DFFB – New Director, Old Problems?

     |    Monday, der 16. March 2015

DFFB at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, sharing a building with Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art and the Berlin Film Museum

After months of impasse a new director of the German Film and Television Academy (DFFB), one of the country’s oldest and most prestigous film schools, has been appointed by the Berlin state government, producer Ralph Schwingel. Schwingel’s company Wüstefilm produced co-produced Fatih Akin’s IM JULI and the Golden Bear and LOLA-winning “Head On“ as well as ALIVE AND TICKING, LOVELY LOUISE and the recent concert doc “Wacken 3D”, among many others. Recently, he taught production at Potsdam’s Konrad Wolf Media University.

The Berlin Senate Chancellery, which is responsible for cultural policy and the DFFB, as it is not a university (which lies in the jurisdiction of the Senator for Education, Youth and Research) encouraged Schwingel to apply as the only candidate in a non-public decision-making process. Senate Chancellery Head Björn Böhning announced the new director to representatives of the DFFB on March 6. Other possible candidates – director Julian Pölsler (of bestseller adaptation “The Wall” starring Martina Gedeck) and internationally renowned cinematographer Sophie Maintigneux, fell by the wayside. Maintigneux had also taught at the DFFB for over 20 years and was the hands-down winner of the students‘ vote in 2009, when former director Hartmut Bitomsky resigned and was ultimately replaced by Jan Schütte, who had a smaller percentage of the vote. While Schütte’s selection was also pushed through by the city government against students‘ wishes, at least his candidacy was public. Ralph Schwingel, by contrast, was installed in the DFFB without any previous discussion.

The DFFB, whose alumni include Christian Petzold, Harun Farocki, Helke Sander, Gerd Conradt, Maren-Kea Freese, Emily Atef, Detlev Buck, Wolfgang Becker, Jan-Ole Gerster, Ramon Zürcher and countless other acclaimed German directors, has a long tradition of student participation in decision-making. While Schwingel’s production achievements and educational experience are uncontested, it is incomprehensible why he was appointed without any input from DFFB students and staff, especially as outside legal expertise has also deemed the process “dubious”. This just makes Schwingel’s job more difficult and deflects energy from the task and hand – ensuring quality education and thus shaping the next generation of German cinema.

DFFB students‘ blog with regular updates (in German)

Interview with Ralph Schwingel (in German)

Petition of DFFB students for overturning the decision and instating a transparent selection process (in German)