Tracking in ruins – ORWO Wolfen

Wolfen near Bitterfeld: Huge old halls from the prosperous times of the 1920s, faded logos, a museum with shiny original machines, high prefabricated concrete buildings and hundreds of stories. All this reminds of ORWO: “Original Wolfen”, the synonym for photo- and filming material in the GDR.
ORWO was a huge state holding company in the dirtiest corner of the chemical industry of the real socialism. 21,000 people worked there. 80 % of them were women. They all produced black-and-white-films, music tapes, film strips, radiographic films as well as viscose, sausage casings and even their own brand of cola.
Formerly ORWO was named AGFA Wolfen, which made the first Technicolor film of the world in 1936. ORWO went down in the 90s of the past century, only a few years before the Technicolor film died everywhere.

Today the huge area is one single construction site. 580 buildings used to stand here; only a handful of them are left. Most halls have been torn down from the women who temporarily worked for the clearance company. Right now the factory has 750 employees left. It is the end of a long history of film that started in 1910. With her song “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen”, German singer Nina Hagen brought the Technicolor film even into the charts of the 1970s. It was a song that people listened to on ORWO music tapes. In the Filmmuseum Wolfen the history and the stories of ORWO become alive again. One can find hundreds of old machines, advertisement films about the industry of ORWO in the 1960s, and photos and magnetic strips that show what it looked like in the past, when mom went to work in the morning.

Written by: Anna Schmidt
Direction: Anna Schmidt
Director or Photography: Jens Bungies
Editor: Mario Biehl