heiner Carow and Rainer Simon. Many of them had trouble within their groups to get their films to film festivals so I would try my best to help. If I could get three invitations to international festivals, then they could get their films out. That was one of the conditions. There were also people in the GDR like Ingrid Poss, the writer of such books as Spur der Steine and Der ungeteilte HImmel, who knew Russian cinema inside out. And so we became a kind of bridge to people like Larisa Shepitko and Elem Klimov. I soon discovered that they also had difficulties inside their own country. But if they received enough invitations to festivals, they would be able to get their films out to be seen abroad.

    Do you have any favourites among the young generation of filmmakers?

    Ron: I have always had a high regard for Christian Petzold, Tom Tykwer, Andreas Dresen, Romuald Karmakar, and Hans-Christian Schmid. And Andres Veiel with Black Box BRD was outstanding. In a way, I was surprised that other writers didn’t write so euphorically about these directors.

    At the 2007 Berlinale, Ron and Dorothea were awarded the Berlinale Kamera, an honour which has been presented by the festival since 1986 to film personalities or institutions to whom it feels especially attached. The presentation by festival director Dieter Kosslick was followed by a screening of Ron’s 1994 documentary
    Parajanov – A Requiem.

    What has been the highlight for you in these 30 years?

    Dorothea: Through these thirty years of working on KINO we have both had the privilege of getting to know some wonderful people. Manfred Durniok and Thomas Geyer were so important for us as was Jochen Wilke at the beginning. One should also not forget Frau Edelgard Schatz who had been responsible for selecting films for Lufthansa in Frankfurt, and then, of course, there are our printers Lutz Jenke and his team at Oktoberdruck who have remained faithful to us over the years.

    Ron: There were some real magical moments. I remember Satyajit Ray came up to me and said: »You know, you write very well about Indian films. Can you come to India?« It turned out later that Ray was a great admirer of German film classics – he knew them backwards – so we spent a whole day just talking about these favourite films. He said that they were the foundation of his artistic life. Another avid reader of KINO from India, the director Mrinal Sen was a great fan of Dorothea’s films and invited her to come to New Dehli to present them in person. And Jochen Coldewey of nordmedia has always been a great supporter of the magazine. He once told Dorothea: »The reason I give you an ad is because I see you at receptions and festivals handing the latest issue out personally to the right people!«

    Interview by Martin Blaney on October 8, 2009

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