The National Film Headquarters (Staatliche Filmhauptstelle) became the most important producer of critical non-fiction and scientific and instructive films in the first years of the young Republic. Its repertoire also include good entertainment films promoting the small state of Austria.
After the end of the First World War and the establishment of the First Republic, the future of the film material and the War Press Office facilities had to be considered. In December 1918 representatives of universities, the Urania in Vienna and the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt spoke in favour of retaining the institute under the new political circumstances.
The wishes of the education lobby were acceded to. In March 1919 the institute (now directly answerable to the State Chancellery) was reformed under the new name Staatliche Filmhauptstelle (FHS). Its tasks were described as follows: ‘The FHS will primarily make films required for scientific and educational purposes, so as to promote popular education and welfare, advertise German Austrian interests of all kinds at home and abroad, in particular by publicizing non-commercial undertakings, and encourage tourism, domestic commerce, agriculture, technology and industry and the like.’
The FHS also produced ‘entertainment films of high artistic merit’, notably the successful series by the comic duo Cocl & Seff. The subjects dealt with in the FHS films were varied. The production lists issued by the authorities had headings ‘science’, ‘geography’, ‘medicine’, ‘crafts, technology, commerce and industry’, ‘agriculture’, ‘gymnastics, dance and sport’, ‘history’, ‘natural history’ and ‘feature films’. Popular and public education institutions were provided with films at low cost, while the domestic cinema operators rarely included FHS films in their programmes – unless they were explicitly entertaining.
For the most part, the FHS served to promote the new young republic in various ways. The film Das Kinderelend in Wien [Child poverty in Vienna] (A 1919) subsidized by the US children’s aid campaign showed vivid pictures of the consequences of war and the plight of the Austrian population, particularly children, and was designed to elicit further assistance. Medical films like Die unblutige Reposition einer angeborenen Hüftverrenkung durch Adolf Lorenz [The bloodless repositioning of a congenital hip displacement by Adolf Lorenz] (A 1922) recorded important work and progress by the Vienna University of Medicine on celluloid and were intended to show scientific achievements originating in Austria.
Translation: Nick Somers
Moritz, Verena: Experimente, in: Moritz, Verena/Moser, Karin/Leidinger, Hannes: Kampfzone Kino. Film in Österreich 1918–1938, Wien 2008, 33-54
Thaller, Anton: Rudolf Walter und die Cocl-Film, in: Krenn, Günter/Wostry, Nikolaus (Hrsg.): Cocl & Seff. Die österreichischen Serienkomiker der Stummfilmzeit, Wien 2010, 63-93
- Film censorship – regulating what was shown
- The Saturn censorship affair
- Combatting ‘dirt and trash’
- Serving the public – the film and cinema industry before and during the First World War
- Organized propaganda: the film department of the War Press Office
- Focuses and aims of war film propaganda
- After the war – the National Film Headquarters: managing the past, warning about the present, and promoting new ideas