The impetus for this thematic focus of this first edition of Remake. Frankfurt Women’s Film Days was Votes for Women – the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Germany, an exhibit at the Historisches Museum Frankfurt. 1918 marked a breakthrough in the struggle for equal rights for women, which was not over then and is not over now. The struggle continued: for abortion rights, marriage rights, and freedom from penalisation for sexual offences; for independence, career opportunities and a new self-image. All these topics were negotiated in the cinema as well – until 1933, when the film industry (especially Ufa) fell into the party line, and a prescribed image of women arrived on screens. Even inside the Hollywood powerhouse, the industry’s censorship and self-censorship largely hindered the appearance and expression of autonomous women.
Experience with the cinema of domestication, which had begun on a massive scale in the 1930s, was a deciding factor in the formation of the New Women’s Movement, particularly associated with 1968 in Germany. The idea of a counter-cinema played a role from the beginning. Counter-cinema meant taking camera in hand to record reality and publicise women’s condition, making demands, and finding one’s own means of expression. Feminist film criticism and confrontation with “classic” Hollywood cinema were connected to this. And researchers went looking for buried women’s film history.
The StimmRecht programme forms a bridge from “classics” of the 1920s to films from the New Women’s Movement. On the recurring theme of abortion rights for instance, Abort screens alongside Cyankali. The questioning of the prevalence of masculine law comes out in films like The Cannibals, which takes up the Antigone motif, and Processo a Caterina Ross, which recalls a witch trial. And finally, films like What Happened, Miss Simone? and A Question of Silence deal with the acoustic power of the female voice as it becomes a political strength – or a protest, if it's silenced – and point to the exclusionary power of the dominant language.
With Gulabi Gang and Days of Democracy, StimmRecht opens the horizon of the Western women’s movement to include women’s struggles worldwide. It thereby includes an essential component of the New Women’s Movement, which not only accompanied the student movement but also supported Latin American revolutionary movements and African freedom movements. The visualisation of the 1970s, which were extraordinarily rich in documentary films, and the focus on the history of women's condition – and global women’s movements – provide a starting point.
The first women’s film festivals took place independently of one another, in the summer and autumn of 1972 in New York and Edinburgh. They were the result of growing awareness of the social importance of film (which by then, of course, was more or less a part of women’s everyday lives) and were also a decisive step toward the appropriation of all aspects of cinema.
Edinburgh ʼ72 was the work of Laura Mulvey, today’s doyenne of feminist film; Lynda Myles, Head of EIFF from 1973-1980 and later an important producer; and Claire Johnston, a radical feminist thinker and author of the famous essay “Womenʼs Cinema as Counter-Cinema”, who died in the 1980s. Lynda Myles and Laura Mulvey will attend Remake. Film scholar Kathi Kamleitner will lead a discussion with them on their motivations to start a feminist film festival, its possibilites, and the resistance they met then and now. After we made the decision last year to recall the history of women’s film festivals with Remake, we discovered we were not alone in our interest: Kathi Kamleitner is writing a dissertation on early women’s film festivals, for example.
Dorothy Arzner’s film Dance, Girl, Dance was a sensational discovery at the time of the Edinburgh festival. Arzner was one of the very few women directors who was able to assert herself in the Hollywood studio system. Dance, Girl, Dance was seen in 1972 as an example of how women could express protest within the system. The attention the film attracted can be read in the 1975 BFI publication The Work of Dorothy Arzner. Towards a Feminist Cinema by Claire Johnston und Pam Cook, which Laura Mulvey will discuss when she introduces Dance, Girl, Dance.
In 1972, in the USA, England and West Germany, a number of groups and individual women set out to document the condition of women and their often overlooked resistance. Some films by the London Womenʼs Film Group were screened in Edinburgh at the time, and the Remake programme includes a small selection of early feminist documentary films. In Women of the Rhondda, four mining women talk about the tough living conditions in the coal region of south Wales, especially during the general workers’ strike of 1926. Whose Choice? is an “instructional film about abortion”, as Christine Gledhill and Margret Diehl termed it in 1978.
While screening films from the New Women’s Movement, we were overwhelmed by the variety of viewpoints of daily reality and women's struggles. But many film copies were hard to come by or unavailable, turned out to be unscreenable, had a red cast, or were otherwise damaged. In any case, an entire epoch of film work by dedicated women has disappeared in the archives. And yet these films ought to be regular features of community cinema programmes, keeping the collective memory of this history alive.
The works of autonomous women filmmakers from the recent past are in bad shape. Remake directs attention to this fact not only by digging up copies, but by initiating and supporting restorations. We begin this year with the works of Frankfurt filmmaker Recha Jungmann. Jungmann made three feature films and a number of shorts between 1968 and 1982. All of them describe German history from a very personal perspective.
These films, restored in collaboration with the Deutsches Filminstitut, will go on tour after their screenings at Remake.
Recha Jungmann studied in the 1950s at the Academy of Music and Theatre in Hannover and subsequently worked as an actress at the Schauspielhaus Frankfurt city theatre, the Kleine Komödie in Kassel, the Forum Theater Berlin and at Theater 44 in Munich. After an internship with public broadcaster HR’s television division, she married in 1966 and had a son. During her tenure in the editing department at the youth magazine “Horizont”, she shot her first documentary film, Renate (1968), which was screened and well received at national and international festivals. From 1968 to 1974, she lived in the United States and Canada and supported her then-husband Lothar Spree in realising various film projects for the Costello Filmproduktion company.
In 1972, she directed the fiction short Two Right, Two Left, Drop One, which celebrated its world premiere at the 1 st Women’s Film Festival of Toronto. From 1975 to 1978, she worked as an author and director for the ZDF programme “Schülerexpress”. Her fiction feature Etwas tut weh (1979) had its world premiere at Rotterdam Film Festival and was screened at the Berlinale in 1980 in the scope of the “Internationales Forum des jungen Films”, as well as in the programme of the Goethe-Institut and at other festivals. Her next fiction feature Between the Sun and the Moon, which was made in 1980/1981 in the scope of a commission from ZDF Kleines Fernsehspiel, had its world premiere at the Berlinale the following year and was also screened at numerous other festivals. In 1981/82, Jungmann realised the three-part television mini-series Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, which features both documentary and fictional elements. After she failed to secure full financial backing for her fiction feature project “Auf der Suche nach Jimmy Cliff” in spite of screenplay funding from the German Federal Film Board, Jungmann continued to work from the early 1990s on for television, realising numerous television documentaries for ZDF, HR, WDR, SWF and various other public broadcasters. In addition, she has served as a writer for the HR series “Bücher, Bücher” and developed screenplays for TV movies and reports for informational formats.
Recha Jungmann lives in Frankfurt.