Paradise Lost

Colonialist and Adventure Films of the 1910s and 1920s
  • Assenka Oksiloff


The previous chapter centered upon a rather esoteric cinematic document, the early ethnographic research film. This chapter shirts the focus to a group of films that could fall under various generic headings: the documentary, the travel film, the documentaire romancé, the big-game expedition film, and the colonialist propaganda film. While nascent forms of these hybrid genres emerged in the 1910s, a firmer union between documentary and the exotic was forged during the interwar period and blossomed in the Weimar era. These popular films share some of the same epistemological assumptions as those of the research film. A 1928 review of Robert Flaherty’s Moana (1926) and Karl Browns Stark Love (1927) praises the way the films present the “daily life of out-of-the-way minorities” through “natural pictures with a minimum of posed and directed action.”1 Like the research film, the central tenet of these popular films was to preserve the authenticity of the image, in particular the authentic image of the primitive body.


Indigenous People Paradise Lost Research Film Colonial Society Popular Film 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    See Guido Convents, “Film and German Colonial Propaganda for the Black African Territories to 1918,” in Before Caligari: German Cinema, 1895–1920. eds. Paolo Cherchi Usai and Lorenzo Codelli (Venice: Edizioni Biblioteca dell’Immagine, 1990), 58–77.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Solf’s unpublished diaries, quoted in Marlies Schünemann, Staatsekretär Solf besucht die deutsche Kolonie Togo, 1913. Filmdokumente zur Zeitgeschichte series, publication of the Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film (Göttingen, 1975), 10.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    See Russell A. Berman, Enlightenment or Empire: Colonial Discourse in German Cultur. (Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, 1998), 171.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Quoted in Benoit Massin, “From Virchow to Fischer,” in Volksgeist as Method and Ethic: Essays on Boasian Ethnography and the German Anthropological Tradition. ed. George W Stocking Jr. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996), 81.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    See Rudolf Pöch, Studien an Eingeborenen von Neu-Südwales und an australischen Schädel. (Vienna: Anthropologische Gesellschaft, 1915), 13. In his study of Australian aborigines, Pöch notes that the “Aboriginal Home,” a state-funded facility for educating aborigines, saw a great attrition rate among its population due to the refusal of many aborigines to submit to the Western sedentary work ethic.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Helmut Regel, “Der Schwarze und sein ‘Bwana’: Das Afrika-Bild im deutschen Film,” in Triviale Tropen: Exotische Reise- und Abenteuerfilme aus Deutschland, 1919–1939. ed. Jörg Schöning (Munich: edition text & kritik, 1997), 64.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Schomburgk noted that the project was a failure, above all because the film could not be developed in the existing heat and humidity. See Schomburgk, Zelte in Afrika: Eine autobiographische Erzählun. (Berlin: Reimar Hobbing, 1930), 363–64.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Quoted in J. Zwernemann, Im Deutschen Sudan. Publikationen zu Wissenschaftlichen Filmen, series 8, no. 3, publication of the Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film (Göttingen, 1978), 6.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Meg Gehrts, A Camera Actress in the Wilds of Togolan. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippencott, 1915), 46.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    Tom Gunning, “Embarrassing Evidence: The Detective Camera and the Documentary Impulse,” in Collecting Visible Evidence. eds. Jane M. Gaines and Michael Renov (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 61.Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    Hans Schomburgk, Geheimbund-Riten der Frauen in Liberia Bundu-Orde. (Göttingen: Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film, 1967), 3.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Kurt von Oerthal, “Schicksal des Großkulturfilms,” Der neue Film. July 5, 1948.Google Scholar
  13. 27.
    For an overview of different types of culture films, see Michael Töteberg, “Cultura guerra, commericio: Il reparto ‘Kulturfilm’ dell’Ufa,” in Schermi Germanici, Ufa 1917–1933. ed. Giovanni Spagnoletti (Venice: Marsilio Press, 1993), 69–74.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    For a commentary on this film, see Hilmar Hoffmann, Mythos Olympia: Autonomie und Unterwerfung von Sport und Kultu. (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1993), especially 53–77.Google Scholar
  15. 32.
    Fatimah Tobing Rony, The Third Eye: Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacl. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), 102.Google Scholar
  16. 34.
    Hans Schomburgk, Zelte in Africa: Eine autobiographische Erzählun. (Berlin: Reimer Hobbing, 1924).Google Scholar
  17. 36.
    Colin Ross, Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Wel. (Berlin: Verlag der Lichtbildbühne, 1925), 5.Google Scholar
  18. 38.
    Hans Cürlis, Die Weltgeschichte als Kolonialgeschichte. 35mm, 94 min., Germany, 1926.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Assenka Oksiloff 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Assenka Oksiloff

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations