Since last year, there has been no overlooking them: films by women directors are being shown in cinemas, winning prizes.and getting themselves noticed. Esther Gronenborn (alaska.de), Vanessa Jopp (Forget America/Vergiss Amerika, Engel & Joe), Connie Walther (Never Mind the Wall/Wie Feuer und Flamme), Angela Schanelec (Passing Summer/Mein langsames Leben) and Sandra Nettelbeck (Mostly Martha/DreiSterne) belong to this series, but they also include the Austrian directors Barbara Albert (Northern Skirts/Nordrand), Jessica Hausner (Lovely Rita) and Valeska Grisebach (Be My Star/Mein Stern), whose graduation class at the Vienna Academy of Film is now being hailed as the "Vienna School".
Up-and-coming generation directors Maria Speth (The Days Between/In den Tag hinein) and Barbara Gebler (Salamander) have made graduation films with very personal stories regarding their own generation, and are on the threshold of their professional careers. The actresses Maria Bachmann (Thema Nr. 1) and Nicolette Krebitz (Jeans) moved into direction last year, and the latter is also offering support to the chances of digital film as a producer.
Among the established women directors, Franziska Buch and Caroline Link have recently achieved successful statistics in the field of family cinema with their film versions of books by Erich Kästner. Hermine Huntgeburth is presently making Bibi Blocksberg, a fantasy film based on the famous series of children's stories. And at the end of this winter, Caroline Link's new film Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika), a story of youth in the Nazi period, will have its cinematic release.
Doris Dörrie, whose digitally-produced film Enlightenment Guaranteed (Erleuchtung garantiert) "seemed to work" - as she herself put it - in cinemas last year, is beginning new film work in October. Parallel to this, she is publishing a book on which her new, six-person comedy is based. Vivian Naefe, last seen in the cinemas with Four for Venice (Zwei Männer, zwei Frauen, vier Probleme) in 1998, has finished making five TV films over the last two years, and is now preparing a fantasy film for the cinema. Jeanine Meerapfel's new film Anna's Summer (Annas Sommer), a German- Spanish-Greek co-production, was made parallel to her work as a professor at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, and has just had its premiere at the Montreal Film Festival.
It would be possible to add many names. Vivian Naefe points out that from her year at the Munich Academy of Television and Film the students Sherry Hermann, Ute Wieland, Liliane Targownik and she herself are repeatedly in the news, but nothing is heard of the male colleagues who graduated with them at the beginning of the eighties.
The names of women television film directors also make for a long list, including Gabi Kubach, Ilse Hofmann, Dagmar Damek, Carola Hattop, Martina Elbert, Claudia Prietzel and many others.
Margarethe von Trotta resisted working for television for a long time. However, for some years now - as she told her biographer Thilo Wydra - she has permitted herself to become involved "in a relaxed, optimistic way" with the smaller screen format and the different production conditions it presents. Her most recent work to be seen on television - last year - was a mini-series version of Uwe Johnson's novel Jahrestage.
We shouldn't forget the female documentary filmmakers who have followed the difficult road into the cinemas during the current year: Helga Reidemeister (God's Cell/ Gotteszell) and Solveig Klaßen (Out of Tibet/ Jenseits von Tibet), joined by Monika Treut (Warrior of Light / Kriegerin des Lichts) with her portrait of a Brazilian woman who cares for street kids. And Karin Jurschick has won prizes with the portrait of her father It Should Have Been Nice After That (Danach hatte es schön sein müssen) Luzia Schmid from the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne has just won the first Steps Award for her documentary film Groundspeed -in addition to Schmid, nominations also included the German Film and Television Academy student Juliette Cazenave (Nicole & Jean) and the "Konrad Wolf Academy student Shaheen Dill-Riaz Ahmed (Sand und Wasser). New films by Susanne Ofteringer (Nico-lcon) and Aelrun Goette (Ohne Bewährung) are also to be expected soon.The Rule or the Exception?
Are we looking at a chance boom which is likely to ebb again in the near future? Or have women in the film world achieved some thing which is far from the case regarding top positions in the economy, politics and culture in Germany equality without quota systems and any noise of battle? It is certainly true that there have never been as many women working as directors, screenplay authors and producers as there are today. In addition, there are considerably more women directors and producers at the broadcasting companies and on promotional committees by comparison with the first small wave of new German films by women about twenty-five years ago - as yet, however, there is no precise study concerning current developments.
More women are making creative decisions and directing proceedings within other artistic media, too. New impulses are coming from women in the theater, in the world of dance, and in music. Before this overall background, women's move to catch up in film, across the full range of specialist jobs and genres, resembles a long, quiet current no longer to be stopped by anything.
However, a less relaxed situation emerges in conversation with some of the filmmakers named at the outset. On the one hand, they maintain unanimously that the program for emancipation followed by the older generation led to a dead end, as they see it, but on the other hand, many have noted with surprise that their profession is still a male domain today. So which standpoint is actually true of the situation? One maintains that there is no gender-specific exclusion, and that - inasmuch as it once existed -men could not be held responsible for it. The other describes the experience - as relevant as ever - of being confronted with "buddy systems" in the film world in which the dominant rules of the game are still not familiar to women.
On the one hand, Connie Walther, Hermine Huntgeburth, Sandra Nettelbeck, Esther Gronenborn, Caroline Link and Dagmar Damek do not want to be forced into the "women's corner", they want to make films "for everyone" (Link). They aim to produce "films for people, not films for women" (Huntgeburth), they want to avoid "the role of the underdog" (Naefe), and be taken seriously "as a person" (Gronenborn). But on the other hand, those questioned have noticed, in general, that women in the industry are viewed in a different way to men. Are they entrusted with the same budget as an equally experienced man? Can they afford the same habits - at work, in their handling of the opposite sex - as their male colleagues? Do they have equal opportunities right from the start? The most recent example, perhaps a signal for the next slackening of the boom: at the first Steps Award this year, more women than men were nominated in all categories - except the category of full-length feature films. In this "royal discipline", the up-and-coming male directors remained among themselves.A Look Back
It is possible to describe what has really been achieved by taking a look back at history. Only during the last three of the almost eleven decades since cinema was invented have women made good their claim to become directors, at least in any number worth mentioning. Today there are almost as many female students as male at the German film academies, whilst female students were an exotic minority at their foundation around 1966. Within the older system of training in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), despite formal equality, only a minute number of women managed to rise to the position of director.
Cinema as a male domain - that was the general situation at the start, and it was only opposed, and certainly belatedly, by interested women after the '68 movement, or the Spring of Prague. At the beginning, cinema was a male domain per se; a technical toy for inventors and engineers, an investment in the future for the entrepreneur. The traditional roles remained clearly distributed: women had their part to play in front of the camera as spectacular eye-catchers and dramatic heroines, or they were employed in the background, as cheap labor in the raw film factories, laboratories and copy works. [end of page 7]
Henny Porten and Asta Nielsen founded production firms, but primarily in order to be able to develop interesting roles for themselves together with their "own" directors. This called for a touch of eccentricity, a star reputation within the industry, and a lot of their own money. Even fewer women dared to take up work as directors: these included Olga Tschechowa and Leontine Sagan, for example, but each of them became well-known for only one single film.
With her debut film The Blue Light (Das blaue Licht) in 1932, Leni Riefenstahl made the most stubborn claim to stage her own films and to control every aspect of film-making in her company autonomously. Oddly enough, she was able to develop her radical authorship project further in the service of Adolf Hitler. Her films of National Socialist party conferences and Olympia made her into an absolute exception - in every respect -within the film apparatus controlled by Goebbels, and into the most controversial figure to be found in the German women filmmakers' rather limited ancestral portrait gallery.The First Generation
Neither the film boom in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) during the 50s, nor the state-promoted, spoon-fed film culture in the GDR, allowed women equal opportunities. In the television world, too, the traditional distribution of roles remained during the 60s. At the state film studio DEFA and within the television production of the GDR, women with academic training in film did work as dramatic advisors or authors quite early on. Many women were also employed in film editing, costume making and make-up. However,despite the official policy of supporting women in technical professions, during the forty years of GDR history, the number of women directors in both documentary and feature film remained noticeably small. Ingrid Reschke, Iris Gusner, Evelyn Schmidt, Sybille Schönemann, Gitta Nickel and Helke Misselwitz are the well-known names. (By the way, the feminine form of the German word -"Regisseurin" - was categorically rejected by the women of the GDR.) The limitations placed on their work by state surveillance are worthy of a story of its own, meaning that they cannot be compared with the first generation of women filmmakers in the FRG. The women directors of the "New German Film" in the FRG during the 60s and especially the 70s came from professions close to film: they were actresses, editors, photographers or television announcers.
In general, they drew attention to themselves with short films or learned their trade in collaboration with their partners before liberating themselves from this kind of subordination. Female graduates of film academies were by no means the majority. At that time, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Margarethe von Trotta, Ulrike Ottinger, Helke Sander, Jutta Brückner, Elfi Mikesch Helga Reidemeister, Ula Stöckl, Susanne Beyeler and others did not form a firm group. They profited from an increased interest in women's themes which developed together with the feminist movement, and they intervened in cultural discussions with their artistic comments on German reality. They differed clearly amongst each other with respect to their proximity or distance to the feminist trends of the times. Their narrative forms emphasized the subjective perspective, even though the basic motifs of their films were related to "New German Film", that is, they linked social critical polemics with grief over German history.
The women filmmakers of the first generation in the FRG all laid claim to more autonomy. They focused on the woman's perspective on their themes and characters, and parallel to this they also tried out new forms of production by deliberately taking on women in their teams on occasion. Their films recount female experiences and injuries; some concern themselves critically with the consequences of the Nazi period, and all are characterized by a radical mistrust in traditional role images. There were subtle psy-chograms of women, but also solid analyses of history, social criticism and aesthetic Utopias in these films.
One may include among them May Spils' subversive hippie comedy Go for It, Baby (Zur Sache, Schätzchen) a playful portrait of a non-conformist man, but also All-Around Reduced Personality - The Outtakes (Allseitig reduzierte Persönlichkeit - Die Redupers), Helke Sander's dream of overcoming the Berlin Wall by means of experiments by a woman photographer, or Ulrike Ottinger's non-psychological, experimental films which sought the "essential in the artificial" (Eva Meyer). Finally, there were Margarethe von Trotta's portraits of women, above all Marianne & Juliane (Die bleierne Zeit). There never could be a sweeping definition of feminist film, therefore, but over a dozen different signatures and imaginative worlds.
In each case, a difficult start in the profession almost inevitably led each of the women to formulate her own claim to be taken seriously as an individual artistic personality. That does not mean that they did not - in accordance with the general mood of departure - meet up at festivals and for symposiums, and were therefore able to make a louder voice heard for their group interest. On the other hand, there was also powerful criticism within the small women's film scene, for example in the journal Frauen und Film edited by Helke Sander; some women directors felt little sense of identification with the publication, some were even deeply insulted by it. And we should not forget: among the women filmmakers as well as the men, there was a Berlin faction and one in Munich — factions with an attitude of reservation towards each other. There are parallels here to the way in which the "school of Berlin workers' cinema" drew sharp distinctions between its work and that of Munich film-makers such as Klaus Lemke, Wim Wenders or Niklaus Schilling.
At the climax of this first wave, women filmmakers already had the same fears as their colleagues today, sensing that they might be forced into a niche entitled "women's film". Reluctantly, how ever, they repeatedly found an audience with this label, for their semi-commercial distributors advertised using this phrase, and the film critics paid attention to them in this context. They also became internationally known as a specialized, partial product of "New German Film". Fatally, therefore, the "women's corner" was a bonus abroad but a curse at home.
Overall, what developed was not only a success story. Films by Helma Sanders-Brahms, Margarethe von Trotta, Jeanine Meerapfel and Ulrike Ottinger polarized criticism as well as their audiences again and again, including those members of the public spurred by the women's movement. Even today, those directors named point - passionately offended - to their international reputation, seeing themselves unjustly humiliated by German critics or even at times "destroyed", a feeling Margarethe von Trotta recalls after the reaction to her film A Labour of Love (Heller Wahn) at the Berlin Film Festival in 1981.Idols?
If you ask today's women directors about their idols, it is noticeable that the first, still active generation of women filmmakers and their older films are rarely perceived as historical greats. Only Margarethe von Trotta's Marianne & Juliane has made a real impression on Connie Walther, Esther Gronenborn and Sandra Nettelbeck. Caroline Link values Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table.
Earlier on, Doris Dörrie felt inspired by Agnès Varda and Martha Meszáros, but also by Martin Scorsese; now, the more films she makes herself, the more she sees her former idols pale. Jessica Hausner can remember short films by the experimental filmmaker from Vienna, Valie Export, and recalls Käthe Kraatz. For Dagmar Damek, who is interested in literary adaptations, Truffaut plays a significant role. Angela Schanelec refers to the works on film theory and criticism by Frieda Grafe. For her part, Maria Speth has been stimulated by Angela Schanelec's films (also because they both work together with the same cameraman, Reinhold Vorschneider). And Vanessa Jopp views Lars von Trier and David Lynch as her idols.
It is noticeable that all of them agree when emphasizing how important it is to develop one's own individuality. "To remain true to yourself is seen as the best means of asserting oneself and becoming immune to the impertinent presumptions of mediocrity and stereotypes. If we compare the older and the younger generation, it becomes clear that fundamentally, a gesture of emancipation has remained the same existential motor to their careers. But today the women's strategies are based on different social patterns.
The dilemma involved in the fear of being excluded or of being unable to assert themselves is the same, but external conditions have changed to such an extent that communication between the generations has broken down. In brief: the confusing range of the older women filmmakers' works has disappeared from the collective memory of the younger women, and what remains is their defensive reaction against the "women's corner". Before, women distanced themselves from dominant patriarchal film stereotypes and concentrated on women's stories in the process. They were less worried about mediocrity or media compatibility than they were of being unable to live up to their own avant-garde demands. Today however, women film-makers consider the specific focus on women limited and avoid its pathos. But they do arm themselves with a comparable self-help program: by insisting on "their own stories" (Speth, Hausner, Gronenborn, Nettelbeck), they want to hold onto the greatest possible autonomy as a means of artistic survival.
The women filmmakers of the first generation emphasized their autobiographical stories, their subjective honesty. That was one of their most powerful means in the struggle to be perceived as independent. Today, the desire for authentic expression is just as pronounced, but it has to assert itself against competition from a much larger number of existing schematic plots - that is, against the framework of media compatibility. Doris Dörrie found German women directors grim, the film women's problems boring, and feminism unsexy. Looking back, she sees herself and Vivian Naefe as the first girlie-generation during the early eighties. And overall, she pleads for a good-natured, humorous handling, of flexible and cheap means of production, as well as of material, themes and gender roles. She claims that she has "never permitted" the man/woman debate to enter into her projects. One's image should not come across as a warning sign.
Vivian Naefe has never experienced discrimination. In her opinion, it is positive when one is considered something special as a woman director. If a project requires a sensitive touch, a woman is often commissioned. Hard action films are out of the question for her anyway, and so, her Totort-series productions tend to be thrillers. She is casual about the lethargy of those making the decisions in television: after making a story about workers, you are offered another five, after a women's story there is also a danger of being pinned down.
"Just do it" Doris Dörrie's and Vivian Naefe's maxim, meets with more scepticism than enthusiasm from the younger women. It's true that some women directors are very much present in the cinemas during this season, but that does not prevent them from seeing the situation more critically, by any means.How Should One Assert Herself?
These women avoid the "women's corner" and yet they still notice that they are viewed as women - that is the diagnosis. They must prove that they have mastered the necessary technology and skills for the job, whereas men on the set don't necessarily have to do so. A woman "has to be good" according to Vivian Naefe, Dagmar Damek, Hermine Huntgeburth, Caroline Link; "she has to be better" say Connie Walther, Esther Gronenborn and Sandra Nettelbeck. Jessica Hausner is surprised that the gaffers in particular silently presume that the director does not know what she is talking about at first. She recalls her own adolescence and, along with Caroline Link and Sandra Nettelbeck, she remarks that the emancipated standards of that time have little validity in the film business. Esther Gronenborn thinks that this firmly-established behavior of men on the set can't usually be referred to as arrogance, more as a "not-listening syndrome". Caroline Link thanks her mother's generation for bringing her up in a completely equal way, and as a result, says she does not need the feminist standpoint today. The necessary characteristics of a woman director, she says, include strength of will, a certain dominance and the ability to direct proceedings. They have to be tough and capable of "powering a way through" in order to maintain their command on the set. Perhaps girls are still brought up to be gentle, socially aware and full of understanding, and so they do not want to let themselves in for the hierarchical business of making films, she suggests. By contrast, Dagmar Damek doubts that a woman can assert herself by being dominant and loud. It is only possible by means of precision in her skilled work, clear instructions and a pleasant tone, otherwise everyone takes what she says amiss, calling her "bitchy".
Hermine Huntgeburth and Connie Walther warn against ideas of things which are supposed to be typical of women. In the field of cinema, one is often faced by purely gender-related cliches which tend to be a hindrance at work. So what do women filmmakers have to do in order to assert themselves and develop a lasting career? Write, be the author of your own films –
Vivian Naefe, Dagmar Damek, Doris Dörrie and Sandra Nettelbeck see this as the key to the necessary patience, strength and skill in handling those who make the decisions. Angela Schanelec passes the long periods of waiting between projects in this way, and so develops the necessary confidence to view certain discussions on screenplay as superfluous.
Political potential lies in an ability to fight for your own project, to stand by your own experience and to defend your own attitude to history - according to Maria Speth, Esther Gronenborn and Jessica Hausner. Beginners, says Maria Speth, need sufficient conviction to test their confidence and assert their own political awareness before a forum, i.e. the decision makers, colleagues and the audience. A different decisiveness is expressed here to that emphasizing pleasure and humor which Caroline Link and Doris Dörrie saw as a vital precondition in their careers. But in the end, many women simply find no pleasure in going up against this hard, stressful profession, Caroline Link supposes. When the youngest generation describe themselves, they also connect questions of confidence and political attitude - and so they take up experiences, in a different way, which Margarethe von Trotta described in a similar fashion when looking back. The task of making films therefore presents conditions under which the new women directors repeatedly perceive themselves as women — as aware women.
And how is the women filmmakers' will to assert themselves consistent with the desire for children? At present, Caroline Link rules out the possibility of career and children, because her work demands so much of her time. Hermine Huntgeburth and Angela Schanelec have experienced the fact that a profession and children are both possible, at least if the family helps. Maria Speth finished her graduation film more quickly than her student colleagues - she says that her child helped her to concentrate on the essentials.
Taking a look over the border to Austria: a means discovered time and time again by independent filmmakers has also been employed by Jessica Hausner, Barbara Albert and two friends and colleagues. They have founded their own production company in Vienna, working together on their mutual projects, and so they have created a basis for themselves which Jessica Hausner finds important in order to be able to assert herself: it is a matter of keeping the power in one's own hands when working with co-producers, and of investing the confidence won in the film.
Promising graduation films are made by women every year- even if they often - see the First Steps Award - have the smaller format. Today they are produced as a result of early contacts to production companies and television editors. A large number of annual graduates, according to Vivian Naefe, are as it were "carried along the path to their first film". The real art is to establish oneself after that rather than sink under the immense competitive pressure.
Whether the present season of women directors remains an intermezzo also depends on what qualifications the up-and-coming generation uses to master this difficult phase. How well-prepared are young women filmmakers when it comes to fighting their way through - with independent projects - against competition from their male colleagues and from the mainstream of the media?Buddy Systems and Women's Networks
On the one hand, the industry is waiting for new talent, on the other hand, it is afraid of the risk - the expected success quota in the cinema or on television might not be achieved. It is a matter of investments and prestige.
Larger budget decisions, innovative work with regard to form and content - these are stress factors, and to avoid them men instinctively prefer to rely on other men. Not least, this is also associated with a traditional lack of faith in women's ability to take strain. This reflex is well-known to Dagmar Damek, Sandra Nettelbeck and Connie Walther. Esther Gronenborn, who has been making music clips since 1997 - as one of the first women to do so in Germany - described the rules of this absolutely male domain in an article in the art journal Regina: there are systems of understanding amongst men, she says, which women are far from seeing through, even when they have a clear view of a situation. By means of their everyday behavior, topics of conversation (football, cars, women), men create an atmosphere which lends them security, but often stamps women as outsiders.
"The more money involved, the greater the pressure", says Sandra Nettelbeck. Like Esther Gronenborn and Connie Walther, she is flabbergasted by the realization that these conflicts do indeed exist, although today everyone would reject the notion of antagonism towards women at work. According to Sandra Nettelbeck, this is a typical situation: someone might find a young woman director "quite charming", but then he sees his false expectations disappointed when she fights on behalf of her work and risks conflicts.
Connie Walther points out that many decisions in film production are made "on an instinctive basis". Men, or certainly those with power, are caught up in this emotional, personal side of things as well, but they often view the pressure they exert as logical and rational.
The question of cliches on both sides, which has a powerful influence in Hermine Huntgeburth's opinion, is irritating to most of those questioned and it influences their work constantly. Two examples: it may happen that within the male domain of film, women feel like the black sheep - that is, they secretly refer any statement to themselves in a negative way, says Connie Walther. Women in a team often create a personal atmosphere, whereas in a decisive situation men are often able to distance themselves from sympathies or animosity and prefer to make functioning bonds. Sandra Nettelbeck advises: "Just don't lose your cool" as that weakens your own position and only serves the tiresome cliche that women are hysterical. Women who want to control everything are feared but respected - this is another experience frequently cited.
Esther Gronenborn adds her observation that women have to acquire skills in handling the ego problems of many colleagues and of those making decisions - and without expending too much energy in the process. As a director's assistant, Connie Walther already collected some experience of the resistant image of the director genius idolized by female admirers. "Where," she asks, "is the fat, unattractive woman director who presents her youthful lovers on the set?" The conclusion is that women are still measured by their superficial attractiveness, whereas for men this is not necessary. What does become clear is that women filmmakers must cultivate the qualities which they need to assert themselves for all of their working lives. If a woman is prepared to make herself unpopular for the sake of her convictions, in the end only those remain who are really interested in her work, according to Sandra Nettelbeck.
Most of them do not view organized meetings or special associations of women as particularly helpful -the "women's corner" again. It is an illusion to think you can build up powerful networks in competition with the traditional ones, they believe. By contrast, there is obviously a new, growing interest in teamwork among women - without ideology, relaxed and oriented on specific projects. In the future, Esther Gronenborn would like to develop on her positive experience with this kind of work. Jessica Hausner, Barbara Albert and Valeska Grisebach also like to work together with women in a team.
So they don't want a dogged program, but an open atmosphere with chances for women.What About The Future?
Among the many recent films named, only Caroline Link had a budget of more than 10 million marks available for her Nowhere in Africa. Vivian Naefe is aiming for a similar sum for her planned fantasy film - she hopes the success of Amelie might open some doors for her project.
Women filmmakers in Germany still have to be prepared to realize their stories more cheaply than their male colleagues working on comparable projects. Exceptions like Sandra Nettelbeck's Mostly Martha are, as described, a matter of sheer nerve. If one bears in mind the poor chances for a large budget, women continue to be treated as an up-and-coming generation for a longer period of time than their male colleagues - some even feel they have been given this role indefinitely.
Perhaps Doris Dörrie's advice, to experiment with the digital camera and no-budget projects, fascinated so few of her colleagues because they still consider catching up on large projects a recognition of their achievements. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to maintain that women filmmakers are fixated on the idea of catching up with comparable male colleagues. They expressly point out that the problems hampering their work are not just gender specific.
Hermine Huntgeburth refers to the decline of arthouse cinema culture, and also to the disappearing number of small distributors. The lack of a lasting presence of women directors in the cinema is also partially due to the problem of poor film culture as a whole, according to Connie Walther, Angela Schanelec and Sandra Nettelbeck. A growing market for conformist television film formats means that on the whole, the starting opportunities for original and authentic films are decreasing. The kleines Fernsehspiel, a program format at the German public broadcaster ZDF which was open to the subjective film l'auteur of the first generation of women directors and has offered many women a forum, will most probably be altering its program structure soon. Maria Speth, Angela Schanelec and many up-and-coming directors are worried by this loss. On the other hand, since Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run (Lola rennt), Vivian Naefe has observed a new interest from television producers in "crazy", even expensive, technically-oriented narrative forms - a new field for the young generation.
To find an audience for one's own films at all, which means getting into the cinemas - and not disappearing from them again immediately without a sound - appears to be an additional problem which is particularly difficult for women in a hard, competitive world.
France cultivates its young generation of directors and introduces considerably more women directors to the cinema.
In Germany, by contrast, even more radical changes than those mentioned have led to a deficit in film culture. At the end of the GDR ten years ago, for example, the few women directors at DEFA also became victims of the new competitive situation. Helke Misselwitz's most recent project was the feature film Little Angel (Engelchen) in 1996, and since then she has concentrated on her teaching at the "Konrad Wolf" Academy of Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg. Many of the women independent filmmakers of the old FRG have long since moved into teaching as well, including Helke Sander, Jeanine Meerapfel, Claudia von Alemann, Ula Stöckl and Jutta Brückner. New films by these women have been few and far between in recent years, although further projects are being prepared. Ulrike Ottinger compensates for the waiting for funds by means of theater productions and photography, Helma Sanders-Brahms - as one example - made a short film on the current anti-globalization campaign. Both have presented their entire works in larger retrospectives.
But the activities of the older generation have not led to a firm presence of any pupils. It seems that the youngest generation are discovering their means of expression in a new and spontaneous way, and are filtering them from the current spirit of the times. This gives their films a direct quality which still - upon exact observation - permits us to see parallels to earlier productions.
The successful new women directors - and this is a cautious thesis — share a basic growing feeling that they are living in a world which can only be experienced in a surrogate way. This may be an explanation for their insistence on personal stories and experiences. As has always been the case, voicing a confident "I" with one's filmmaking is an important impulse. Jessica Hausner Barbara Albert, Esther Gronenborn, Connie Walther, Sandra Nettelbeck and Vanessa Jopp all start out from a desire for authenticity, for the possibility of communication and emotionality - even though their aesthetic solutions are not necessarily comparable. Vanessa Jopp asserted "unconditional feelings" against her co-author in Engel & Joe, and Sandra Nettelbeck wrote a happy end for her characters into the screenplay of Mostly Martha, "because they deserve it". Angela Schanelec's cinema represents a counter-tendency - for example her laconic selection of diverse relationships in Passing Summer. She demonstrates a dramatic approach which mistrusts any outright portrayal of feelings.
For the moment, therefore, a contradictory impression remains: the new women directors experience old patterns of gender-related rivalry with respect to production conditions, and they defend themselves; they don't want to be left behind. However, in their films - especially their stories about young people - they recount the discord between men and women with an obvious longing for harmony.
Claudia Lenssen is a film scholar and a writer for numerous film publications.