Film Festival Cologne | Watch Out: The Great Conspiracy
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Watch Out: The Great Conspiracy

The number of conspiracy theories has increased almost exponentially in the 20th century. The power of images has an effect. And to use a very contemporary metaphor: conspiracy theories spread like viruses. The first ones have been handed down from the 12th century. What began with horror stories about poisoned wells had already developed into the horror story of the Jewish world conspiracy in the 19th century.

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Then came the murder of JFK, the disappearance of the real Paul McCartney, the moon landing filmed by Stanley Kubrick. There truly is something for everyone. Life motto: "Google that!" If you Google everything, you have an opinion on everything. Expert opinion, of course.

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Some stories have been around forever, others are destined to stay forever young. And it seems rumors are most easily spread when people are affected by a real-life virus. After all, the virus of conspiracy theories needs a host - and a regulars' table.


Images have long been circulating that are no longer simply images. They are traces. Clues. Signs. At the same time, we find ourselves on a base of real facts. Anyone who deals with the digital and pop culture cannot get past the narratives that conspiracy theorists put into the world in order to gain power over images. Images are manipulable and manipulative. The scope for interpretation has become a media playground. But what happens to the images and what do they do to us?

At the conspiracy regulars’ table, every theory needs a culprit. "The media" or "those up there." We ourselves belong to "the media" and have noticed: The conspiracy theater always works according to the same building-block principle. You assemble a conspiracy theory like a Billy shelf from Ikea. That's about it. Truth and reality become interchangeable variables.

Resistance, on the other hand, is the hard currency of conspiracy theorists. Resistance is also growing in the land of poets and Querdenker. Civil liberties threatened by the lockdown have been defended on YouTube. Democratization of culture and science makes it possible. TV icons no longer use communication channels only for self-promotion purposes. They share secret knowledge with their followers. People meet again on the street or in front of the Reichstag.

Those who contradict and call out the rebels, come under suspicion of organizing a witch hunt themselves. Persecution mania welds together. The conspiracy theorists themselves are a kind of conspiratorial bunch - and QAnon is something like their substitute religion. But who is this Q? We explore this and other questions - in conversation with the artist Arne Vogelgesang.

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One person finds an image - and there really is no shortage of images in the daily growing pop cultural and digital memory - and the other finds an associated historical event. The conspiracy theory is ready to go. The frequency of such coincidences: increasing. Q likes that. The right-wingers like it. Against this twisted kind of "truth" there is probably only one vaccination: The real truth. And what's that supposed to be now? With our topic focus on FFCGN, we want to get one step closer to it. Watch out!