“...because it only counts if it makes money”
Women, Work and Film*
The discovery of film is closely linked in history with the rise of the Fordist factory. Not only does the first filmstrip depict workers leaving the Lumière factory; at the same time, Étienne-Jules Marey was capturing working bodies on photographic plates to precisely analyse the physiological work process and render it more productive. The technological innovation of film was used by capitalists to increasingly control labour. Subsequently, Hollywood cinema seemed to perfect the ideological exploitation of film with its “cultural industry”.
Yet from the beginning, the cinema also represented a protest against this work-oriented society; it was a place where dominant economic structures broke up, where sealed-off feelings found space and there was room for sensation.
Our programme title “...because it only counts if it makes money”: Women, Work and Film continues the tradition of the rebellious cinema in that we are taking up a “classic” topic from the new women’s movement and feminist film work. The many forms of labour performed by women come into focus in the programme – this is often “invisible” work in the kitchen, household and relationships, in factories and offices, on film sets, in village life, in shops. But we also focus on the feminisation, migrantisation and sexualisation of work, emotional work, and the many forms of resistance against discrimination and exploitation:
A women’s work is never done – The films screened in the first two days of the festival look at various aspects of care and housework. Three feature films focus on birth straight away: Mistletoes by Judit Ember, Kampf um ein Kind ("The Struggle for a Child") by Ingemo Engström and À la vie by Aude Pépin.
The history of work, work as history – What follows are films in which female protagonists look back at their working lives and their life situations, as in Roswitha Ziegler’s documentary Landfrauen ("Rural Women"), in which a dialogue between three generations of women takes place. Helke Misselwitz's Who's Afraid of the Bogeyman provides the viewer with a look back at labour and a perception of time that was radically different than in the 24/7 late capitalism that is our present.
Class struggle cinéma (worldwide) – Domination manifests itself in labour conditions. Women workers revolt(ed) against this, deciding to strike and expressing solidarity. Tied into this are anti-racist and decolonial movements.
Love – Work: Decussations – Barbara Wurm describes how levels interlock in Kira Muratova’s construction site love story Getting to Know the Big, Wide World: "the private and the public, the intimate and the communal, libido and production." This describes a quintessential woman’s experience – which is also the subject of the three “working girl” films in the programme.
*We borrowed the programme title from the 1979 study by Frankfurt sociologists Silvia Kontos and Karin Walser, … weil nur zählt, was Geld einbringt: Probleme der Hausfrauenarbeit (… It Only Counts if It Brings in Money: Problems of Women’s Domestic Work).
Tribute to the Feminale, Cologne (1984) and femme totale, Dortmund (1987)
Remake dedicates itself to the history of feminist film festivals in every edition of the festival. In 2018, we focused on the first European festival, the 1972 Women’s Event at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The following year, we celebrated women’s cinema work in Eastern Europe and cross-border relationships between women in the East and the West (Tribute to KIWI – Kino Women International). This year, we spotlight the first women’s film festival in Germany – more precisely, West Germany. The Feminale was established in Cologne in 1984; the first edition of the femme totale followed in 1987 in Dortmund.
These two women’s film festivals were both established in North Rhine-Westphalia – far from the (West German) cultural centres at the time, where women’s film seminars had already existed since the early 1970s. The founders of Feminale and femme totale followed up on these developments and the international debates of the late 1960s and 1970s, when not only the first generation of women directors but also feminist film theory became firmly established. Yet they dealt differently with these accomplishments: whereas from the beginning, femme totale focused on actively questioning historical theories and debates and brought together different generations of film women both on-screen and in the discussion room, the Feminale concentrated on making what was new visible – on current film experiments.
Workers at the Feminale were volunteers at first; the femme totale was supported by three government-sponsored job creation positions, which enabled it to professionalise. This left marks on the historization of both festivals. Whereas all records of the femme totale, including rejected concept designs and countless press articles, are meticulously archived in the current archive of the IFFF Dortmund+Köln, Feminale catalogues can primarily be found in the private archives of organisers or visitors. Yet just 10 years after the festival began, Feminale makers Karin Jurschick and Eva Hohenberger already published a book entitled Blaue Wunder. Neue Filme und Videos von Frauen 1984 bis 1994 ("Nasty Surprises. New Films and Videos by Women 1984 to 1994"), an academic reflection on the festival and the debates about films by women.
We want to discuss these developments with the founders of both these festivals and to discover the differing motivations and situations that led them to initiate them. We also want to discuss issues that are relevant for the future of women’s film work. A portion of the retrospective is a short film programme with films that were screened at the festivals at the time.
Frieda Grafe. Film critic
We had a friendly relationship with Frieda Grafe; we met her on journeys to see films, at film festivals, in the Filmmuseum and on Ainmillerstrasse in Munich. When she held a seminar – on colour, naturally – at the Institute for Theatre, Film and Media Studies in the mid-1990s, she was our guest in Frankfurt am Main. Following her death in 2002, Enno Patalas collected her film criticism, film notes and the essays that were strewn throughout newspapers, magazines and books in a series of "notebooks" – cahiers. This complete edition, which was published by Brinkmann & Bose, is the primary basis for the renewed attention paid to this extraordinary film writer today, and for renewed examination of her work. Evidence of new interest can be found in a booklet published by Volker Pantenburg and Sissi Tax for the Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin as well as in a dossier by the Belgian online platform Sabzian, Beschreven cinema. De filmkritiek van Frieda Grafe.
We want to make Frieda Grafe visible in the context of feminist cinema work. Remake – Frankfurt Women's Film Days dedicates this year's homage to her, in texts, words and films. We have taken Grafe's essay "Modern architecture at risk. Grand hotels in the entertainment industry" (Die saubere Architektur in Gefahr. Die Grandhotels in der Unterhaltungsindustrie) as the starting point for our programme. A selection from it is published here. We have selected films from her "film history hotel guide" – a 10-part outline for a film programme which is appended to the essay – to screen during Remake.
Frieda Grafe the film critic and translator spent her years of apprenticeship at the Cinémathèque Française under the protagonists of the Nouvelle Vague and Cahiers du Cinéma. "Uninhibited entertainment", an almost incidental term in her Grand Hotel film text, is provocative enough to allow a love of cinema to emerge, breaking through the myth of art and masterpieces to provide an unobstructed view of the women in cinema.
We would like to send the Grand Hotel film programme on tour next year and to add our own publication to accompany it. We hope to reprint the entire essay "Modern architecture at risk. Grand hotels in the entertainment industry" and to add articles that were inspired by the text. The book will appear in early 2022 in collaboration with Synema, Vienna. Editors are Karola Gramann, Ute Holl and Heide Schlüpmann.
Karola Gramann, Heide Schlüpmann