Screening Germany in Australia: analyzing the Australian Festival of German Films as cultural diplomacy
AuthorHerrschner, Irina Veronika
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Irina Veronika Herrschner
Cultural diplomacy increased in importance in German foreign policy following World War II (WWII) and reunification in 1989. The German model of cultural diplomacy emerged out of the need for a separation of powers between state and cultural politics, and resulted in a unique approach in which the Goethe-Institut (Goethe Institute – GI) became and remains the principal actor representing German culture and language abroad. The GI was re-established after WWII and now operates in 191 countries. As distinct from propaganda, contemporary German diplomacy aims to portray a realistic and multi-faceted image of Germany; it utilises public engagements, various media and – in particular – film. Other nations are adopting this strategy, as the growing number of nationality-based film festivals worldwide shows. Researchers in the emerging field of film festival studies have hitherto scrutinised the role of film festivals in the circulation of film, global cinephilia, as public spheres, as transnational spaces and time events, but not yet as part of cultural and contemporary cinematic diplomacy. My research adds to extant research on contemporary cinematic and cultural diplomacy through analysis of the Festival of German Films in Australia’s (AFGF) role in German cultural diplomacy. The AFGF was the largest festival of German films outside of Germany and was organised by the GI in collaboration with the German Films Service and Marketing GmbH. The AFGF was established in Sydney and Melbourne in 2002, and ran until 2016; it was a platform for Germany and German culture, as well as a marketplace for presenting German films to Australian audiences and distributors. I analyse developments in AFGF programming, choice of films and time-events, with particular focus on the period 2013–15. My research employs a mixed-method approach comprised of audience surveys, audience focus groups, and stakeholder interviews complemented by event and film analysis. My analysis focuses on the three most prominent themes in films and curation of the AFGF from 2002–15: the two world wars, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic), and multicultural Germany. In understanding film festivals as socially constructed, I analyse each category in accordance with Lefebvre’s tripartite concept of physical, curated and lived space. I emphasise an understanding of the AFGF as a time-event and of the roles of its component time-events. These time-events are curated occasions; the GI highlights particular films and themes by screening them on either opening or closing nights, or as part of special events, such as a question-and-answer session or an associated culinary or musical experience. I conclude the thesis by emphasising the potential and the challenges of cinematic diplomacy with a particular focus on contemporary German cinematic diplomacy. Further, I highlight increasingly transnational aspects of the AFGF and their relationship to the cultural diplomatic role Germany holds as an advocate for human rights as a consequence of WWII and the following processes of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (dealing with the past).
Keywordscultural diplomacy; film festivals; cinematic diplomacy; Germany; Australia; GDR; Vergangenheitsbewältigung; multiculturalism
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