Found-footage film-maker Gustav Deutsch: an obituary

Gustav Deutsch, film archive archaeologist

6 November 2019

When Gustav Deutsch passed away last Saturday, 2 November, aged 67, Eye Filmmuseum lost a valued friend. The Austrian film-maker (1952) was a master of the found-footage film genre, and had scoured through film archives all over the world to find the archive images he wanted for his collages. As a tribute to Deutsch’ life and work, his most recent film How We Live – Messages to the Family will be screened on Wednesday 11 December.

Deutsch had a particularly close relationship with the Austrian Film Museum and with Eye. In his co-productions with Eye, Welt Spiegel Kino (2005) and the trilogy Film ist. (1998/2002/2009), he drew heavily from the Eye’s own collection.

In Welt Spiegel Kino he used archive film material to reconstruct the street life of three cities at the beginning of the 20th century. The second part of the trilogy Film ist. 7-12 is a compilation of the techniques and applications of cinema in the early 20th century. The installation that Deutsch created using the first two parts of Film ist. was premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2002.


Deutsch has been called a ‘film-maker without a camera’ and a ‘found footage juggler’. As a cinematographic archaeologist he gave the public a glimpse of film history, which he then rearranged to achieve his own creative ends. In Shirley – Visions of Reality (2013), his feature film debut, Deutsch also re-envisions reality. His oeuvre enjoys international renown and has received many awards. Eye handled the national distribution of Deutsch’ feature film and above-mentioned found-footage films in theatres.

new ways

Gustav Deutsch was born in Vienna in 1952 and studied architecture at the Technical University of Vienna. Under the name D&S he worked from 1985 onwards together with his partner, the artist Hanna Schimek. Deutsch was also a member of two Austrian non-profit organizations exploring new ways to make and present film and video: sixpackfilm and After Image Production.

The Eye collection inspired Gustav Deutsch, and he in turn became an important source of inspiration for everyone he worked with at Eye.


Eye’s silent film curator Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi on Deutsch:

“I was lucky enough to work with him on several occasions. His Film ist. struck me as a work of genius, and every film of his I saw after that made an even deeper impression on me. As a film-maker he was resolute and principled. As a friend he was warm, encouraging and inspiring. Over the years, some of the things he told me have evolved into important principles in my own work.”

His death is a huge loss; Eye will miss Gustav Deutsch and his films deeply. He will doubtless have had many more collaborative film projects in the pipeline.

screening in Eye

As a tribute to Deutsch and his rich oeuvre, Eye will be screening Deutsch’ most recent film How We Live – Messages to the Family (2017) at 7pm on Wednesday 11 December. Senior curator Mark Paul Meyer will provide an introduction.