In the Company of Others...!
Closeness, Responsibility and Solidarity in Film
Remake's theme this year takes up a subject that always resonated in the background of previous programmes – quite naturally, for a festival that is connected to the history and present of feminist film work, and correspondingly to women's movements. A movement is no one-woman show; it requires many of us!
The Brazilian film MATO SECO EM CHAMAS / DRY GROUND BURNING, which screened at the Berlinale Forum in 2022, provided a major impetus for us to make "togetherness" the focus of this year's festival. Now the film will screen on the Friday of the Remake festival. The film's two directors and six (amateur) women actors create a powerful fiction that fights back against a hegemonic ideology. Their intent: to make "a film that could use images to conceptualise that territory that is animated by the bodies and desires of an entire generation – uprooted, segregated, and imprisoned in the name of the project that is the Brazilian nation," according to Adirley Queirós and Joana Pimenta. "Together with the women, we developed characters that are shaped by shared political memories and a collective idea about these embattled areas. What we want is to emerge victorious against the inevitability of fate."
In the cinema, we watch films together. Neoliberal ideology is destroying the intimate structure on which interpersonal relationships are based; the "internet complex" (Jonathan Crary) and "social" media are causing the "fragmentation of the social world". The slow disappearance of the cinema, a space of shared vision and experienced proximity, is closely linked to these processes: "The ubiquity of collective spaces that are characterised by indifference to the closeness of others is inextricably linked to the catastrophe of our contemporary scorched earth. It is becoming a negative attunement to a world that is no longer shared."
The women from MATO SECO EM CHAMAS are guiding stars, inspiration for us to perceive more and different things than just the fragmentation and pointlessness of contemporary world domination. The focus of the programme is films that speak of togetherness, solidarity and belonging. Films that oppose identitarian politics, discriminatory categories, and the destruction of nature. If we live, it is only in a complex world of relationships among people and all else that exists and surrounds us: animate and "inanimate" nature.
May the women's residential communities and communes, the queer families of choice and the indigenous resisters, the groups of those damaged by war in body and soul, the traumatised; may pigeons and horses be our companions as we continue to see farther in the cinema.
May we recover the utopia of shared ownership, self-management, and mutual help from fragments, memories of old communities, and slivers of hope for new ones. May we see the earth as the one place for this kind of life, spent in the company of others.
"Conditions that really deserve to be called human and free"
Documentarian Edith Marcello
DAS HAT MICH SEHR VERÄNDERT (That Really Changed Me), a collectively produced film about the first Frankfurt Women's Centre in 1976, was included in Remake's 2018 programme. The medium-length documentary, directed by Edith Marcello – who went by the surname Schmidt until the 1980s – was followed at the third festival edition by PIERBURG – IHR KAMPF IST UNSER KAMPF (Pierburg – Their Struggle Is Our Struggle), a film that accompanies a wildcat strike led mostly by migrant women at an auto parts supplier in 1973. Like many of her other films, Marcello co-directed PIERBURG with David Wittenberg and worked on it in close collaboration with strikers and the works council. Both films, like other Marcello/Wittenberg films from the 1970s and 1980s, served to popularise struggles and movements: they were made in the context of discussions, events and grassroots networking. For ten years, Marcello was part of the Mai-Film Kollektiv, a Frankfurt-based distribution company that she ran along with Regine Dermitzel, Lui Tratter, Günther Wagner and David Wittenberg.
Despite its scope and quality, Edith Marcello's cinematic work has gone unnoticed by film history researchers and is unknown to a contemporary audience. Remake aims to change this.
Edith Marcello was born in 1937 and has been making films since the 1960s. She initially studied painting and came to filmmaking through her work on a ZDF feature film commission. Her professional career spans more than five decades, during which she primarily produced reports and documentaries for public broadcasters hr, ZDF and WDR; however, her work also includes feature-length (cinema) documentaries. These were screened at film festivals and found small, independent distributors.
Marcello's film work is primarily concerned with social movements. She focused at first on the work and life experiences of migrants, including their self-organisation in West Germany. Remake will screen her two hr productions BILLIGE HÄNDE - AUSLÄNDISCHE ARBEITERINNEN IN DEUTSCHLAND (Cheap Hands – Foreign Women Workers in Germany, 1969) and DIE KINDER DER GASTARBEITER - BERICHT ÜBER EINE MINDERHEIT (The Children of Migrant Workers – Report on a Minority, 1970). Films about wildcat strikes and self-managed businesses followed, such as the independent production WIR HALTEN DEN BETRIEB BESETZT - DIE ZEMENTWERKER IN ERWITTE (We’re Occupying the Company – The Cement Workers of Erwitte, 1975-76), which will also be screened at this year's festival. While Marcello was already particularly interested in the lives of women workers in the 1960s, in the 1970s she devoted herself to the women's movement in West Germany and Italy. The ZDF reports WIR FRAUEN SEHEN UNS AN - ERFAHRUNGEN AUS DER FRAUENBEWEGUNG (We Women Look at Ourselves – Experiences From the Women’s Movement, 1977) and "WIR FRAUEN SIND UNBEZAHLBAR" - ZUR DISKUSSION UM "LOHN FÜR HAUSARBEIT" ("We Women are Priceless" – On the Discussion About Pay for Housework, 1979) are included in the programme, as are the films DAS LAND, DAS WIR UNS NEHMEN - EINE ITALIENISCHE LANDKOOPERATIVE (The Land We Take For Ourselves, 1981) and EIN MENSCH, DER ZU FUSS GEHT, IST VERDÄCHTIG (A Person Who Walks Is Suspicious, 1983), which focus on alternative agricultural projects.
Edith Marcello is concerned with critical analysis of the present, from the perspective of and in the spirit of alternative, progressive movements. She always expresses political solidarity with the people, the collectives, and particularly the women who are pushing for change in their life circumstances – for "conditions that really deserve to be called human and free".
"We still want it all, and half of all the rest"...
Tribute to CHAOS FILM and Hildegard Westbeld
CHAOS FILM, until recently the only women's film distributor in the Federal Republic of Germany, existed from the beginning of 1979 to the end of 1980. During this brief period, the distributor set a milestone in the history of West German cinema. Its history is also that of the women's movement and its commitment to film and cinema.
A feminist film scene began to develop in West Berlin and West Germany in the 1970s. In 1973, the first International Women's Film Seminar took place in Berlin (see also the event with feminist elsewheres at Remake); as a result, in 1974 the first issue of Frauen und Film (Women and Film) magazine was also published there. This was followed by the founding of the Initiative Frauen im Kino (Women in Cinema Initiative) in 1977 and the Verband der Filmarbeiterinnen (Association of Women Film Workers) in 1979. Berlin had an impact on the Republic, and we in Frankfurt didn't just read Frauen und Film; we began to collaborate on it, and to hold the first feminist film seminars. In around 1980, two women's cinema initiatives were founded here in Frankfurt. However, CHAOS FILM emerged in 1979 as a shining star in the feminist film firmament and a beacon of a new future for cinema: a female film worker was daring to enter the film business with an autonomous distribution company solely for films by woman directors. This film worker was Hildegard Westbeld. A native of Westphalia, she had the courage needed to take this risk. She had moved from Bochum to West Berlin in 1977 and immediately became active in the film scene there, initially working for the Arsenal distribution company. From the very beginning though, her aim was to do as much as possible to promote the presence and participation of women in film and cinema. The Women in Cinema Initiative and the Association of Women Film Workers were founded with her participation. "We still want it all, and half of all the rest"... Tribute to CHAOS FILM is a tribute to the work and feminist commitment of Hildegard Westbeld.
The very first film that Westbeld acquired for distribution in 1979 was LEGACY by Karen Arthur. After playing successfully at festivals, it was in danger of disappearing into oblivion, and it addressed a central theme of the women's movement at the time: the housewife's existence in the patriarchal family. Then came the early films by Elfi Mikesch, the lesbian "manifestos" by Jan Oxenberg, A COMEDY IN SIX UNNATURAL ACTS, HOME MOVIE, and many others.
The CHAOS FILM distribution prints are kept in the archive of the Arsenal in Berlin. Hildegard Westbeld turned over the paper archive, including documents from additional feminist film activities, to the Kinothek Asta Nielsen this year. An exhibition will provide a first look at this collection.
Karola Gramann and Heide Schlüpmann