Forty years of Kassel Dokfest: The festival is older than many of its creators today. This year, we want to revisit some of the cinematic highlights of the festival’s history and relate them to current positions and tendencies. This bi-directional view, into the past and the future, can also be applied to this year’s key visual, which (not only) sets a general impulse for the entire program as a catalog cover. The shapes and outlines of the depicted figures are flowing, their gazes undirected. What are their points of view? What perspectives do we develop through them on what has been and on what is yet to come? We will open the anniversary edition of the festival with a short film program that presents versatile documentary forms and approaches and possibly already allows us to draw initial conclusions to these questions. How do images shape our imagination and what limits do they set? Who has the interpretational sovereignty over the images that influence us on a daily basis? And what dimensions will these questions develop in a future in which image production will be increasingly determined by AI?

The images we encounter on the screen today are creations of artists, journalists or machines. They are researched, constructed, appropriated, animated or compiled. How we see and read them determines their meaning. The program is framed by two films from the festival archive. The first is by Bjørn Melhus, the last by Rotraut Pape. In their films, both filmmakers offer visions that, like the new works that complete the opening program, challenge ingrained ways of seeing. They all make us realize that, despite our doubts about the credibility of images in general, we depend on them. Through them we express ourselves, they represent and document, and encourage us to learn. They let us dream and celebrate.