Relaunch of German film Distrib Progress, Sergei Loznitsa’s latest

Progress Film, the historic distributor established in 1950 to handle the release of films produced by East Germany’s communist state film studio, has announced its intention to revive theatrical distribution and international sales.

The company has also acquired “The Natural History of Destruction” by Sergei Loznitsa, which will have its world premiere in a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Progress is handling worldwide sales as well as distribution in Germany, where it plans a theatrical release.

Based on archival footage from World War II, “The Natural History of Destruction” asks the following questions: Is it morally acceptable to use civilian populations as a means of warfare, and is it possible to justify mass destruction in the name of higher “moral” ideals? These issues remain as relevant today as they were 80 years ago, becoming ever more urgent amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Progress Film was founded in East Berlin in 1950 and was the sole distributor in East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall, making it one of the largest European film distributors of the 20th century. The company’s goal at the time was partly to demonstrate the utopia of a better life as a replacement for the Nazi propaganda that had been broadcast before.

After German reunification, Progress focused on developing and distributing the vast film heritage of the former communist republic. Its work as a film archive has been recognized worldwide and beyond the DEFA Foundation, which was created to preserve films produced by the public studio Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft, other archives have entrusted their funds to Progress for indexing and rating, including the Vietnam Film Institute, the Catholic Church and German Television (ARD) broadcasters.

Courtesy of Progress Film

Progress uses the latest AI methods for digitizing, restoring and creating metadata and operates an archive platform for the global community of archival researchers on its website. It intends to manage a selection of three to six documentary and fiction films per year, with an emphasis on the intersection between historical and contemporary relevance.

As an archive, Progress has found essential material for the creation of “The Natural History of Destruction” in its holdings. With Loznitsa’s latest, it also resumes its traditional role as a film distributor and global sales agent for theatrical productions and will release the film as the first production of this new chapter in its 72-year history in German cinemas. The company will also represent the film in the global market.

Gunnar Dedio, CEO of Progress Film, said: “I grew up in East Germany with the masterpieces of Eisenstein and Tarkovsky presented by Progress in my hometown cinema, the ‘Theater of Peace’ (Friedens Theater) in Rostock. It is a huge honor and a great responsibility for me today as CEO of Progress to sum up the 72-year history of this historic distributor with a new masterpiece by Sergei Loznitsa.

Born in Kyiv, Loznitsa has won wide acclaim for documentaries such as ‘Maidan’ (2014), which chronicles the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and had its world premiere at a special screening in Cannes. His next feature films “The Event” (2015), “Austerlitz” (2016), “The Trial” (2018) and “State Funeral” (2019) were presented in the Special Screenings section of the Venice Film Festival. In 2021, he received a Special Jury Prize, the Golden Eye Award, for best documentary at Cannes for his film “Babi Yar. The context.”

“The Natural History of Destruction” is produced by LOOKSfilm (Germany), Studio Uljana Kim (Lithuania), ATOMS & VOID (Netherlands), Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk and supported by Eurimages, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Minister of State German for Culture and Media, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Lithuanian Film Center, Netherlands Film Fund and Creative Europe Media Programme.

James R. Rhodes