ⓘ Oliver Herbrich is a German filmmaker working as author, film director and producer. He is associated with the New German Cinema movement in the 1980s. From 201 ..


ⓘ Oliver Herbrich

Oliver Herbrich is a German filmmaker working as author, film director and producer. He is associated with the New German Cinema movement in the 1980s. From 2016, his films are digitally remastered and re-released in the Fiction – Non-Fiction Film Edition. In 2018, the Film Museum Dusseldorf added all archival documents to its collection.


1. Work

Before his Abitur, Herbrich realized his cinema debut The Proud and Sad Life of Mathias Kneissl in 1979 with the support of the" Kuratorium Junger Deutscher Film” Young German Film Committee. Although Herbrich was enrolled in the feature film department of the University of Television and Film Munich since 1980, it was here that he made his first two documentaries, which were shot under adverse conditions in the Australian desert and the Amazon jungle. Since then, he has worked on both narrative and documentary films.

After completing his studies, Herbrich turned back to feature filmmaking in 1984. Wodzeck, an adaptation of Georg Buchners Woyzeck, ran as a German entry in the competition of the 14th Moscow International Film Festival and was awarded for the "Best Male Leading Role". The film was also presented at 20 other festivals. As an auteur filmmaker Herbrich is involved in all films as director, screenwriter and producer he is a representative of the New German Cinema of the 1980s and 90s. In order to have his own production equipment such as film cameras and editing tables, Herbrich founded the technology service provider LICHT & TON Ltd, which existed until 2010.

After the success of Wodzeck followed further documentaries: Bikini - mon amour dealt with the recent consequences of above-ground atomic bomb tests. Like Searching for El Dorado, Bikini - mon amour reached an audience of millions when it was shown in prime time on German TV Channel 1 ARD. In 1985/86 Herbrich realized a documentary biopic with the Bavarian jail break king, Theo Berger. The Bavarian Al Capone also caused a sensation, but was not broadcast on Bavarian television BR. After cinema distribution, the film was broadcast on West German television WDR. For this broadcast, the film needed to be subtitled in High German.

In 1988, the" Filmmakers Distribution Association” re-released Herbrichs films in the edition "Fiction - Non-Fiction". In the same year, he shot his third feature film Earthbound. The film is a fictional adaptation inspired by the life story of Gustav Mesmer. Earthbound received international awards and stars Hannes Thanheiser, Rudiger Vogler and Vera Tschechowa.

Oliver Herbrich ended his career as a filmmaker with two cinema documentaries shot in Nepal and Ireland. For his complete works, he was awarded the "Film Prize of the City of Munich" in 1994.

In 2016-18 the reels of negative films archived in the Federal Film Archive Berlin were digitally remastered and reissued in the "Fiction - Non-Fiction Film Edition". A collection of analogue 16 and 35 mm film copies is owned by the Film Museum Munich and the Film Museum Dusseldorf. In 2018, Film Museum Dusseldorf catalogued all written documents from the films.


2. Cinematic approach

Dieter Kosslick, former director of Berlin International Film Festival outlined Herbrichs working style as follows:

"Fortunately Oliver Herbrich doesn’t create an ideology when walking the line between fictional movie and documentary film. Herbrich’s approach is solely based on the storytelling needs of the subjects. Remarkably, this technique results in a combination of documentary and fictional elements. There’s one scene sequence during the Mathias Kneissl movie, when the gendarmerie brigade is closing in on the folk hero. The resulting police violence is reminiscent of documentary reports. Vice versa, his documentary films include elements of fiction. The scenes of gold diggers carrying sacks of mud uphill from their claims in the documentary Searching for El Dorado reminds the viewer of monumental feature movies. This evokes a mythologization of the real life, revealing the general in the particular. One can describe Herbrich’s films as stories about human behavior, depicting the mechanisms of reality. Reaching limits and crossing borders is something to be taken in the literal sense in Herbrich’s oeuvre." Dieter Kosslick, 1994.


3. Filmography

  • 1988/89 Earthbound Erdenschwer
  • 1985/86 The Bavarian Al Capone Der Al Capone vom Donaumoos
  • 1992/93 Rules of the Road Gesetz der StraSe
  • 1991 Priests of the Condemned Priester der Verdammten
  • 1982 Dead Heart Totes Herz
  • 1983/84 Searching for El Dorado Auf der Suche nach El Dorado
  • 1979/80 The Proud and Sad Life of Mathias Kneissl Das stolze und traurige Leben des Mathias KneiSl
  • 1987 Bikini – mon amour
  • 1983/84 Wodzeck
  • 1986/87 The World beyond the World Die Welt jenseits der Welt

4. Awards

  • 1985 Prix dAntenne II, Paris Festival Cinema du Reel for Searching for El Dorado ; 2nd Prize Cine-stud Film Fest, Amsterdam for Searching for El Dorado ; Best Male Actor International Film Festival Moskow for Detlef Kugow in Wodzeck
  • 1980 and 1984 rating" Highly Recommended” for Mathias Kneissl and Searching for El Dorado
  • 1990 Best Screenplay Festival Imag Fic, Madrid for Earthbound ; Best Artistic Contribution Festival Europa Cinema, Viareggio for Earthbound ; Prix de la Federation international del Cine Club Festival Figuera da Foz, Portugal for Earthbound
  • 1989 Honorary Mention at 4th Medikinale International Parma, Italy for Bikini – mon amour ; Honorary Mention at Red Cross and Health Film Fest Varna, Bulgaria for Bikini – mon amour
  • 1994 Film Prize of the City of Munich lifetime achievement

5. Retrospectives

  • 2018 Breitwand Cinema Gauting, Germany
  • 1990 West Virginia Film Festival, Charleston, USA
  • 1993 Film Museum Dusseldorf, Germany
  • 1987 Low Budget Festival Hamburg, Germany
  • 1989 Film Week Onikon Cinema Herdecke, Germany
  • 1994 Film Museum Munich, Germany

6. Social Engagement

  • 2010 start of charity NGO" Foundation Oliver Herbrich Childrens Fund”
  • 1990–2000 Sponsor" Award for the Outstanding Documentary" International Documentary Film Festival Munich