Look at This City

(Schaut auf diese Stadt)

GDR, 1962, 85 min, B&W
In German; English subtitles
Credits:
Director
Editor
Camera
Music (Score)
Narrator

Synopsis

Fast-paced montages represent West Berlin as the frontline of neo-fascism, terrorism and neo-colonialism, against which the peaceful city of East Berlin requires an “antifascist defense.” A strikingly modernist propaganda piece, it uses rare authentic images and newsreels from both sides to justify the erection of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961.

Commentary

Made at the behest of those responsible for GDR propaganda, Gass’s trademark rapid editing and montage create a seamless, if skewed rendition of the post-WWII history of Berlin. Notably absent, for example, are the Berlin Blockade and Airlift of 1948-49 – that gave rise to the impassioned speech of West Berlin Mayor Ernst Reuter, from which the documentary’s title is taken. The film features the caustic text of journalist and propagandist Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, later a commentator on East German television and host of the agitation program "The Black Channel."

Awards

2016 Retrospective, Locarno International Film Festival

 

Press comments

“Today, Look at this City remains a provocative and informative time capsule from the Cold War.”
— Northwest Film Forum, Seattle

 

“A propaganda film using archive and newsreel footage to explore the reasons why the German Democratic Republic erected the Berlin Wall in August 1961.”
— British Film Institute

 

“The most intriguing work of Wall-era propaganda…. No other film so overtly helps us to understand the mindset of its builders and their times.”
— National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

 

“Gass’ most polemical, not to mention hateful work…”
— Hans-Jörg Rother, Schwarzweiß und Farbe

 

“Karl Gass was one of the most important propagandists for East Germany … and one of the most significant and controversial East German filmmakers.”
Spiegel online

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