Seeing the whole

Homage DOK.fest München 2023: Nikolaus Geyrhalter


Nikolaus Geyrhalter during the shooting of HOMO SAPIENS © Simon Graf, Austria 2016

His unique signature is unmistakeable: visually powerful, epic, hypnotically opulent. Geyrhalter’s images: often filmed in grandiose, vertical long shots with deeply graduated soundscapes. The words of the protagonists: scarce and carefully positioned – if a word is spoken at all. 

Nikolaus Geyrhalter has worked long and hard to achieve this exceptional position. When he was barely 22 years old, the self-taught filmmaker founded his own production company. Since then, working simultaneously as a director, cameraman and producer, he has travelled to the most far-flung corners of the world and visited the universe that unfolds right on his doorstep. “As a documentarist, I come across places and systems that I certainly couldn’t imagine if I hadn’t found them myself.” 

Today, almost 30 years and 18 films later, there is hardly a film prize that he has not won. One reason for this is his choice of subject matter, which is often based around current debates. For example, HOMO SAPIENS could fit seamlessly into discussions of the anthropocene. Through his minimalistic approach, that denies the audience any commentary, through his insistence on a distinct experience of filmic time, his works always emerge from current debates and remind us that cinema is about more than just intellectual experiences. True cinema always hits you that little bit deeper. You might think that his perspective has a formal rigour that is supposed to afford his films something monumental - but nothing could be less true. “The rule is simple,” says Nikolaus Geyrhalter. “And it is always the same: you must spend time with the people on location.” And so, for instance, he returned time and again to the Brenner Pass for DIE BAULICHE MASSNAHME, where his protagonists open themselves up to the film and therefore to us. 

At DOK.fest München 2023, we will not only have the joy of the old “classics” but also a premiere: long awaited at many festivals, “Geyrhalter on rubbish,” MATTER OUT OF PLACE, has arrived!

We are looking forward to six films by a director whose work always pays tribute to the art of documentary.

Nikolas Geyrhalter will be our guest at the festival and will introduce his films in person to the audience.


HOMO SAPIENS, Österreich 2016, Nikolaus Geyrhalter


The films

Austria 2011, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 90 min.

Europe by night: a call girl touting her wares, workers sorting parcels at a conveyor belt, demonstrators against nuclear waste chanting “we are the people” next to the railway tracks, a police patrol looking to detain somebody. In an associative journey ABENDLAND brings together impressions into a cycle of images, in which the political aspects of everyday life involuntarily manifest themselves.

Austria 2018, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 112 min. 

The Brenner border crossing: in Spring 2016, politicians take measures to prevent more refugees from arriving in Austria. A fence is being discussed and border controls between North and South Tirol are to be reintroduced for the first time in twenty years. Many in the Tirol border region are not fond of the “structural measures,” but others are sensitive to the supposed threat of their homeland being “overwhelmed by foreigners.”

Austria 2016, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 90 min. 

What would the world look like without people? What if they were swallowed from the earth from one day to the next? The wind whistles through derelict abattoirs, shopping centres lie empty and slowly, very quietly, the snow would cover the concrete. HOMO SAPIENS is a documentary journey right into this world without people and without language.


Austria 2022, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 106 min. 

Global littering – a hopeless struggle? Seemingly effortlessly, the “matter out of place” – things that are not part of the natural environment – blends into landscapes, overruns beaches, mountain tops and the sea floor, while people and machines work through it in an endless loop. A film of quiet, often disturbing beauty that could not be more alarming.

Austria 1999, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 100 min. 

Specialist clothing, dosimetric checks, military supervision: in 1999, the 30 kilometres around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the city of Pripyat are an exclusion zone. The majority of the villages have been evacuated. In the past, everyone played sport here, now you are not meant to eat or drink or breathe in any dust – yet twelve years on people try to survive here in the highly contaminated ghost town.

Austria 2005, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 92 min.

What or who do we actually eat? Nikolaus Geyrhalter goes right to the heart of the world of high-tech agriculture and industrial food production: a tube hoovers salmon from a fjord, fields of sunflowers wilt on schedule through the use of chemicals, chickens are split by the second. A feast of images that forgoes human language and really hits you in the stomach.