“DARKEST AUSTRIA” (1994), the follow up to Walter Wippersberg’s fantastic mockumentary “Das Fest des Huhns” from 1992 makes it onto the website of the Californian Centre for the Research of Globalisation: Hilarious Political Satire: ‘Darkest Austria’ goes where ‘No Black Man has Set Foot Before’.
Putting the foreign gaze in the centre for humorous effect is a strategy not unknown to German speaking satire, think of Herbert Rosendorfers “Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit” (1983), translated into English by Mike Mitchell only in 2006 (“Letters Back to Ancient China“). What Wippersberg managed in “Das Fest des Huhns” (“The festival of the chicken”) and after that, in “Darkest Austria”, though, was to utterly subvert the seriousness and reliability of the documentary genre way before films like “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2006) demonstrated the unsettling potential of utilizing cultural/national stereotypes in a seemingly serious context. The English speaking world had seen a number of mockumentaries (not at least “A Hard Day’s Night”) since the 1960s but reactions to “Borat” showed that the satire had hit a nerve in terms of ‘national pride’.
“Das Fest des Huhns”, however, being one of the earlier German mockumentaries in the century, did not put the offensive ignoramus’s perspective in the centre but the findings of a team of African anthropological experts that are confronted with Austrian natives and their customs, and do nothing but imitate the often patronizing Western European approach to the “Dark Continent” – which has a hilariously estranging effect on the Central European viewer. The African TV team visits Upper Austria and is witness to a “Dorffest” (village fete), in the course of which roast chicken is offered in abundance and beer is consumed to extreme degrees of inebriation. Everything is banned on film and used as the basis for scientific analyses of the goings-on by the anthropologists and ethnographers.
The fact that “Dark Austria” is still being mentioned today in the context of the global culture-discourse warrants the verdict that Wippersberg’s mockumentaries have become true classics of satirical TV-making.
For a version of “Das Fest des Huhns” with English subtitles click here.