Happy Birthday, Harun Farocki.

     |    Thursday January 9th, 2014

Acclaimed filmmaker and media artist Harun Farocki turns 70 today. Based in Berlin, he was born in Novy Jicin (then Neutitschein) in the Nazi protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia (today Czech Republic). An acute sense of history and how it is mediated through photography and moving images informs Farocki’s work – over 90 essay films, documentaries and video installations.

In 1966, Farocki was admitted to the legendary first class of the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin. Classmates included blockbuster director Wolfgang Petersen as well Holger Meins, a member of the Red Army Faction (RAF). Farocki’s early works such as Die Worte des Vorsitzenden (Words of the Chairman) and Unlöschbares Feuer  (Inextinguishable Fire) are classics of activist film. Other films have won numerous awards such as the German Documentary Award and the Adolf Grimme Prize: Videogramme einer Revolution (Videograms of a Revolution) (co-directed with Andrej Ujica), Leben BRD (How to Live in the FRG), ÜBERTRAGUNG – TRANSMISSION and ZUM VERGLEICH – IN COMPARISON. Farocki also co-scripted Christian Petzold‘s dramas Gespenster (Ghosts) as well as Die innere Sicherheit (The State I’m In), which won a Best German Film Award. Active since the 1990’s in video installation work, Farocki creates single and multi channel video pieces such as “Deep Play”, which was exhibited at documenta in 2007 and the four part ERNSTE SPIELE – SERIOUS GAMES which explores the interplay between modern warfare and electronic media using computer simulation and documentary footage.

While investigations of economic questions have always been inherent in his work, in the last decade Farocki has focused on the shift from industrial production to the dominance of the service sector and the symbolic economy of the corporate world. Farocki is a fly on the wall observer behind closed doors of venture capitalists (“Ohne Risiko – Without Risk”), shopping mall developers (DIE SCHÖPFER DER EINKAUFSWELTEN – THE CREATORS OF THE SHOPPING WORLDS) and marketing experts (EIN NEUES PRODUKT – A NEW PRODUCT), providing us with unique insights into these inner sanctums of economic power.

GSW Building in Berlin-Kreuzberg, designed by Sauerbruch Hutton Architekten

Farocki certainly could rest on his laurels, but his eighth decade begins on a productive note – on January 23, his latest film, Sauerbruch Hutton Architekten, opens in German theaters. Farocki spent six months with the architects’ firm known for the stylish and ecologically sustainable GSW building near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. As in most of his works, Farocki offers precise observations with sly, laconic humor.

Sauerbruch Hutton Architekten is playing at the Lichtblick Cinema, Kastanienallee 77, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, starting January 23. Harun Farocki will be attending the screening on January 25, 7 p.m.