This film is the direct answer to Britain’s 1916 war documentary film “The Battle of the Somme” and features footage taken in the time of June to November 1916.
This was the first film made under the BuFA (Bild- und Filmamt – Picture and Film Agency – precursor to the UFA) regime was a direct response to the British model. It was called “Bei unseren Helden an der Somme” and was first shown publicly in Berlin on 19 January 1917.
For the first time a film was released bearing the explicit characterisation “amtlich-militärisch” – or “official military business”. Never before had a film presenting pictures of actual battle been shown in Germany – this film was advertised of doing so. And never before had a propaganda film been given a festival premiere.
A journalist reported:
“One was invited to the first private performance preceding the public performances in one of the modern Berlin movie palaces. Mostly gentlemen in black, only occasional ladies, numerous officers – a solemn, seriously expectant audience as had scarcely been assembled so densely at any other time in a film theater. Subdued conversations here and there, otherwise silence. Darkness drifts through the hall, music begins, the velvet curtain is parted and on the white shimmering screen letters engrave themselves, like words from a sacred text: “Bei unseren Helden an der Somme”.” (Rainer Rother, Learning from the Enemy: German Film Propaganda in World War I”)
In contrast, soldiers’ deaths are depicted by war graves rather than actual footage of wounded and dead soldiers such as in “The Battle of the Somme”.
This film features some scenes of re-enactment and, as with the British film, this film was regarded by the public as an authentic account of actual war proceedings of the time.