Thematic programme: Image traps: Illusion, camouflage, masquerade

(c) Panda Moonwalk (D 2018, Dir: Kerstin Honeit)

From 9 to 14 April, around 130 new and historical films from 38 countries, performances and discussions will be part of the programme at Dortmund | Cologne International Women's Film Festival 2019, which takes place this year in Dortmund. Dr Maxa Zoller, who took over as Artistic Director of the Festival in autumn 2018, presents this year's thematic programme entitled "Image traps: Illusion, camouflage, masquerade".

The fokus will be presented in the series

as well as:

The Festival films play a game of hide-and-seek with their audiences. They require viewers to watch especially closely since their techniques of (optical) deception, metamorphosis and mimicry allow several levels of interpretation. Their study of ambivalence encompasses important social issues such as 'blind spots' in the writing of history or the exoticisation of other cultures, but also the metaphysical interpretation of the body through transformation or its disappearance. These aspects define the wide range of historical gems, film classics waiting to be rediscovered and new releases from all kinds of genres, first and foremost horror films, but also comedies, shorts, experimental and animated films.

One outstanding example in this field is the animated film THE MAN WOMAN CASE by Anaïs Caura. The poignant, surreally drawn film tells the story of the trial of Eugène/Eugenia Falleni from Sydney − one of the first documented transgender persons in the early 20th century − and revives the debate in form and content about the contemporary representation of gender culture.

From the same period but very different in approach and execution, the 1928 silent comedy THE REPUBLIC OF FLAPPERS is an enthusiastic celebration of female opposition. UFA star Käthe von Nagy plays the young Argentinian woman Billie who resists all attempts to be educated by a European finishing school and, on an island, founds her own state, "The Republic of Flappers". Men are not welcome.

An image trap snaps shut whenever viewers take what they have been shown at face value. THE WATERMELON WOMAN was the name of a legendary black, lesbian actor Fae Richards. In her 1997 debut, Cheryl Dunye sets out in search of the forgotten star from the 1930s. Her discoveries are so plausible, it takes a while before we realise they are the product of Dunye's imagination. A masterpiece of "rewriting herstory".

CAFÉ KOSMOS, a project presented jointly with Interkultur Ruhr in Dortmund and in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste der Welt in Cologne, also has a nostalgic atmosphere. Amateur film-makers from the Ruhr region of the 1950s and 80s documented their everyday lives: What roles do women play in these activities? The spectrum ranges from subversively wild party cellar scenarios to a staged standard day in the life of a heterosexual nuclear family. Under the heading “image traps”, this represents a new approach to the history of the Ruhr.

Barbara Metselaar-Berthold also explores blind spots in German history writing with her documentary AUDIENZEN - STRATEGIEN DER SELBSTBEHAUPTUNG (Audiences – Strategies of Self-Assertion). History continues to be interpreted from a very West German perspective; a reappraisal from the point of view of East Germany is urgently needed. Metselaar-Berthold examines the biographies of the documentary photographers Evelyn Richter and Ursula Arnold, who both studied in Leipzig in the early 1950s and were subjected to various constraints and restrictions under the Stalinist doctrine. The friends handled this pressure in very different ways.

In THE SECOND ATTACK by Mala Reinhardt, victims of radical right-wing violence in Germany describe the traumatic experiences they and their families had to endure − also as a result of the failure to investigate what happened in the years that followed. Recalling and relating the events after remaining silent for so long time becomes an act of self-empowerment and political activism.

The Festival uses the subject of "image traps" to question the authenticity of 'originals' and 'copies', or what we refer to as 'genuine' and 'fake'. "Belief in authenticity creates rigid hierarchies," says Maxa Zoller. "It’s time to loosen up conflicting structural orders, especially in Germany. In the debate about the social and cultural significance of gender concepts and more generally diversity, Germany occupies only the middle ground in Europe."

As an international festival, Dortmund | Cologne IWFF aims to offer a global view of the diversity of this subject in order to relax rigid structures and create space for new developments.

The 2019 key visual uses a photograph by the artist Desiree Palmen.

Previous article