The center piece of the Kassel Dokfest is the film program, divided into three sections:


Up to 16 contemporary media installations and sculptures by up-and-coming as well as well-known artists will be presented at the exhibition Monitoring.

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The DokfestLounge is not only the location for audiovisual performances by international artists, VJs and DJs but also the nocturnal meeting point for our guests after 10.30 pm.

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The Workshop symposium interfiction offers lectures, presentations and workshop-sessions concerning a yearly changing topic, which takes a closer look at the political, social and artistic aspects of the medium internet.

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This educational side program is aimed at school students from the 7th till the 13th grade as well as teachers. The project consists of special film programs as well as workshops about film analysis and criticism under the guidance of media educators.

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The DokfestForum offers panels, lectures and screenings that raise questions about the interfaces between film and art. During the daytime the DokfestForum as a festival meeting point will provide a café with a video library for accredited guests.

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With the Hessian University Film Day, the presentation of a European Film College and hands-on workshops and lectures, the Kassel Dokfest offers possibilities for further education, information on education opportunities and access to professional networks for (Hessian) up-and-coming filmmakers.

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Short Film

199 short and mid-length documentary and experimental films were presented this year at the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival.

The 6 members of the selection committee had the task of capturing the themes and trends in contemporary film production from around  2,000 films submitted. The result is a program ranging from observational documentaries to abstract animations, personal essays to queer political music videos to artistic-activist field tests. From films sighting places to family portraits, an incredible diversity of filmic examination of reality.


The comfort zone of our personal echo chamber is growing more and more comfortable. Algorithms provide us with films, books and music that we will probably like and that don’t daunt us. Complex issues are served in 140 easily consumed twitter characters; polarisation is welcome. Meanwhile, web videos have established an aesthetic suitable for the mainstream, just as television, with its commonplace formats, had done before it. News are instantly pushed onto our screens, live, before anyone really knows what’s going on. Our attention is a sought-after commodity, whereas attentive listening and watching are seldom required or possible. Not so at the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival. Here space is made for discourse; reflection and discussion are welcome. Because a film festival is always a meeting place. The audience meets the films, their forms, thoughts and protagonists. The attendant filmmakers, in turn, meet the audience. Collective reflection finds its place in the movie theatre. A striking characteristic of the curated short film compilation is that the films establish a dialogue with one another. Bundled in the program thematically, they complement and contradict one another, highlighting a subject from different points of view and taking aspects of the theme in unforeseen directions.

Each film has it’s own narrative and aesthetic form. It is not part of the program’s aims to be superficial or awkwardly controversial. Rather, the program strives to be as multi-layered and diverse as possible. The surprising, the beautiful and the enriching often lie precisely in that which is not of immediate interest, or in something that the viewer may not otherwise like. The voices of the protagonists should themselves be heard, rather than being spoken for or about.

The content and style of the short film program covers a wide spectrum. In partly cinematic journals or experimental arrangements, filmmakers contemplate the interplay between their own biographies and political systems (OCCUPATION: POLITICIAN, NEGOTIATING DEMOCRACY) or historical correlations (TEA IN THE EMPIRE’S GARDEN).

They are part of what is happening in contemporarycrisis zones and work through their experiences in cinematic experiments or as classic documentary (HOME IS NOT A PLACE). In this way, the dominant themes of flight and migration wind their way through several programs. Similarly, alternatives to official reporting can be found in SCREEN COMMUNITIES. BLIND FRAME gathers films that use their aesthetic resources to represent something that actually can’t be represented, and in THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE AIR TONIGHT, the invisible is captured.

TERRITORIAL DESIGNATIONS questions how areas are defined and are, in turn, self-formative. REPORTS FROM THE END OF THE WORLD relates times and places that have passed, disappeared, or have been forgotten, and follows the traces that remain. The significance of architecture in everyday life today is investigated in PERMANENT PROJECTS. LAYERS OF TIME will be shown as part of the interfiction workshop-summit TIME MACHINES. It dedicates itself to the registration of time on the landscape. In ALIEN ANCESTORS, films of age, science fiction, myth, science and pop are amalgamated. INTROSPECTIVE traces what goes on in a person’s inner life.

In UP CLOSE the films get close to their complex characters. In EGO-DOCUMENTS and PREVIOUS RECORD the filmmakers confront their own familial, psychic, political and religious predispositions. WORST CASE REHEARSALS illustrates how the military can become a part of our everyday life. WORK-LIFE-BALANCE focuses on the tragic-comic fusion of work and leisure in life, while CINENOVELA deals with grand emotions and our yearning for them. The matinee, MAKING IT, presents people who know how to go their own way, while STAY IN TOUCH considers how people sympathise and interact with one another. A fixed part of the Kassel Dokfest is the Art Program on Sunday, which this year deals with the EXCERCISES IN CRITIQUE. And of course there is also SHORT & SWEET, a program of very short films, which, on Wednesday evening, will set off a firework of punch lines.

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Golden Hercules – Film program from Northern Hesse

One of the declared aims of the Kassel Dokfest is the presentation of regional works next to the works of international filmmakers and artists – on equal terms. Last year's festival program (2015) included 50 fictional, animation or documentary films of filmmakers from Northern Hesse. Therefore this section is not limited to the genre of documentary but open for all genres. The predominantly short works are shown in special compilation programs as well as part of the regular program. 

The screenings offer an important platform for the filmmakers to present their work to a broader audience and to network with film professionals – this is especially important for younger filmmakers in the region, who often have their festival debut in Kassel.

Not only does this create a space for new experiences, where up-and-coming talents can prove themselves in front of an interested audience and international critics but this also results in a unique forum of exchange, leaving its footprint in the region and even Europe. The commitment to the region – approximately 10 per cent of all shown works are from Northern Hesse – is very important for the Kassel Dokfest. The last years have shown that local talent and regional works must not be shy in comparison to others and that the festival can serve as a stepping stone to national and international recognition.

Since 2001 the Kassel Dokfest awards the “Golden Hercules”, endowed with 3,000 € to extraordinary film productions from Northern Hesse. The competition is open to all formats and genres presentable on a big screen. Films are accepted, whose director’s place of residence is in Northern Hesse or who are enrolled in the University of Kassel, the Kassel College of Fine Arts or a comparable institution in Northern Hesse or works that were realized and produced in Northern Hesse. The local Newspaper “Die Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeinen” (HNA) was the sponsor for this prize from 2001 to 2007. Since then the prize is sponsored by the Machbar GmbH, an agency for corporate communication with its head office in Kassel.

The festival program 2016 includes 38 fictional, animation or documentary films of filmmakers from Northern Hesse. The commitment to the region – approximately 15 per cent of all presented works are from Northern Hesse – is very important for the Kassel Dokfest. The last years have shown that local talent and regional works are by all means able to compete and that the festival can serve as a steppingstone to national and international recognition. Proof positive of this is Zuniel Kims film „ Long Distance Runner“ which won the “Golden Hercules” in 2015 and by now has been shown in numerous national and international festivals , such as „New Talents 2016“ Cologne, „LICHTER Filmfest“ Frankfurt, „Festival de Contis“ in France and „Asiana International Short Film Festival“ in Seoul, Corea.


Feature Film

The documentary feature film traditionally constitutes the center piece of the Kassel Dokfest. 57 films will be presented during this year's festival in the cinemas “Gloria” and “Filmladen”. This section shows documentary films with a total running time of more than 65 minutes; one focus lies on film productions from German-speaking regions.

The final program in 2016 has been selected from more than 500 feature film submissions. The criteria, which influence the selection, are the political, social and cultural relevance of the topics as well as the artistic handling of this topic in the submitted work. Next to more classical forms of presentation, the Dokfest is open for the introduction of innovative formats, which show alleged boundaries of the genre, the might and the power of manipulation of images. Furthermore low or no budget productions, works by up-and-coming artists as well as new projects of well-known filmmakers at the Kassel Dokfest receive special attention during the selection process:because accompanying documentary works-in-progress continually is as important to us as offering a platform for the perspectives of bold and extraordinary projects.

A viewing committee, consisting of five people with different professional backgrounds (since 2009), is responsible for the selection of this section. Next to their interest in the political and cultural happenings of the world and their curiosity towards courageous and unconventional (life) stories, this group of four is unified in a cinematic obsession for documentary film in all its topical and aesthetic forms as well as their pleasure in passionate discussion about the best documentary films for the Kassel film festival.  

Every year the committee members take part in several national and international film festivals and other meetings of the film industry. Here the aim is to get an overview of the newest productions and foster contacts with filmmakers, before the main viewing process of the yearly submissions starts in the late summer months. 

Obviously, the selection is only able to show a part of the increasing abundance of documentary work every year, trying to none-the-less cover a broad spectrum of topics and forms and reaching an equally broad audience during the festival days.


Have we lost all common sense? One may well be forgiven for thinking so, in light of the themes of a substantial component of this year’s more than five hundred film submissions. Forty of these full-length feature films will be presented over the course of the six festival days. They include true stories, incidents and events from around the globe and in combination create an impression that, behind all of those to whom we assign responsibility and blame, an invisible force is at work controlling the course of the world. If that were the case, it would be oddly convenient and relieving. However it is not the case. Rather it is the thoughts, actions and spirits of each and every individual that is shaping the course of history. Too much pathos? Too demanding? Rightly so!

How is it that an Indian mother has to investigate the death of her own child and ends up miserably failing (CECILIA)? How is it that a cruel massacre during the Kosovo War is carried out as a prearranged affair (DUBINA DVA)? How is it that, in the United States of America, traumatised ex-soldiers are left to fend for themselves (National Bird)? How is it that state-monitoring and the militarization of police is legitimised and symbolically forced, in the best interests of the armament industry? Is it because a display of social and community-orientated grievance is interpreted as a direct attack on democracy (DO NOT RESIST)?

Why do the members of an African indigenous people present the ugly face of western life? And why do historians, stockbrokers and politicians with great clarity explain the details of the deteriorating situation in Europe (GHOSTLAND, THE PREY – EUROPE UNDER PRESSURE)? Why is there such an urgent need for Philip Scheffner to show us a refugee boat for over 90 minutes, in combination with forceful off-screen narrative? Is it to remind us, once again, to listen and look (HAVARIE)?

Why is the arrival in a wealthy country, a country that, after all, promises safety and prospects, so difficult (TALES OF TWO WHO DREAMT, NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, DISTANT SONS)?

Why are we not fundamentally outraged about the practice of deportation and in the handling of the long-term unemployed by German authorities (DEPORTATION CLASS, THE JOB)?

Amid all the simmering, threatening situations of our times, do we really need to pay attention to stinking-rich actors, naked artists and a, though very musical, exceptionally despotic patriarch (THE GREAT FORTUNE, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO GELITIN, THE WONDERFUL KINGDOM OF PAPA ALEV)?

Is it because these are all pieces of a large puzzle, spirits that shape our community? And are not discoveries of the relatively trivial also necessary in order to create dreams, ideas and hopes? In her portrait of a small Georgian town,Salomé Jashi succeeds in masterfully reminding us of the fascination of the commonplace and the potential for community (THE DAZZLING LIGHT OF SUNSET).

Ghosts move around us. Social practices, the striving for economic profit, and violent conflict are the products of active, thinking people. And it is valid to decode and question our own positions and the attitudes of others while acknowledging the curse and blessing of the information era (NOISE, IN LIMBO, A LEAK IN PARADISE). And because, directly or indirectly, we are all part of the story, it is valid to face the ghosts – not powerlessly, but attentively, curiously and actively.

Is it possible – in all seriousness and urgency – to maintain a certain ease? The ironic spectre of the, supposedly final, gentrification of Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel likewise delivers inspiration, as does the Rastafarian in Jamaica’s capital city Kingston (PHANTOM OF PUNK, KINGSTON CROSSROADS).


Download Program Schedule

Foto: Michael Wolf / laif