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Friday, 11 August 2017

Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Brisbane - The Australian premiere of EIGHT HOURS DONT MAKE A DAY (1972)

It’s hard to keep up with everything being revived, restored, digitised notwithstanding the efforts of Associate Editor Simon Taaffe to scour the programs of the world’s film institutions and festivals. One place that gets overlooked is Brisbane’s GOMA and its exceptional film program. And few things could be more exceptional than a comprehensive survey of the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Eight Hours is not a Day
Fassbinder made over forty movies and did some astonishing TV as well. His 1980 adaptation of Alfred Doblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz is one of the greatest pieces of TV drama ever made. Over the last decade or so there have been two major restorations of Fassbinder’s TV work. Way back in 2010 Fassbinder’s two-part TV drama from 1973, World on a Wire, was presented at the Berlinale. Fans assumed it would turn up at that year’s Sydney Film Festival but director Clare Stewart passed on it. This year the Berlinale again premiered a restoration of another major TV work and once again the SFF's Director passed on the opportunity to screen it. 

So it’s coming to GOMA in Brisbane for its Australian premiere and you can only hope that an audience will respond in numbers. Somewhat amazingly admission is free.

Eight Hours is not a Day
Here is what GOMA has posted on its website: “Commissioned by German television as an eight part serial, Eight Hours Don't Make a Day was envisioned as a family miniseries about the lives of the working class. Only five episodes were completed, as German trade unionists who felt misrepresented derailed production on the remaining instalments. But the series effectively exposed Fassbinder to a mass audience, reaching nearly six million viewers. A portrait of three generations of an eccentric and genial working-class family, the show addressed social realities while making no pretensions about the economic background of its characters. Fassbinder depicts them tenderly, making their daily struggles relatable as they stage demonstrations at city hall and mobilise workers against factory management. In an interview about the series Fassbinder stated, "We're not interested in an analysis of conditions; we want to give people courage. As a group, there exist possibilities that an individual doesn't have. That's a good thing, and it can lead to something." This call to social solidarity makes Eight Hours Don't Make a Day one of Fassbinder's most humanist works.”

If you want know more you can go to this piece online by Aliza Ma from Film Comment: Click here. Following are a couple of useful paras from that piece which add to GOMA’s info:

Irm Herman, Hanna Schygulla, Eight Hours Don't Make a Day
Throughout Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s colossal career, which shifted between theater, TV, and cinema with greater ease than that of any other postwar European filmmaker, public television in the German post-studio era proved to be a fecund medium, yielding some of his most rigorous work. In 1972 West Germany, his miniseries Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day was broadcast to nearly six million viewers. Commissioned by the channel Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), it was envisioned by its producers as an eight-episode working-class drama focusing on themes of civic progress. However, against their expectations for a socialist-realist portrait of Cologne, Fassbinder delivered a brilliantly layered chamber drama about an eccentric family and their economic and cultural environment, which functions as both trenchant social critique and populist entertainment.

Only five out of the eight episodes aired. According to Juliane Lorenz, his longtime editor and the head of the Fassbinder Foundation, German trade unionists intervened when they felt misrepresented by the series, and even after he incorporated their feedback into his screenplay, the producers at WDR were unsatisfied with the quality. Fassbinder was paid for his writing, but the final three episodes never went into production. Thanks to the efforts of the Fassbinder Foundation and the Museum of Modern Art, the existing segments have now been fully restored with new subtitles, and they premiered to sold-out crowds at the Berlinale this past February.


The sole screening of the entire five-part series takes place on October 28 and 29. Check the relevant page of the GOMA website for details of this and all other screenings in the season.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

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