Frankfurt Women’s Film Days, 26 November – 1 December 2019

Save the date for the second edition of
REMAKE: Frankfurt Women’s Film Days
Viewing History, Herstory in the Cinema

Kinothek Asta Nielsen, 26 November – 1 December 2019

Men’s history – the history of white, Western men – has blocked women’s access to their own history for centuries. This only began to change in the 20th century. In order for it to happen, fundamental criticism and an expansion of the established way of looking at the approach to and content of history and historical research were necessary.      

New fields relating to the private, the intimate and the body have opened up as women search for their history. The sharp distinction between the human as a historical being and the animal as a natural one is also questioned. (Elisabeth de Fontenay, Le Silence des bêtes, la philosophie à l’épreuve de l’animalité); we will screen Pokot, directed by Agniesza Holland, 2017 in our programme.)

Theatrical film, the mass culture of the 20th century, displays an affinity for the newly discovered areas of history in which women had their place and their living environment. The cinema was full of stories of private life, of love, of gender relations; film established awareness of the body and – at least in silent films – democracy among humans, animals and the tangible world. At REMAKE, we will screen the Swedish film Thora van Deken (John W. Brunius, 1920) and John M. Stahl’s The Child Thou Gavest Me (1921). In both films, the look back at history plays an illuminative role: the male gaze breaks off, and awareness of women’s reality becomes possible.

When the women’s movement discovered film for itself in the 60s and 70s, theoreticians saw their task as uncovering this affinity once again. They began with radical criticism of the cinematic forms in which male dominance reproduced itself, the narrative and dramatic forms that had existed since ancient epics and Greek tragedy and were repeated in film. Teresa de Lauretis established a connection between narrative forms and the mental formation of gender roles. In “Desire in Narrative”, she advocated, among other things, that classical Hollywood films be remade to call forth a different view of history. In our programme, this aspect will be represented in particular by two Westerns – the masculine genre par excellence –  that were made by women filmmakers.

Amateur films, or films that work with home movie material, are an important part of our programme because they contain not fictional but documentary footage of private life. They comprise a view from below on societal and political history (Absent Present, Angelika Levi 2010; Ums freiwerden hätte es ja gehen sollen, a film by actress and author Elfriede Irrall about her mother, 1977)

But the break with “male cinema”, the standard phrase in the 70s, also opens awareness of our affinity with others who have been denied their own history: the suppressed classes and ethnicities, the old and new slaves. It becomes possible to feel closer to the lives of ‘others’ depicted in films than to the men who provide a position for their women in society. Not least with a view to the centrality of Hollywood in our cinema past and present, we will screen two films by Julie Dash: Illusions and Daughters of the Dust. The latter explicitly thematises a differing view of history.

Films are relevant for the Frankfurt Women’s Film Days when they address the doubly hidden role of women in suppressed German and European history. Das falsche Wort (Melanie Spitta and Kathrin Seybold) and Beneath the Olive Tree (Stavroula Tosca) are two such films that we will screen at REMAKE.

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