Documentary in Dialogue: Werner Herzog

Series Site

"Werner Herzog represents a rare case of a filmmaker whose oeuvre is divided neatly into both feature and documentary films. Herzog’s prominence within the realm of nonfiction cinema has grown in recent years, both due to the films themselves and to his promotion of the idea of an “ecstatic truth” that hinges on the director’s manipulation of reality. At the same time Herzog has gained attention by critiquing other, more passive approaches, such as Direct Cinema.

"Nevertheless, it is not easy to say what defines a Herzog documentary, aside from the presence of his almost legendary voice and his interest in outsiders who are often confronted with extraordinary circumstances. Guest curated by Alejandro Bachmann and Michelle Koch – the editors of a recent German-language book on Herzog’s documentaries – this film program attempts to illuminate this unique body of work by pairing particular Herzog films with works by other filmmakers that focus on similar topics, deal with comparable material, or employ related approaches.

The pairings work in different ways: in some cases the films show close affinities, while in others they stand in opposition to each other. Either way, they represent an opportunity to contemplate what makes Herzog’s documentaries so unique. The series also provides a chance simply to experience a wide variety of films that engage with the world – taken together they demonstrate the multiplicity of meaning inherent in the term “documentary.”

"Guest curated by Alejandro Bachmann and Michelle Koch, co-editors of “Echos: Zum dokumentarischen Werk Werner Herzogs” (“Echoes: On the Documentary Work of Werner Herzog”), who are also responsible for the series introduction and all the program descriptions below.

"This series is co-presented by the Goethe-Institut New York."