European beer in a Chinese harbor
Rather than depicting foreign cultures in a supposedly pure state, Ross often highlights evidence of trade’s global grid.
“European beer is being drunk in China”, says Ross in the complete sound version of Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! (1930) over this passage of images, “and baby sons are clothed European-style. But while Europe may import its goods and ideas, China stays fundamentally the same it has been through the millennia.”
China is a special case in Ross’s estimation. But this short commentary still gives a good indication of a key tension within German geopolitics. On the one hand it stresses an ever-increasing global connectedness via grids of traffic, trade, and communication, while maintaining, on the other, a deeply antagonistic outlook on race relations and foreign policy.
The pervasiveness of Western consumer goods all over the world is a running theme in Ross’s travel writing and filmmaking: In his breakthrough film Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Erde (1925) Ross distinguished himself as a roaming journalist, rather than a maker of bland travelogues, by showing his audience such attractions as a row of cars parked next to thatched huts in a village in British Malaya, or Siamese woman wearing the newest fashion fad: a Western brassiere. This focus on the here-and-now also corresponded to the German sense of international isolation in the years after the defeat in World War I. As the producer of that earlier Ross film writes, it aimed at showing the German people “how the world had changed and developed in the ten years that we were barred from it.”1
Colin Ross.Ost-Asien Reise – Hong Kong, Canton [archive title]
Excerpt from: Colin Ross. Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelgesicht des Ostens. Germany: Ufa/Ullstein; 1930.
35mm | b&w | silent | 237m | 16 fps | 13’
Master: 0003-02-0301_ChinaReiseHongKong_ProRes-422HQ_24fps_MOS.mov; 0:03:41,09-0:04:03,09
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30
1 Neumann Produktion G.m.b.H. Berlin: Reisefilme. In: Colin Ross. Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Welt. 1. Aufl. Berlin: Lichtbild-Bühne; 1925; 5. See Library.