Jon Hughes on Anglo-German Mountaineering Films

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This episode features a paper given by Jon Hughes at the BSSH's seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research. Jon's paper,'We met the most serious opposition in the Ministry of Propaganda': Borders, Limits, and Summits in the German-British mountain film Der Berg ruft / The Challenge (1938)' is a fascinating look at how Anglo-German film-making took place during the increasingly fraught period of the 1930s. Read more in Jon's description below ... In this paper I will present a reassessment of a mountaineering film released in parallel German and English-language versions at a politically fraught historical moment: Der Berg ruft, directed by Luis Trenker in 1938, and The Challenge, co-directed by Trenker and Milton Rosmer, also in 1938. By exploring their framing of a story revolving around contested borders and summits, I will reflect on their status as transnational examples of the Bergfilm (mountain film) genre. Drawing on recent archival research, I will argue that they both reflect and challenge the ideological and cultural investment in mountaineering in Germany and Britain; in particular I will consider whether Trenker's later claim to have struggled with Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda is credible. I will conclude by exploring the circumstances that allowed this co-operative production - the making of the British film, which received support from the British Alpine club and was produced for Alexander Korda's London Film by the German emigré Günther Stapenhorst from a screenplay by the Hungarian-Jewish author Emeric Pressburger, reveals the extensive and powerful networks that connected both mountaineering and the film industry in Britain and Germany in the 1930s. Dr Jon Hughes is reader in German and Cultural Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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