Long ago, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall unified Germany, the country was divided politically and culturally. Most westerners demonized East Germany because of its communist ideology, but in How to Live in the ...展开German Federal Republic, avant-garde filmmaker Harun Farocki sharply dissected life in West Germany with his camera and his rapier wit.
Composed entirely of 32 short scenes take from instructional and training classes, Farocki's film revealed West Germany as a country where nothing happened without rehearsal, training, or preparation. In the film, women are shown training for childbirth, policemen learn how to make an arrest, strippers get tips on taking off their clothes, and bank employees learn how to calm angry customers.
At times funny, at times alarming, How to Live in the German Federal Republic shows us that modern life itself is
About the Filmmaker: Harun Farocki
"It is not a matter of what is in a picture, but rather, of what lies behind. Nonetheless, one shows a picture as proof of something which cannot be proven by a picture."
Ever since film critic Louis Skorecki opened an article with "Who Is Farocki?" in Cahiers du Cinéma in the late 1970s, some of the world's leading critics, filmmakers, and cinephiles have been fascinated with Harun Farocki. More of a film essayist than documentarian, Farocki has used the film medium to explore the nature of image-making and the institutions that make and circulate images. Because he avoids the smooth, easy-to-follow, voice-of-authority style of documentary, his work defies what most Americans believe a documentary should be.
The son of an Islamic doctor, Farocki was born in 1944 in Novy Jicin (Neutitschein), a part of German annexed Czechoslovakia. He spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and India (his father's birthplace), but he attended school in Germany. Influenced by the French New Wave, Farocki applied to the Deutsche Film und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB) in 1966--the first year it opened. According to the ambitious young director, "That was in the political years when it seemed that totally new things would be possible in cinema. They had happened already in France, and one believed it would happen also in Germany. So we produced political films and had a little 'boom' similar to other political groups... and some made a career out of it this opportunity. We did not make a career out of this opportunity and then we were out of film academy..." Actually, Farocki was "out" of the film academy by 1968, because he was expelled for political reasons.
In 1970, Farocki went to work for German television, at one time contributing to children's programming. There, he learned the practical skills and technical prowess that would help him in the production of his own work. His first project during this period was Die Teilung aller Tage, which he made with Hartmut Bitomsky.
In 1974, he joined the editorial board of the film journal Filmkritik, often contributing articles on important filmmakers. The journal collapsed in the mid-1980s. Farocki also dabbled in theater, co-staging Heiner Muller's plays The Battle and Tractor with Hanns Zischler, and he continued to collaborate with other film directors, serving as scriptwriter, actor, and producer.
After teaching posts in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Manila, Munich, and Stuttgart Farocki took up a visiting professorship at the University of California, Berkeley from 1993 to 1999. Since then, Farocki has taught at other universities around the world. In 2004, he began teaching as a visiting professor at the Academie fur Bildende Kunste in Vienna.
Farocki has made around 90 films, including three feature films, a variety of essay films and some documentaries. Since 1990, he has also participated in numerous exhibitions and video installations in well-known art galleries and museums. His work shares in common an intellectual yet inquisitive interest in the nature of images-not only their formal qualities but the socio-political implications behind them. Images are turned over, re-examined, re-edited, and re-viewed in order to see them anew. As Farocki himself notes, "It is not a matter of what is in a picture, but rather, of what lies behind."