Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Sammelt Knochen! / [Collect Bones!]

Sammelt Knochen! (DE 1918). Photo: Lobster Films, Paris.

[Raccogliete le ossa!], ? (DE 1918), prod: Bild- und Filmamt (BUFA), Berlin, DCP, 405 m, 12′ (16 fps), tinted; titles: GER., subt. FRA, source: Lobster Films, Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: Neil Brand.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 4 Oct 2017.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "Convincing the German and Austrian public that processed bone scraps were a palatable source of margarine must have been an uphill battle, but one that the German Supreme Army Command’s cinema propaganda wing, the Bild- und Filmamt, undertook with humor and verve. No doubt it was the only way. Sammelt Knochen!, roughly translated as “Collect Bones!,” opens with a fictional scenario in a well-to-do home. The maid is about to throw out the family’s leftover bones from their substantial meal (they truly must have been wealthy to afford such a repast in 1918), but the cook stops her and explains that the scraps must be saved for the bone collector. A young man arrives in the kitchen, picks up the offerings, and then the documentary element begins, as we’re told about all the wonderful things ROHAG – Chemische Rohproduktion-HandelsgmbH – can do with the bones."

"The number of by-products are both impressive and stomach-churning. After being sorted and ground down into either bone meal or fat, the substances are turned into everything from glycerin for softening feminine hands to animal feed, machine grease, candles and, most disturbingly, margarine. Over 11,000 substitute foodstuffs were approved in the war years, leading English-born Evelyn, Princess Blücher, to write in her 1916 Berlin diary, “I don’t believe that Germany will ever be starved out, but she will be poisoned out first with these substitutes!”"

"The princess was optimistic – food riots had already begun in the autumn of 1915, and rationing had become a deeply unsatisfying and poorly organized part of life for all but the most privileged. Agricultural production had fallen precipitously with so many men at the front, and even the labor of hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war couldn’t ensure that the land yielded sufficient amounts. It’s estimated that 763,000 people died in Germany during the War from malnutrition and its effects, which puts the bone-collecting idea into proper perspective. The government-run operation was instituted in spring 1917 and was also in place in Austria-Hungary by that summer, as testified by a poster in the Wienbibliothek. Though the practice ended when the guns went quiet, collecting bones to be recycled into various by-products returned in Germany during World War II."

"The print was discovered in 2002 in an old cinema in Buffalo, New York, whose owner during the 1910s was of German origin. He also owned a mining plant in town, whose workers were largely German nationals; unfortunately we don’t know how or when he obtained the film.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Non-fiction. An amazing and revealing wartime public information bulletin on the dozens of uses of bones. Inventively made with animation inserts.

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