Klaus Wildenhahn

Impressed by the direct cinema of Albert Maysles, Richard Leacock, and D. A. Pennebaker, Klaus Wildenhahn (1930–2018) translated their methods to the West German context. Starting in the early 1960s and spanning several decades, Wildenhahn was employed by the public broadcasting channel Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), where he worked both as a documentary filmmaker and commissioning editor. In the Summer of 1968, he spent time in New York filming Harlem Theater, portraying Robert Macbeth and his New Lafayette Theater group, contextualizing it in Harlem and the Black community (including a speech by Bobby Seale) after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In October 1968, Wildenhahn became a lecturer at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB), where he was an important protagonist providing stability after the crisis of the film school in late 1968. He also organized the “Wochenschau” (Newsreel) group modeled after Dziga Vertov’s revolutionary news programs. It is most likely in this context, documented in the collective film Wochenschau 2 (1969), that Wildenhahn and Skip Norman—who directed his thesis film, Strange Fruit, in 1969—met. A material trace of their acquaintance is Norman’s post-DFFB film On Africa (1970), where Wildenhahn participated as one of the voice-over narrators. A print of Harlem Theater was found in 2018 and the film had its US premiere, first at UnionDocs (UNDO) in Brooklyn, then (in December 2018) at the Maysles Documentary Center.

December 9th, 2021 — Rosa Mercedes / 03 / Contexts