With this year’s Remake, the Kinothek focuses on the element that has inspired its work for 20 years: history. The history of film, history on film, and cinema’s unique ability to render the past(s) present. The film selection will make it clear how variably films deal with history. Narrative films of the 1920s such as the Swedish Thora van Deken demonstrate the educational potential of an awareness of the past in their own way, as does director Maggie Greenwald’s early 1990s subversion of the Western, The Ballad of Little Jo. Films also question our awareness of history. We think we know what history is, but Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust allows us to see that there are other views of history, a different relationship to the lives of the ancestors.
In our programme, film’s capability of making history present is especially revealed in the attempts to regain history on behalf of and by those to whom history has been denied. We will screen documentary films that work in part with amateur material: Das falsche Wort (Katrin Seybold and Melanie Spitta), Absent Present (Angelika Levi), ums freiwerden hätte es ja gehen sollen (Elfriede Irrall). Yet narrative films also take up people considered to be without history in a different way, as newer works in particular demonstrate. In Spoor, Agnieszka Holland plays with a reversal of perpective, imagining animals as subjects of a criminal story; at the same time, she links the history of ’68 to current political demands for the recognition of animal rights and for a different treatment of our environment. In Leave No Trace, Debra Granik reflects on the American present from the point of view of people on the edge of society, pointing to historic traumas that destroy society if left unresolved.
The history of queer cinema and lesbian women in the cinema form one of the programme’s focal points. Such wonderful but seldom-seen narrative films as Olivia by Jacqueline Audry and I, the Worst of All by Argentine María Luisa Bemberg are on the programme, as is a punk classic: Flaming Ears by Ursula Pürrer, Ashley Hans Scheirl and Dietmar Schipek.
Also on view will be lesser-known films such as Wings by Larisa Shepitko, which shows World War II in the retrospective view of a woman who was formerly a fighter pilot; and The Hour of Liberation Has Arrived by Heiny Srour, an unprecedented document from the 1970s about the freedom movement in Oman and women’s position in this struggle.
Part of Remake’s concept is to evoke one of the early feminist film festivals in each edition. The kickoff in last year’s Remake programme was the Womenʼs Event ʼ72 of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the first of its kind in Europe. A feminist film festival scene began to develop in the West starting in the early 1970s. This year we turn our view to Eastern Europe and the socialist past, where the history was a different one.
Access to education and work was more of a given for women in the socialist states, though emancipation and equal rights didn’t necessarily follow. Here too, women filmmakers placed the lived realities of women in patriarchal societies in the centre of their work, though not in the context of a broad women’s movement, as was the case in the West. Many were very critical of (western) feminism, for various historic and socio-political reasons.
It is therefore all the more important to track down, and call our attention to, the traces and history of women’s film and festival work in Eastern Europe. In the wake of perestroika, women filmmakers began to organise: On 17 July 1987, more than 30 festival participants from 24 countries came together in the House of Cinema (“Dom Kino”) at the Moscow Film Festival and determined to establish an international organisation of film women. Lana Gogoberidse from Georgia and Márta Mézsáros from Hungary were voted presidents of the organisation, which in future was known as Kino Women International – KIWI. KIWI’s goals were an international exchange of information and closer cooperation among women in film as well as the support of international distribution and co-production of films by women. Additionally, exhibitions were held as part of the KIWI conferences (its stations were Moscow, Tiflis, Créteil, Karlovy Vary, Jurmala near Riga und Prague).
The collapse of the system and the very turbulent 1990s that followed in Eastern Europe resulted in the dissolution of KIWI. Very little archival material can be found on KIWI; only fragments of the film programmes of the time can be reconstructed. We have invited contemporary witnesses and KIWI participants – among them former president Lana Gogoberidse – to speak about its genesis. In our programme Remembering KIWI – Kino Women International (1987–90), we will also show Gogoberidse’s film Some Interviews on Personal Matters (GSSR 1978), which had a great influence on debates at the time. It questions emancipation and traditional gender role expectations using a wide variety of portraits of women. Sally Potter’s I Am an Ox, I Am a Horse, I Am a Man, I Am a Woman (GB 1987/88) seeks out women’s film work in the Soviet film industry.
“In the early 1930s, Ella Bergman-Michel, who was known as more of a painter, made a number of documentary films that found some recognition at the time, but are hardly known even to specialists today.” Jutta Hercher wrote this in Frauen und Film in 1990. Since then the artist has gradually moved into public view, though Bergman-Michel the filmmaker, and particularly the cinema activist, still remains wrongfully in the background.
Ella Bergman-Michel lived and worked with her family in Eppstein in the Taunus mountains beginning in 1920; the old paint mill they lived in was a hub of the New Frankfurt network. Her decision to take not just a photo camera but a film camera in hand was tied closely to her work in the International Film League, which was organised as a working group within New Frankfurt. Film work played an important role throughout Ella Bergman-Michel’s life – though until recently, the five films she shot close together would not have led one to think so. This has something to do with boundaries, which didn’t interest her.
Ella Bergmann-Michel not only saw her work as that of a collage artist, photographer, painter, filmmaker and cinema activist in an experimental group; she also united her avant-garde works – which from early on were aesthetically radical – with humanitarian aspirations and socio-political practice. She was fascinated with technology, and especially knowledgeable about developments like the mobile Kinamo camera that promised independent availability and mobility, as well as the projection of films outside controlled locations.
She threw things out, interrupted, tried, combined, recapitulated and edited them, both in her artistic practice and in her public context. She did this beginning with her time working in Weimar until she was prohibited from working in 1933. And she continued during her later attempts to reconnect to the time “before”, which had been destroyed by the Nazis. Though she never resumed her work as a filmmaker, she quickly resumed her cinema, programming and festival work.
It is difficult to imagine (and show) in a customary context how film work jumps back and forth between one’s own and someone else’s achievements, between exhibiting and filmmaking – and that it can ultimately even forgo directorial work entirely, to dedicate itself to the re-establishment of engaged, historically-aware public film screenings. Our area of focus juxtaposes these aspects to pay tribute to the versatility of this Frankfurt film activist, and proposes a change in perspective.