Watch the recording of graduate student lecture Zille Films: Aestheticizing Socioeconomic Injustice in Weimar Berlin by Andréas-Benjamin Seyfert, PhD Candidate at the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, UCLA. The webinar took place on February 7, 2023.
The Berlin graphic artist Heinrich Zille captured the Weimar Republic zeitgeist by satirizing and humanizing the lives of the urban poor in his drawings, photographs and captions. Zill became somewhat of a cult figure by the end of his life, bridging the gap between rich and poor through his widely popular illustrations. During this period, Zille's artworks were incorporated into other forms of popular culture. Albums, bars, balls, music, and films emerged, transforming Zille's characters and their milieu into consumer culture commodities. Ben's talk explores Zille films, arguing that they constituted their own film subgenre between 1925 and 1929, less reflective of the graphic artist who inspired them, but rather providing a starting point for a variety of socio-cultural interpretations of what it meant to be poor in Weimar Berlin. Zille's sketches sparked widely different films, many of which were politically at odds with one another. As such, culturally, the films mirrored Germany's own political polarization on the hot-button topic of impoverishment, particularly with downward social mobility a frequent and widespread occurrence in the country's interwar economy.
Andréas-Benjamin Seyfert is a PhD Candidate at the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies at UCLA. Ben's thesis focuses on the lost films of the late Weimar Republic, and his forthcoming publications include a volume about émigré filmmaker Wilhelm Thiele for Berghahn Books and an essay in the volume Aesthetics in Transition for Bloomsbury Academic. His previous publications include a chapter on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in cinema (Wallstein, 2016) and the methodic removal of German-Jewish talent from the Nazi film industry in 1933 (Berghahn, 2021). In addition to his concentration in gender studies, he holds a graduate certificate in digital humanities.
Photograph of the speaker by Aphinop Khuiphum. The original image has been cropped
Kalani Michell is Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages at the University of California Los Angeles. Prior to this, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the research collective (Graduiertenkolleg) “Configurations of Film” and as an Assistant Professor (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) in Media Studies at the Goethe University Frankfurt. She has taught and written about a wide range of media, including photography, comics, installation and performance art, print culture, film and media theory, sound studies, and media historiography.
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