Film Screening & Conversation: Kaschmir das Land über den Wolken (@Babylon)

Date(s) - 12/05/2023
18:00 - 19:30

Babylon Kino
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“Kaschmir das Land über den Wolken”Film Screening& Conversation

Film screening and conversation 

Kashmir the Land above the Clouds (Kaschmir das Land über den Wolken), director: Heinz Karl Heiland (posth.)/Carl W. Tetting, 1934, ca. 11 minutes, voiceover in German, with English subtitles. Production and world sales: Cabinetfilm, Toni Attenberger, Munich / Recorded by Heinz Karl Heiland / on his last trip to India / Composition and Music Direction: Richard Stauch, chapel Gebr. Walters / On the microphone: Karl Bethke, Expert Advice: Carl. W. Tetting Sound Production: Lignose-Hörfilm, Tesch-Kopie.

VENUE: Babylon Kino, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30, 10178 Berlin

DATE: Friday, May 12, 2023 | 18:00-19:30 h 

Free entry | Limited seats available


Introduction, screening & discussion with Habiba Insaf (CARMAH Berlin), Sol Izquierdo de la Viña (TU Berlin), Tanya Talwar (De:link//Re:link, HU Berlin) and Johanna Függer-Vagts (HU Berlin).


In attempting to evaluate the degree of ‘ethnographic-ness’ of Heinz Karl Heiland’s films, Kaschmir das Land über den Wolken aligns closely with Karl G. Heider’s observation, “The film is the tool and ethnography the goal.”[1] Shot during his final journey to India and posthumously made into an 11-minute film, it captures a vivid picture of a region where “Europeans have seldom set foot”.[2] The film is less didactic than other parts of a trilogy of Heiland’s films that were recorded during his trip to India and released posthumously. One of these films, Indiens steinerne Wunder (1934) featured in a film screening held in 2022.

The current film, however, echoes some of the picturesque observations of Kashmir made in the travelogues of imperial tourist and colonial administrator, VC Scott O’Connor published in his 1920 book, The Charm of Kashmir. This particular form of seeing when taken as a discursive frame allows one to look at the parallels between the colonial picturesque descriptions of O’Connor, who also uses images and artworks along with text, and Heiland’s short film. It compels one to ask how a particular way of seeing a place emerges. What are the consequences of such picturesque viewing of a region? How has the image of this particular region of the Indian landscape changed since the coming of such writings and films on Kashmir?

Hailed as an ethnographer by the weekly German film magazine, Die Lichtbild-Bühne back in 1918, Heiland’s ethnographic worldview can be seen in the ‘holism’[3] with which he describes the landscape and the people of Kashmir, giving a sense of visual acclimatization.[4]

Wandering through the streets, as far as his Mercedes can take him, Heiland smoothly glides into the local Schikarboot/Shikara to navigate the canals of Srinagar. His nostalgic search for symbols of ruin and a ‘primitive’ past continues even as he begins the film by calling Kashmir a “popular summer destination for wealthy Indians”[5]. Additionally, two publications under Heiland’s name provide deeper observations made by the author about the region. One is a published book put together by Carl W. Tetting, titled Land über den Wolken (1937) and the other is a short article titled, ‘Ein indisches Venedig’ published in the January 1931 edition of Scherl’s Magazin. Begging the question, how far can one separate Heiland and his views about Kashmir from what we can see in this film, especially as the voiceover was added posthumously?

Following the film screening, the guests will discuss the film from the perspective of their respective research fields and enter into a conversation with the audience.


[1] Karl G. Heider, Ethnographic Film-Revised Edition, University of Texas Press (Austin, 2006), p. 3.

[2] Voiceover in Kaschmir das Land über den Wolken, Heinz Karl Heiland (1934).

[3] Heider uses the term to define one of the basic principles of ethnography.

[4] Sean P. Smith, ‘Aestheticising empire: the colonial picturesque as a modality of travel, Studies in Travel Writing,’ 2019, 23:3, p. 293.

[5] Voiceover in Kaschmir das Land über den Wolken, Heinz Karl Heiland (1934).

Eine Veranstaltung des Fachbereichs Kunstgeschichte der Moderne