Documentary Footage


One of the Film Archive Austria’s core competences is the preservation of documentary films and materials. Key moments from Austrian history – the funeral of Emperor Franz Joseph (1916), the proclamation of the First Republic (1918), the February Battles (1934), Hitler’s invasion (1938) or the signing of the Austrian State Treaty (1955) – constitute the country’s collective audio-visual memory, contributing in no small measure to the cultural identity of Austria. However, it is not just important historical events and turning-points that have been preserved on celluloid; countless small incidents from everyday life have also survived, mostly in the form of private film documents.


Christina Wintersteller, MA
+43 (0)1 216 13 00 – 432

Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1896-1918)

Film Archive Austria owns the world’s largest collection of film material from the waning days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. More than 500 film documents from the years 1896-1918 make for an engrossingly vivid record of early twentieth-century history and the great caesuras of that period. The earliest moving images held by the FAA were created by the brothers Lumière and shot in Vienna in 1896. The earliest Austrian production is from 1903: shot by the travelling cinema entrepreneur Johann Bläser, the footage documents Emperor Franz Joseph’s visit to Braunau. Of particular historical interest are the numerous films devoted to the imperial family as well as the documentary films – most of them made for purposes of propaganda – produced during the years of World War One.


First Republic (1918-1938)

Our collection of documentary films from the First Republic affords unique insights into an era when film was the medium through which the great political battles of the day were fought and the crucial social questions were being addressed. The collection of the former Staatliche Hauptbildstelle für Lichtbild und Bildungsfilm forms an essential part of the FAA’s holdings from this period. The FAA also possesses an important collection of proletarian films made mostly by filmmakers affiliated with the Social Democratic Party. In recent years, Film Archive Austria has moreover succeeded in repatriating a number of seminal film documents from international partner archives. Another key component of the collection are the corporatist state’s weekly newsreels “Österreich in Bild und Ton.” The holdings also include state-commissioned film reports about various public and political events.


The Years of NS-Rule (1938-45)

Until recently, most film documents from the years of Nazi rule were believed to be permanently lost. Thanks to intense efforts on the part of Film Archive Austria, however, some of the gaps in the record have by now been filled. Thus the weekly OSTMARK newsreels produced in 1938/39 could be added to the collection, so that now there is almost complete documentation of the National Socialist takeover in Austria. Furthermore, various collections have been rediscovered, mostly in the provinces, including propaganda films commissioned by regional governments (for instance on the occasion of the referendum), films from film archives as well as film documents from subsidiary NS organizations. The audio-visual record of the period is complemented by a substantial number of amateur films submitted to the FAA in response to search calls. What makes these amateur films especially valuable is their unvarnished look at everyday life under Nazism.

IM BEFREITEN INNSBRUCK (OSTMARK-Wochenschau 9A/1938), A 1938

Second Republic (1945-today)

Since its foundation in 1955, the Film Archive Austria has put great effort into preserving film documents relating to the history of the Second Republic. Among the major sources for this period are documentaries made by various production companies and the weekly newsreels produced under the aegis of the allied occupying powers. Another focus is on the cultural and educational movies that played such a crucial role in (re-)establishing a sense of Austrian identity in the post-war era. In 2017, the FAA was able to obtain the entire archive of multiple award-winning documentary filmmaker Albert Quendler, who authored many such films during the years of reconstruction. Our collection of educational material is expanding rapidly, not least because for some years now the federal states have been contributing on a regular basis materials used in schools and other educational institutions.


Documentary Footage Relating to Austrian Regions

The systematic compilation of a moving-image map of the Austrian states and regions is another focus of our archival work. The collection contains film documents of various formats and genres from practically every Austrian region. Thanks to research in local archives and museums as well as province-wide search calls, Film Archive Austria’s filmic land survey is becoming ever more fine-grained. Privately-made footage going all the way back to the early twentieth century forms an indispensable component of this corpus. Today, the FAA is the owner of Europe’s largest collection of amateur films. Through our in-house DVD-edition “Austria in historic film documents,“ the ongoing topographical project is made available to the public region by region.

Kompilation von Filmen zu Graz, A ca. 1914/18