Since its founding in the year 1966, the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung (Murnau Foundation) has been in charge of the preservation and care of a large part of the German film heritage. The goal of making its unique portfolio accessible to the public has gained in significance in recent years and will also increasingly shape future work. As a nationally important and internationally renowned institution, it makes influential contributions to strengthening Hessen as a film region. Since 2009, the Murnau Foundation has operated the Deutsches Filmhaus built by it in the centre of Wiesbaden, which houses noteworthy companies and institutions of the film and media industries.
With a modern office and administrative complex, new future perspectives are opening up for the foundation, previously located in Wiesbaden-Erbenheim: It is moving from the periphery into the centre and is now in the position to present its work directly to the public. Since April of 2009, the foundation has offered regular movie theater operation in collaboration with the Deutsches Filminstitut in the Murnau film theatre and presents exhibitions for public participants interested in film. The Deutsches Filmhaus is used as an event location for festivals and symposiums, among other things. The modern cinema with 100 seats and a multifunctional area can be used by all house renters as well as by external organizers. The building, with a total budget of 7.2 million euros, was sponsored by the state of Hessen with 1.85 million euros, the city of Wiesbaden had offered the plot of land under particularly favourable conditions and also provided a construction grant.
The construction project, resolved in 2006 and implemented in just under three years, allowed two additional nationally significant installations to be made successful with optimal working conditions in the tradition-rich city of Wiesbaden: The theatre and modern examination rooms are used for the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft GmbH FSK (Organisation for the Voluntary Selfregulation/Film Classification Board of the German Film Industry) to perform inspections of films, video cassettes and other image carrier media (for example DVDs) that are provided for public projection or made accessible to the public in Germany. The well-known age-based protection ratings are determined here. The SPIO – Spitzenorganisation der Filmwirtschaft e.V., the umbrella organization of 16 professional trade associations in the German film, television and video industries, which currently represents over 1,100 member companies, has moved to the new location.
The Murnau Foundation
The topmost committee of the Murnau Foundation is the board of trustees, which includes five representatives entitled to vote from the private film industry as well as two representatives from the public sector. The delegates from the film industry are from the branches of production, distribution, film theatre, technology and exports. The interests of the public sector are represented by delegates of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, as well as the Hessian Ministry for Science and Art for the council of ministers of culture of the federal states.
The most important asset in the foundation is the unique, well-rounded collection of films, which includes copies and materials from former production companies Ufa, Universum-Film, Bavaria, Terra, Tobis and Berlin-Film – together with their associated rights – from over six decades of German film production. The outstanding stock of historico-cultural and film-historical material reaches from the very beginning of the moving image through the beginning of the 1960s and includes 2,000 silent films, 1,000 sound films and around 3,000 short, advertising and documentary films.
The evaluation of the Murnau film stock has been taken over by Transit Film GmbH, which maintains an office in the Deutsches Filmhaus. The company, based in Munich and federally owned, operates commercial theatre distribution and licensing with domestic and foreign TV broadcasters as well as with video and DVD retailers.
Preservation and restoration
The preservation and restoration of its inventory has been one of the most important jobs since the establishment of the foundation. Loss, damage, decay and wear and tear traditionally represent the greatest dangers for film. Since there is no obligation in the Federal Republic to preserve copies of all films that run in the theatres, in contrast to other countries, only a part of the cultural film heritage is kept – so it is not only films from the silent era that count as “missing”. Thus, the conservation and protection of films was one of the primary tasks of the foundation in the 1960s, whose work in this area has often first made it possible for numerous significant historical films to be preserved and shown.
The newly entered digital age represents a double challenge: on the one hand, restoration is possible with a quality that has been unimaginable until now, on the other hand, the running digital conversion of film projection will affect the evaluation of the stock. The task of making the inventory of film material, which in large part is available in analogue format, suitable for distribution on digital media is one of the organization’s central future undertakings. Thus the foundation makes use of digital technologies and cooperates with leading companies in the industry.
Two elaborate restoration projects are coming to completion in 2010: Fritz Lang’s two-part epic film DIE NIBELUNGEN, whose new musical version will premiere in April 2010, and – also by Fritz Lang – the classic silent film METROPOLIS, whose restored 2001 version was admitted to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register and has now been re-edited.
The version of METROPOLIS that was rediscovered in Buenos Aires includes approximately 25 minutes of presumed long-lost footage, which was restored in the past few months and integrated into the existing version. On February 12, that edited version celebrated its world premiere simultaneously in Frankfurt and Berlin.
The film inventory also includes films by influential directors such as Ernst Lubitsch, Detlef Sierck, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Staudte and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, who gives the foundation its name.
The most famous titles include DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI, 1919/20 (THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI), DIE NIBELUNGEN, 1922–24 (THE NIBELUNGS), DER BLAUE ENGEL, 1929/30 (THE BLUE ANGEL), DIE DREI VON DER TANKSTELLE, 1930 (THREE GOOD FRIENDS), MÜNCHHAUSEN, 1942/43 (BARON MUNCHHAUSEN) and GROSSE FREIHEIT NR. 7, 1943/44 (GREAT FREEDOM NO. 7).
Education and communication
One of the tasks of the Murnau Foundation is the promotion of film and political education work, and its archives are available to the general public.
The Murnau Foundation works together with the Institut für Kino und Filmkultur in film and political work in schools and adult educational institutions. Traditionally, the foundation offers various methods of support for scientific work, so that the different film stocks are systematically registered and researchable. Furthermore, it cooperates with national and international partners in the cultural film industry, such as film museums, with regard to exhibitions and publications as well as silent film festivals.
Short film award
The Murnau Foundation makes a contribution to the future of film culture and thus also to the promotion of young talent with its short film award, which has been awarded since 1994. The idea of the short film award is to promote the creation of German short films that are attractive to the public and particularly suitable to a movie theatre with a running time of three to 15 minutes. Up to ten films per year can be distinguished with this prize, which is traditionally awarded in a ceremony at the Caligari Film Stage. The Murnau short film award is one of the most in-demand awards of this type nationwide, and not only because of its total prizemoney of 20,000 euro: In addition to the German short film award, the short film award by the Federal Film Agency (FFA, Filmförderungsanstalt) and the German business film award, it counts as reference criteria for the FFA’s promotion of short film productions. The short film award jury includes two representatives from the Fachverbände für Filmtheaterwirtschaft und Kurzfilmproduktion (trade associations for the film industry and short film production), the fifth jury member is the chairman of the board of trustees of the Murnau Foundation.
From SCHWARZFAHRER, awarded in 1994, direction and screenplay: Pepe Danquart to the animated film QUEST (1996, Tyson Montgomery) as well as SPIELZEUGLAND (TOYLAND, D 2008, Jochen Alexander Freydank), which also received an Academy Award, the list includes 146 previously distinguished films. These include earlier works by successful film creators, still unknown at the time, such as Fatih Akin (GETÜRKT (WEED) 1997) and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (DER TEMPLER (THE CRUSADER), 2003). Short films by established directors like Wim Wenders, who was honoured together with students at the Munich University of Television and Film for DIE BRÜDER SKLADANOVSKY – ERSTER AKT (THE BROTHERS SKLADANOVSKY – FIRST ACT, D 1994), or Tom Tykwer, who received an award for Episode TRUE (2005) for the PARIS JE T’AIME film compilation project, are also included in the list of award winners.
Born in 1959, the author has an MBA and has been active in the area of the film industry since 1984. In 1996 he assumed leadership of the umbrella organization of the film industry SPIO, and was a member of the board of directors at the Deutsches Filminstitut until 2006. In addition, Possmann was a member of the board of directors of the Murnau Foundation from 2006 until 2010./quote]