Welcoming Regards


“zurueckinskino.de” (back to the cinema) is the URL of the online platform for ideas from cinemas for cinemas, with tips for creative floor stickers on how to comply with distance rules, how to communicate hygiene rules and how to get micro-influencers involved. However, we see “Back to the Cinema” as a direct invitation and are using this as the motto for the 37th Kassel Dokfest. We would like to encourage all film and cinema enthusiasts. Even during the Corona pandemic, the screening room is a safe place, subject to distance rules, and so far no case of transmission in the context of attending a cinema has been reported.

In his stories about the cinema, the filmmaker and philosopher Alexander Kluge states: “I consider cinema to be immortal and older than cinematography.“ For the writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante,“cinema [is] another word for paradise”. These homages come from a time when a months-long shutdown due to a pandemic was still unthinkable, and the amplification of insecurities by the endless repetition in online and social mediawas not yet possible. The cinema industry is not experiencing its first crisis, but its existence is now fundamentally at risk. The many forms of financial support are sufficient for the time being and ensure its temporary survival. But if the fear of going to the cinema cannot be allayed, then in the long run the cinema as a venue will no longer exist, or as Lars Henrik Gass – Director of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen – puts it: “Film culture will only survive in museums, on the other hand the museum can be a cinema or an online resource.”

The limited cinema space of the Kassel art house cinemas will be augmented online by 300 additional seats per film. The nationwide online platform DokfestStreams will offer the possibility to watch films from home for 6 days after their first presentation in the festival cinema – for an appropriate payment.In one of the numerous zoom discussions of the association Cinephilie, Xavier Henry-Rashid explained the term “FAIRtrade for FILMmakers”, which very aptly describes the attitude of the Kassel Dokfest. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the festival has paid a rental fee for each film in the official program and invites all filmmakers to Kassel for a personal presentation whenever possible. We now have transferred this form of appreciation to the virtual space within DokfestOnline. It is important to us not to “devalue” the filmmakers and their work. For this reason, all films have a watermark burned into them, there is a limited number of digital tickets available, and viewing is restricted to Germany. After us, there will be other festivals that want to show these films, and the distribution of the films should continue to be in the hands of the distributors and rights holders. With DokfestStreams we do not have to reinvent ourselves as a festival, but rather make it possible for all those to participate, who cannot or do not wish to come, or who simply cannot buy a ticket at the box office due to limited space in the cinema.

The industry’s own “Salon – Future of German Film” also looks at the fundamental question from a discourse perspective: Where is the place for documentary films in the age of digital platforms? At first glance, the key visual of the 37th Kassel Dokfest evokes direct associations with the photo “Blue Marble”. This icon was taken in 1972 by the crew of Apollo 17 and was subsequently adopted by numerous environmental movements as a symbol of the vulnerability and uniqueness of our planet. On closer inspection, the object turns out to be a beautiful illusion covered in a “mirror glaze”. This term usually refers to the mirror glaze of cakes and pastries. On the one hand, the resulting mirror glaze symbolizes the pursuit of perfection and integrity, and on the other hand, this surface is rendered immune to any form of criticism or risk. Many opinions and approaches to the management of the Corona pandemic stick to a certain level and ignore, for example, that there are people who do not have a home and therefore cannot be quarantined at home. Or that loneliness is part of the reality of many people and a ban on social contact makes it even more unbearable. The lack of in-depth discussions and more precise analyses fuels fears, can encourage the development of fake news and can ultimately lead to to the confused – often anti-Semitic, right-wing populist and fascist – statements of those who believe in conspiracies.

With the 223 short and feature films presented in this festival, we would like to offer an opportunity to pause, to break through the often reductive patterns of argumentation, to hold up a mirror to them, and to look beneath the surface where things are fermenting. Some of the works – including the exhibition Monitoring – refer directly to the Corona pandemic. The installation TERRARISTA TV is a direct reaction to the Kassel Art School’s yearly exhibition, which could not take place in the summer. The artist Mazen Khaddaj reacts with a dance performance to the empty spaces during his participation in the Pilotenkueche (art program in Leipzig), and the filmmaker Flora Weber chooses as the title of her film the claim circulated in April 2020 that dolphins were again swimming in the canals of Venice because of the absence of tourists. In view of the Corona pandemic, the Kassel Dokfest is moving a part of the festival online, such as the workshop symposium interfiction. The Hessian University Film Day had found sufficient space in the ruruHaus, but is now held online, the DokfestLounge was transformed into the DokfestConnection and ultimately had to go online. The other sections take place in a form adapted to the times: the media art exhibition Monitoring dispenses with the “classical” opening and plays at the KulturBahnhof and the Kunstverein, under the title LOG IN : 17 Years Archives of OK.Video Festival Indonesia, a cooperation with documenta fifteen is taking place at ruruHaus, the presentations of the DokfestForum will propably be streamed parallel to the on-site presentation and for participation in the free open-air event “A Wall is a Screen”, online registration is required in advance. The junges dokfest has repositioned itself and offers, educational material as a download, in addition to the film program and workshops. We are looking forward to encounters and exchange of ideas with the filmmakers and artists who will be present for the personal presentation of their works.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to the numerous sponsors, partners and supporters, as well as the many donors who have supported and made possible the Kassel Dokfest in these difficult times, and to all staff who have mastered the new challenges creatively and with passion within a short time.

Dear visitors, take a close look, don’t let a beautiful appearance fool you. And make sure you also dig deeper under the surface. We wish you and us at the 37th Kassel Dokfest – whether actually present or in the virtual world – many new ideas, interesting encounters and a great time. 

Dear friends of the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival,

The motto for the 37th Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival is “Back to the cinema!” It is an invitation to rediscover and enjoy cultural life during the pandemic. Kassel Dokfest demonstrates how it is possible to enthusiastically and responsibly realize a festival. This, now more than ever, is a relevant feat, at a time that is proving to be a great challenge for the cultural sector, a time when we have missed cultural events which are such an integral part of our collective and individual lives. The organizers have invited filmmakers and artists to come to Kassel to enable encounters and exchange with the public. The additional offer of “DokfestOnline,” available nationwide, is one of the solutions that enables anybody interested to follow the Kassel festival despite corona-related cinema restrictions.

Thus, we are looking forward to this year’s festival program, which once again dedicates itself to relevant current themes and will include the premiere of a film by Raymond Ley about the murdered Kassel President of Government Dr. Walter Lübcke as well as documentation about the Jewish past and present. ENDLICH TACHELES, for example, is a film about a young man who describes himself as the “unjewishest Jew of the world” and tries to overcome the trauma of the generations before him with the help of a computer game he has developed himself. On the other hand, director Sharon Ryba-Kahn, in her graduation film DISPLACED, speaks vividly of her feelings as a Jew in Germany and her relationship to her father, who lives in Israel. As a representative of the grandchild-generation of Holocaust survivors, she doesn’t want to forget. Instead, she attempts to find something like family healing through investigation. These are films that make it clear: forgetting doesn’t help to heal wounds, nor does it prevent a repeating of history.

A special characteristic of the Kassel Dokfest is that regional film and media work is presented. There are 3 installations in the exhibition Monitoring and 29 screen productions from North Hesse to be seen. 15 of the films are competing for the award “Goldener Herkules.” Incidentally, this year’s award ceremony will take place in documenta fifteen’s “ruruHaus.” The video art department of the artist collective ruangrupa, who will be managing the documenta in the year 2022, will present videos and lectures there from the archive of the OK.Video Indonesian Media Art Festival.

Let’s look forward to a special film and media festival which could not have been realized without the strong ties and the partnership-based network in Kassel, North Hesse and the world. Warmest thanks go to the committed organizers and the many sponsors and private supporters who make the festival possible! We wish all visitors – from a safe distance – much joy and inspiration!


Christian Geselle

Lord Mayor of the City of Kassel

Dear friends of the Kassel Dokfest,

Kassel Dokfest is closely linked to the Hesse film scene: every year relevant works are shown by creators of film and media from the state; in the past year, for example, three of the six works nominated in the category short- and documentary film of the Hesse Film and Cinema Prize 2020. Here, in meetings with outstanding professionals from the field, the future of German film is discussed. And for all friends of film, the magic of the big screen is made tangible.

This is particularly the case for younger audiences: with the help of HessenFilm and Media GmbH, junges Dokfest was able to expand their plans for film education in cooperation with schools and youth centers in Hesse this year. With a new team and fresh ideas, accompanying educational material by film educators will be provided this year alongside the specially created film program.

Kassel Dokfest is also closely connected with the university landscape of Kassel. This is demonstrated in the many partnerships with different faculties of the University of Kassel, which would be inconceivable without the oftentimes extraordinary commitment of individual university teachers. In acknowledgment of this connection, the 37th Kassel Dokfest is awarding the professor emeritus for art history and independent critic Ursula Panhans-Bühler with the honorary prize for her tireless commitment in connection with exchange programs, exhibitions, and the promotion and support of film and art students. For this too, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations. Furthermore, students can look forward to the Hessian University Film Day, where they present their projects to the film branch and can establish new contacts.

In a year such as this, consideration and inclusion are more important than ever. We have to deal with the pandemic responsibly, without excluding individual groups. For this reason, I am happy that Kassel Dokfest has created the additional offer of DokfestOnline, making it possible for friends of cinema nationwide to access many of the festival films from their homes. Hence for the first time it is possible, at least in front of the computer screen, to experience the Kassel Dokfest program beyond the borders of Kassel.

I wish all organizers and visitors a successful film festival and interesting new insight into the film land of Hesse!


Angela Dorn

Hesse Minister for Science and Art

The future of the future.

By now, we are all concerned with the question of what the future looks like. The search is on for new ways of organizing our everyday life so that it functions as before for everyone. But why do we want to get as close as possible to the state of before now that we have a proper opportunity to look ahead? Because in the reality of a pandemic, we quickly realize that the everyday conventions and social structures that determine, guide and give meaning to all our behaviors are agreements that are less solid than we might have thought. So now is the time to rethink our future, and thus also the moment to critically question current thinking about the value of art and to arrive at a set of new definitions and other approaches from the perspective of the arts.

Thus, a critical questioning is also directed at the attitude of the Kasseler Kunstverein towards society. In particular, the Kunstverein should offer a democratic, integrative and heterogeneous space that invites a critical dialogue about the past and the future. For we are experiencing the tendency that a house of art can no longer be a temple with strict rules characterized by white masculinity, but rather a dynamic meeting place that is constantly in motion. With the goal of recognizing today’s conflicts and challenges, meeting and mediating them.

A welcome way in which the Kasseler Kunstverein repeatedly confronts these critical questions is, in addition to its own annual exhibition program, the now established media art exhibition on the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival – Monitoring. Over the course of fifteen years, the exhibition format has developed into an important platform for media artists from the Kassel region as well as nationwide and internationally, and thus connects with the Kasseler Kunstverein’s claim to present precisely these artistic positions.

Monitoring shows how cooperations between formative institutions of the city of Kassel, such as the Kassel Art Academy, the Kassel Dokfest and the Kasseler Kunstverein, can be a model for socio-critical research, talent development and cultural promotion. In other words, anyone who wants to feel the pulse of the present is well served by the annual Monitoring.

Dear audience of the Kassel Dokfest and the exhibition Monitoring,

Unfortunately, due to the necessary contact restrictions for the prevention of infection, this year’s Monitoring exhibition cannot take place as planned as part of the 37th Kassel Dokfest. Nonetheless, it is all the more important to thank everyone involved. In the previous weeks and months and under the current difficult conditions, a lot of people have planned this show with such energy, effort and enthusiasm. In particular, I would like to thank the team led by exhibition director Lisa Dreykluft and technical director Kristin Meyer. My thanks also go to the promoters and sponsors for their willingness, under difficult conditions, to show commitment for culture in Kassel. Now more than ever, solidarity with the people and organizations of the cultural sector is of essential importance. For this reason, we stand by their side.

Looking at the orientation of the exhibition’s planed content, it is striking that the themes dealt with – the rhetoric, imagery and prerogative of interpretation of political domination, for example, and the possibility of resistance – reflect and respond to much of what characterizes our current political and social present. Associations with terms such as “fake news,“ “alternative facts,” “cancel culture” and “social media bubble” are reflected and processed artistically. In this way, Monitoring once again proves its time-critical relevance.

Even though we currently have no alternative but to visualize images from the exhibition’s content descriptions, it becomes very clear why art and culture, as offerings and triggers for individual and collective reflection about views and attitudes, take an important role for our democratic society: here, polyphonic discourse can freely develop and controversial views can be exchanged and even conveyed. In this way, openness and mutual interest are promoted, as is respect and the willingness to engage. This makes art and culture one of the key pillars of our free, respectful and democratic coexistence. This conclusion is particularly important, especially now when culture demonstrates such solidarity with our society with the closure of all institutions, houses, theaters, museums, cinemas and clubs. Sincere thanks are thus due to the institutions, players, visitors and supporters for their respectful, prudent and considerate dealings with one another and with this valuable asset. This appreciation is also a compass for our work and will also lead us in the coming challenging weeks and months as partners and supporters of the culture of Kassel.

Warmest regards, and best wishes for your good health,

Susanne Völker

Head of the Department of Culture