Communist Party of AustriaThe film collection of the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) comprises about 400 films from the years 1935 to 1990 in 16mm and 35mm format. The Austrian Film Museum received the collection as a donation from the Communist Party of Austria in autumn 2018 and has been continuously working on its archival processing since 2019.
The core of the collection consists of films produced by the KPÖ and related organizations. These films primarily include election campaign films for the Wahlgemeinschaft Österreichische Volksopposition, the Communists and Left Socialists as well as the KPÖ from 1952 to 1990. They also include recordings of two International Workers' Day demonstrations on Vienna's Ring Road, or films such as Es muss ein Morgen geben, produced by the Aktion für Frieden und Abrüstung (Action for Peace and Disarmament) about the Easter March in Vienna in 1963.
In addition, the collection includes screening prints of political documentaries, full-length feature films or short and medium-length educational films, which originate primarily but not exclusively from socialist countries. The majority of these films are DEFA productions from the GDR and films from the Soviet Union. The collection also includes individual titles from Vietnam, Cuba, France, India, Japan, South Korea, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and ČSSR.
The collection is thus divided into two parts: films produced by the Communist Party of Austria, and films received by the Party from like-minded organizations. The remarkable heterogeneity of the collection can be demonstrated by these examples: a KPÖ advertising film made for the 1983 National Council elections, which was distributed in cinemas throughout Austria with a good 20 copies, and a print of the documentary film The Lost Generation (Yuten Tachibana, 1982) about the consequences of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which apparently found its way to the central party archives of the KPÖ from the women's section of the Osaka teachers' union in 1987.
The heterogeneous nature of the KPÖ collection maps a vast territory and raises a number of questions. Some of these concern media studies, while others relate to social and cultural issues, but some are even pertinent to the history of political work: For example, how does the KPÖ present itself as a party in its own productions over four decades? What kind of image of the city of Vienna is created in films about the Weltfestspiele der Jugend und Studenten (World Festival of Youth and Students), which took place in Vienna in 1959, the first time this event was held in a non-socialist country? How did the DDR-Magazine, a series of films produced by Camera DDR, the East German film production company in charge of films meant to represent the GDR abroad, shape the way socialism in practice was perceived in Austria? How did the gaze through the official lens address the discrepancy between the real life and the communist ideal? To what extent could the documentaries by Walter Heynowski and Gerhard Scheumann about the military coup in Chile or the crimes of the Vietnam War influence the attitude of the Austrian population? In what contexts and narratives were the screenings of such films embedded?
We would like to thank the Communist Party of Austria and in particular Michael Graber and Dr. Manfred Mugrauer, who, on behalf of the Communist Party of Austria, attended to the collection and initiated and accompanied the donation to the Austrian Film Museum.
Text by Florian Haag