Further Informations to the Films of the 99-Festival




Avatar

Choosing another identity is not a new phenomenon. Everybody makes use of a different personality, or sub-personality, on some occasions, sometimes consciously, sometimes without noticing it, as when you pick up the telephone, or when you decide in front of the mirror in the morning what clothes to put on, taking the day's schedule into account. Identity-breaking roll playing, like "gender-bending", transvestitism (theatrical and otherwise) and the "alter egoism" of the personae behind certain amusement telephone numbers have become more or less accepted. Literature in the behavioral sciences identifies increasing social pressure to perform as an important cause for this. Play in which a single identity is exchanged for a —multiple personality" makes it possible to escape social control and conventions. The anonymity of urban society makes it still simpler to simultaneously lead different lives. The rise of the electronic, virtual society has accelerated the development of sub-personalities. Even more frequently than in —real" life, internet users hide behind a disguise - their —avatar", when communicating on —websites", —chatboxes" or —MUDS" (Multi-User Dungeons or Domains). But playing roulette with multiple identities is not wholly without risks ...

An avatar has many faces. Thanks to the fast development of technology, there are also avatars with a photographic face and a 'real' voice. But the appearance of an avatar is to a great extent determined by the creativity of the user. At the simplest level, you can pose as old while being young or perform as a man when you are a woman. Herewith the rigid distinctions between age and gender, kept in place for years by society and its image culture, would appear to be ripe for abandonment. Marita Liulia's CD-ROM "Ambitious Bitch" for instance, shows the many different faces of femininity at the turn of this millennium.

The virtual world has also paved the way for the creation a new aesthetics of space and representation. Victoria Vesna's (web) project "Bodies INCorporated" invites the user to enter spaces as "Limbo" or "Necropolis" by selecting a body of black rubber, blue plastic, chocolate or lava. "Conversations with Angels", a 3D multimedia artwork on CD-ROM/Internet by Merja Puustinen and Andy Best, introduces us to their animated world, in which we, in an avatar-disguise, can chat with other visitors.

Websites of the artists:

Marita Liulia: "Ambitious Bitch"
Victoria Vesna: "Bodies INCorporated"
Shu Lea Cheang: "Brandon"
Merja Puustinen+Andy Best: "Conversations with Angels"

 





Life Through the Viewfinder

Dedicated to the women photographers of the Weimar Republic at a time when plaits were making way for bobs and the concept of 'New Woman' was causing something of a sensation, "Photography Means Participation" was the title of a highly acclaimed exhibition held at the Essen Folkwang Museum in 1994. Ideally, the New Woman was not only independent and active interested in sport but also "went out to work". Yes, middle-class women were clamouring to get in on the world of work and, other than typical jobs such as secretary or phone operator, it was photography that offered creative freedom. Just taking hold of the appliance itself seemed to exert a special fascination -- coupled with that active look and the production of one's own pictures.

Be that as it may, women behind the camera are not just a phenomenon of the 20th century. Since the beginnings of photography, women have been found in this occupation, above all in the field of portrait photography (which was the most prevalent anyway). In those days, photography was still considered manual work because there was no extensive creative process as with painting. So conceived, the photo was merely an illustration - i.e. nothing but a technical product - the quality of which was measured by the adherence to conventional criteria such as sharpness of focus and specific lighting standards. An artistically oriented photographer such as Julia Margaret Cameron, whose mythically and religiously influenced mid-century photos relied on a certain out-of-focus effect, had to continually put up with criticism as to the technical quality of her photos (or lack of it).

In the closing sequence of her Western The Ballad of Little Joe - which came out in 1993 and which was shown at femme totale's 1995 festival - American director Maggie Greenwald uses the figure of a travelling woman photographer as a herald of hope and incipient emancipation. In contrast to the actual heroine of the movie, who had only been able to lead an autonomous life dressed as a man, the "photographess" is allowed to move around freely as the end of the 19th century approaches. The powerful symbolism of the lady photographer derives from the woman as an active subject -- professional, self-managing, independent, creative.

Portrait photography, photojournalism, the development of the 35-mm camera (specially the Leica) and the expansion of the newspaper and illustrated magazine business all opened up new perspectives for women photographers. It was a profession that promised access to the fashion world, journeys to foreign parts and awareness of other cultures. Political events could be recorded, wars documented. The Indian photojournalist Hamai Vyarawalla, active in the 1950s, is one of those women whose photographs of political events have been seen all over the world. Monica Baker, a Briton, portrays her work in the documentation entitled Dalda 13 - A Portrait of Hamai Vyarawalla. Meanwhile, in her trilogy entitled The Female Closet, Barbara Hammer sets off again on the search for lesbian history and comes across the well-known American photographer Alice Austen who lived and worked on Staten Island/New York at the turn of the century. As with her letters, Austen's pictures of herself and her girlfriends point to a lesbian identity, factual circumstances that New York conservatives were only too keen to deny!

The artistic world of New York City plays an important part in our short retrospective for it is here that two artists live, two women without whom the history of photography would no longer be imaginable: Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin. In their work, both have built bridges to moving pictures and tackled feminist questions and theories.

In the late 1970s, for instance, Sherman achieved fame for her Untitled Film Stills - a series of black-and-white photos she took of herself in all kinds of roles and masquerades. As the title suggests, these are scenes from films that were never shot. Nevertheless, they inspire the beholder to create mental scenes and storylines about the woman and her surroundings in the snapshots. But it's not the costumes, the props and the poses that constitute the image of the female in these film stills. On the contrary, it soon becomes evident that the mediators themselves are responsible for the image of woman in photography. Detail, lighting, angle of photograph, focus, composition and even granularity ... all go to generate stereotypes. The follow-up Untitleds show Sherman in grotesque masks and poses which, in the very distortion of the persons so represented, already hint at the repellent.

In 1989/90, Sherman began to work with artificial limbs and prostheses to reconstruct portraits of the Old Masters in both female and male roles. In a subsequent series, now withdrawing her own person as the subject of the portraits, she refashions the rubber and plastic prostheses of medical dummies into monstrous bodies and broaches the topics of sex, violence and contamination in photos apparently made up of faeces, secretions and vomit. The body in different aggregate states, decaying food remains and grotesque caricatures invoke deep revulsion in the beholder of these larger-than-life prints.

When Sherman made her first feature film in 1996 - Office Killer - she remained true to the extremity of pictorial content. Ostensibly a thriller about a female serial killer, it takes a tongue-in-the-cheek attitude to the conventions of the genre. It is the comedy story of a demure underpaid reporter who, in order to retain her job, sets about downsizing the firm in her own peculiar way. Sherman bases the composition of images in the movie on that of her photographic work.

The unique presentation concept of Nan Goldin's slide shows - the best-known of which is The Ballad of Sexual Dependency - also invoke motion pictures. "This passionate chronicler of love at a time of indefinite gender, glamour, beauty, violence, death, intoxication and masquerade" as Elisabeth Sussman describes Nan Goldin, lets the pictures run through the projector in quick succession. None of them are allowed to hover long enough for anyone to contemplate them. Instead, the slides come across as an associative picture story backed up by a collage-like soundtrack of different songs. One of these, I'll be your Mirror by the Velvet Underground with Nico lends its name to Goldin's documentary film I'll be your Mirror which was made in 1995 in collaboration with the BBC. It is a tender homage to the many friends, female and male, in the New York underground scene whom Goldin filmed in the 1980s and who, by the time the film came to be released, had already died of AIDS. Private Super 8s, her own pictures and up-to-date interviews serve Goldin here as basic material.

The New York underground scene is also the main template for filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko's debut feature High Art (1997). In fact, main protagonist Lucy Berliner, her lifestyle and the film's set pieces are all reminiscent of Nan Goldin's picture worlds. Young Syd - coworker on a zeitgeist magazine and currently preoccupied on squeezing new pix out of a former art scene star - lets herself be drawn into this "strange" world and into falling in love with Lucy. Ally Sheedy - who came to fame in the 1980s through roles in Wargames and Short Circuit and St Elmo's Fire - enjoys a triumphant comeback in High Art as the photographer who turns her back on the hypocrisy of the art market.

On a purely technical basis, photography would seem to have less to do with the theatre than with the movies. However, quite early on, we find historic pictures documenting the dynamism of various figures in the world of expressive dancing or - for example - the splendid poses of a Sarah Bernhardt. French photographer Martine Franck observed theatre and film director Ariane Mnouchkine rehearsing with her troupe of actors. The resultant Ariane et Compagnie is a film collage selected from Franck's photographs and interview extracts, underpinned rhythmically with music. By presenting her photos in a linear form, Martine Franck is in essence, at least design-wise, falling back on Nan Goldin's slide shows. The results, though, are captured on film

 





I got them Old Bag Blues

As women grow old, they turn into embittered 'old crones'! Frustrated by the ageing process and physical decay, the 'old bags' huddle in their armchair, bewail their past beauty and wait for death to come knock knock knocking. At least, that's the usual image of older women and contains, of course, any number of cultural assumptions about how the female of the species is to be judged or prejudged. Whereas young women enjoy great social privilege on account of their attractiveness, any subsequent trace of age in the face or the body is quickly marked down as lack of perspective or life's twilight zone ů which, let it be said, is not the case with men. Is it any wonder that this dismissal of life with a future leads to the frustrations of the present being repressed by an escape into the past?

Old women do not seem to interest the world of moving pictures. Elderly women characters are reduced to a few stereotypes. Since the bodies of older women tend to be de-eroticised, any such protagonists are excluded from becoming objects of desire, objects of the male gaze at the cinema. "Old" women are left with limited roles: mothers, funny old ladies and, well, frustrated old bags. Their past life, if at all, is shown in the form of melancholy memories. That these women can continue as active beings to determine their own fates is seldom brought to our attention.

As the concept of 'old bags' is now a central feature of film criticism, these stereotypes may be seen as truly tiresome. Looking back into the past should not always be equated with an escape from the present. On the contrary, looking back can provide the elements to make one's present life as a woman more meaningful. Perhaps we can also tap on energy from our own past biography to render life as an older person more autonomous. An energy that can lead to a strong position of knowledge as, for example, in The Home for Blind Women where that position is eagerly exploited by witnesses to historical events. Or, as in Sand Bride, the past is allowed to hold secrets whose very disclosure reinstates an elderly woman in a role that society had otherwise ceased to respect her for. Similarly, a central controlling position is gained by a funny and eccentric old lady in Anthrakitis with all her fiendish ways of surprising and browbeating the nursing staff.

A revitalisation of life as an 'old bag' may take place as the result of extreme circumstances -- which either confirm an embodied or allocated role, such as "mother", or lead to a break with said role. In Queen of the Mist, by way of an example, a 60-year-old woman without much (financial) perspective tries to make a living at the turn of the century by going over the Niagara Falls in a barrel! Yet a genuine stake in life becomes most evident, perhaps, when assumed loss of attractiveness is contradicted. Just one lover can cancel out all the social assignations of role that mould the lives of women. And the monotonous life we initially glimpse in Sand Bride suddenly opens out in all kinds of directions..

 





The Philosophy of On the Way

"On the way" as a synonym for any search for new concepts of life or "journey" as a perhaps rather clich»ed metaphor for life's journey 'per se'... this notion and the symbol of the road have been used in Hollywood movies to extend the American myth even further. Its origins, closely linked with the myth of the frontier, reach far back into American history: to the settlement of North America by the Europeans.

Film stories are often described as the "inner journey" taken by the protagonists. What happens then if the actual physical journey becomes the main ingredient, the structure forming element in the plot? What models do women directors offer us in this very male genre? Well, in our series entitled "The Philosophy of On the Way", 'femme totale' will be looking at film journeys, though without getting too involved in a broad debate about road movie genre. Nevertheless, we will be asking what a road movie is in order to see how women filmmakers play with the conventions of the genre and break through its limits.

On the run or on a search, the heroes attain a certain freedom from the road -- if only for a short time. Whereas in real life it's usually a question of travelling from Point A to Point B in as short a time as possible, the theme of the road or journey in a film tends to focus on the time taken between the two points. Seemingly far away from bourgeois conventions and standards, a space off develops as a kind of platform for freaks and outsiders: "The road defines the space between town and country." It is an empty expanse, a 'tabula rasa', the last true frontier.

The journey of the heroes thus takes place in the "in between" and the inner search finds a outer form in the plot. In that the figures commit themselves to this space off - partly of their own free will, partly because they have to - they can leave conventions behind them. The space off becomes a place of leeway for alternatives -- a place/space that is so tempting because of its very lawlessness (which is not the same as immorality). Domesticity is banished from the agenda completely. The heroes of road movies are eccentrics, a bit freakish, that kind of person whose identity in the mainstream can only be found as an outsider. Which is why, for example, the documentary search for lesbian love in Greeting From Out Here, set in the American outback as a road movie by director Ellen Spiro, works so well. Which is why Renee Tajima-Pe“a, influenced by the beat generation and Kerouac's "On the Road", uses the form to search for Asian identity in the USA.

Ultimately, though, fictional road movies are simply too cool to tackle social and political problems seriously. "They express the fury and the suffering at the extremities of civilised life and give their restless protagonists the false hope of a one-way ticket to nowhere [...]. It's a predictable enough fate for a mainstream project longing to express outlaw impulses it cannot properly access". The sympathetic outlaw heroes clearly owe more to Calamity Jane and John Wayne than Rosa Luxemburg or Malcom X. The masculinity populating the road on film has its origins in the Western which may be considered as a precursor to the road movie except that the cowboy has now changed his horse for a motorbike or car. Of course, the road movie - precisely because its heroes are hip outsiders - is not a static genre and, as its themes change, it reveals quite a lot about contemporary issue no matter how distorted or misrepresented the treatment of them may be. With his cult novel of "On the Road", Jack Kerouac rang in a paradigm change for the representation of journeys on film too. If the heroes of old had been heterosexual couples (e.g. Clark Gable and Colette Colbert in It Happened One Night) or an entire group (e.g. The Grapes of Wrath), the post-Kerouac shift was to male buddies enjoying genuine male comradeship and going on a journey. Trend setter, indeed genre setter thirty years ago, was of course Easy Rider which did, after all, go on to pick up a Golden Palm at Cannes.

It was followed by so many films with innumerable journeys (every which way through the US of A) that people began to talk of a separate genre. Heterosexual couples still appeared in addition to the buddy pairs but the lovers' relationship was usually of a criminal nature (as in Bonnie & Clyde). Any compromise between individual freedom and social order or between technological movement and domesticated stasis seems impossible. The romantic couple turn into outlaw lovers. However, with an increasingly visible gay movement, these on-the-road buddy relationships start to become a little problematic: "Audiences could no longer as easily ignore the possibilities that the intimacy of a same-sex road couple suggests since such a queer subtext was by then widely acknowledged by the popular press even when it was diegetically insisted to be 'impossible'". Perhaps this is one of the reasons why road movies about the individual search for freedom ż la Easy Rider in the 1980s eventually developed into comedies whilst the road movie as serious art film was left to Europe and the likes of Wenders and KaurismĒki who, in turn, inspired American directors such as Jim Jarmusch.

The great change in terms of reception in the academic sector came with Thelma and Louise. The two heroines here simply find it more fun to live as outlaws rather than as housewives or waitresses and so have something in common with the buddies of the 1970s and 1980s. The road is open again -- and not just for women! In the 1990s, you will find children, vampires and blacks on the road as well as gay women and men discovering all the freedom the road has in store for them. It, the road, becomes a symbol for the search for identity which in this case lies outside the norms of compulsory heterosexuality. The room to manoeuvre offered by the space off is a trope for the diversity of potential ways of life.

Over the years, the road movie as a genre has developed certain fixed dramatic rules (the journey as constitutive element, motivation for the journey etc.) which even our rebellious heroes, bound by the chains of film convention as they are, would not dream of breaching. We viewers who have been coaching our perceptions over thirty years of road movie tradition tend to place expectations on these unconventional heroes which are conventional in themselves, namely, that the heroes have to be unconventional at all costs. That being the frame, the freaks and the eccentrics are put on display and, even though they're pretty sympathetic guys all-round, these figures have only ever carved out a niche in the cinema, one that leads their search for freedom ad absurdum. A staple ingredient of many a road movie is therefore its end: the violent death not of the classic villains but of the heroes -- more often than not by representatives of the law called in to set matters straight and restore existing law and order. The interlude as a hero comes to resemble a carnevalesque act and the creation of disorder only serves to highlight bourgeois standards and values.

 





Just the two of us

Sisters at the movies. In other words: films about, with and by sisters; model family stories; early screen impressions such as Lottie in double and, later on, classics of the New German Women's Film as exemplified by Margarethe von Trotta in Sisters Or The Balance of Happiness. Encounters, also, with real off-screen sisters such as Cath»rine Deneuve and the sadly missed FranŃoise Dorl»ac. Or Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland. This kind of relationship - both private and professional - was so marked by sibling rivalry that a joint appearance in front of the cameras was just not on.

Though Jane and Anne Campion have always been able to work together. In their short film The Audition in 1989, the more famous of the two let herself be filmed working on, and coming to terms with, the subject of their mother. The same year, in Sweetie, Jane Campion created an icon within the sister film genre. A decade later, Carine Adler's debut film Under The Skin was to refer back to that original.

Both films are typical for the intensity evinced by these family on-screen novels about sisters who, usually, could not be more different in terms of character and life's ambitions. The theme of sisterhood would hardly be conceivable without that harkback to the notion of the family, to mother and father. As a consequence, it is the death of a close relative that frequently acts as an external reason for meeting up with another again after years of separation in every sense of the word. Indeed, the cinema presents us with a concept of sisters as at once counterpart and mirror -- virtually as a topos in which one's own existence is reflected. A symbiotic-incestuous sister relationship as in Nancy Meckler's Sister My Sister - one of the highpoints at femme totale's last festival - may rank as an exception. Here the generation gap idea is missing, as is the usual mother/daughter conflict, to be replaced by a moment of balance and comparison: what has my sister done with her life and what have I achieved with mine? In sister films, then, the theme is one of coming to terms with one's past and, on that basis, taking stock of the present and setting course for the future.

It cannot be a coincidence, by the way, that the genre of sister film harmonises so well with the genre of road movie -- e.g. The Collector and Manny and Lo which, on show at this year's Festival, are a good indication that they have the themes of self-searching and self-recognition in common.

The women directors to be presented at the Festival do not observe the sister constellation with a cold clinical gaze but prefer to spotlight the perspective of one of the siblings -- this by means of voiceover and the articulation of subjective feelings. In Under the Skin, for instance, the expressive handheld camera of Ken Loache's cameraman Barry Ackroyd - its tilted framing technique - is used to visualise the mental anguish of protagonist Iris. The young woman is existentially tormented by the fact that her elder sister Rose was always more favoured by their mother. Added to which, Rose's pregnancy seems to have brought her and the mother even closer together. With the sudden death of their beloved Mum, Iris simply loses control, dresses herself up in the mother's furcoat and wig and seeks out, excessively so, recognition and intimacy in unzipped sex. It is only a nervous breakdown that enables her to start a new life and make things up with her sister.

As for the documentary works on this topic, the autobiographical roots are quite obvious. The filmmakers simply point their cameras at their own families and portray sisters at different ages -- from teenager to successful middle-aged career woman to 80-year-old senior citizen. Employing impressionistic experimental images, Kirsten Glaubner - in her film Twenty One - composes an unusual requiem for the sister who had a fatal motorbike accident. In Eyes Fixed on Money, Helga Reidemeister confronts herself with emotions of rivalry, jealousy and - it has to be said - scant regard for her younger sister Hilde Kulbach who, over the years, was able to enjoy a life of success as a fashion model both professionally and with men. After a long period of estrangement, it took a lot of hard work for the two to grasp the other's perspective: It was a really long time before I discovered that Hilde and I had similarities: similar problems with getting through the day without losing one's own self.

In Shalosh Ahayot (Three sisters), the Israeli director Tsipi Reibenbach observes - in everyday images and with no extraneous commentary - how the lives of her mother, Fruma, and her sisters Karola and Ester are still affected, even fifty years on, by the psychological scars of the Shoah. Despite the security of her Old People's Home, Karola continues to knit nonstop just as she did in the labour camp -- as though her life depended on it. Driven by a deep inner restlessness, Fruma endeavours to set out her camp experiences in writing. Ester, the youngest, suffers from the fact that she has had no life of her own: first the camp in her youth, then the family and now her husband requiring nursing care.

 





Looking for Fumiko: Women Filmmakers in Japan

If Madam Butterfly had had an 8-mm camera within easy reach, she wouldn't have had to wait for Pinkerton so full of sorrow!

Moulded by confucianist patriarchy, collective society in Japan has always made it difficult for women to enter the world of work. The film industry is no exception here. Although women might appear as objects in films and although they were permitted to carry out certain tasks in certain production areas, for a long time it seemed inconceivable that women would become their own subjects and take over directorial control in the film world.

Interestingly enough, the first Japanese women to make films came from the circles around well-known male director Kenji Mizoguchi whose many films tended to centre on heroines. The "pioneeress", but still , an exception proving the rule, was Tazuko Sakane (1904-75). Initially an assistant director for Mizoguchi, her debut as a director came in 1936 with Hatsu sugata. Following a dozen or so cultural films shot in Manchuria after the Second World War, she worked as a screenwriter.

As Japanese post-war society was gradually democratised, women got the right to vote in 1946. Nevertheless, if new kinds of women were being presented at the movies, the conditions of production hardly changed until the 1970s. In essence, there were only two ways for women to make films: either as an actress taking over the directorial reins now and again or as a contractor working on a commission basis for the smaller production companies in the cultural, educational and industrial film sector. The famous actress Kinuyo Tanaka is usually - but erroneously - accepted as the "Japan's first woman film director". Before she directed Koibumi in 1953, she had starred in many of Mizoguchi's films but the friendship ties were to snap when she went on to direct a second film.

Individual filmmakers such as Mariko Miyagi, Sachiko Hidari and Midori Kurisaki - all of whom first began directing in the 1970s - were actresses. Yet to describe the post-war period as a "time of vacuum" raises a few awkward questions. As already mentioned, a number of small production firms focusing on cultural, education and company promotional films were prepared to entrust responsibility to women. Thus it was that women filmmakers such as Toshiba Tokieda, Sumiko Haneda and Tomoko Fujiwara started filming as early as the 1950s -- i.e. at a time when all avenues to work as a director in the larger movie production companies were closed. However, in this sector too, many women filmmakers had to wait a long time before they could get their own projects off the ground.

We can only speculate about the effects of the reform wave at the end of the 1960s. Of course, there was a movement in the 1970s that extended into realms of experimental and underground film. The 8-mm camera enjoyed a renaissance: its capabilities were extended. Using such minimalist means, one could express oneself and capture one's surroundings - or the entire world - on film. Mako Idemitus and Seiko Otobe are worth singling out in this context. And even today, film students start off with 8-mm cameras. But as video expands more and more, equipment becomes compacter, lighter and cheaper. Since the mid-1980s, at least two film institutes have been willing to promote women film and video makers.

At this juncture, we should not omit to give a mention (if only in passing) to the women who make what are known as "pink movies" i.e. adult sex films.

In 1986, the law of equal opportunity came into force in Japan applying to all clerical staff and prohibiting salary differentials between men and women. Even though consciousness and societal structures are changing only slowly, discrimination is being eroded. It can be no coincidence that, since the 1990s, after frist gathering experience in related careers, an increasing number of women have now taken the director's chair: Yôko Narahashi was a director in the theatre, for example, Yukiko Awaya a computer designer, Naoe Gôzu and Hisako Matusi both producers. Other women are film school graduates. Apart from offering traditional courses of film studies at college or university level, various faculties, art colleges and private film schools have either been expanded or indeed founded -- all responding to the growth of the audiovisual media. This kind of filmmaker includes Naomi Sento and Natsuko Ohtsuki whilst women such as Shimako Satô and Toshiko Shiozaki have attended film colleges outside of Japan. How they - without losing their individuality - will develop in the system remains to be seen. After all, women in Japan have only recently started to come to grips with filmmaking.

 





Lost in music

Over the last few years, musicians and their compositions for film have often stepped out into the limelight. Worth mentioning here are the great soundtrack composers Rachel Portman and Anne Dudley but also young composers such as Anna Ikramova and her music to the documentary Tatlin, Ruth Bieri (please see under the heading of Music Workshop) and Manana Menabde (femme totale 1995).

This year, then, musicians from both the mainstream and the underground. The complexity of combining life with artistic creativity is the subject of three striking documentaries, in fact their linking theme. The dialectic connection of life with musical expression can shape reality at any given time. Music as opposition, and music as a career, yes, but music also as an umbilical cord to a life and a life's work that had to be abandoned on account of crisis or war.

Due to their appearance in public and the dissonant music they make, the punks in Decline of Western Civilisation are perceived as disruptive to society. Which is, of course, entirely what they intended. In this film, Penelope Spheeris concentrates on the fans' lifestyle and background. In a radical departure from norms and conventions, they - the No Future Generation - present a negative biography to the public.

Helen Solberg's Carmen Miranda, on the other hand, is a highly artificial portrayal of musicians who have placed their whole being at the service of their music. Whereas in Underground Orchestra, a film from Heddy Honigmann, it is not self-projection that is centre stage but rather a skilled depiction of various lives artfully juxtapositioned and interwoven with one another -- all with the common thread of war, putsch, poverty, hunger and oppression.

 





My brillant career

Women who have to earn their own living and who are successful in the career world are, in fact, not new to the screen. As early as the 1920s and 1930s, secretaries, phone operators, models, dancers, reporters and - as in Extra Girl - actresses were often featured as protagonists in films that would discuss the advantages and disadvantages of career women. On the whole, though, it is their skills and bodies that brought them success; the hierarchy of the sexes was not seriously challenged. In the Hollywood movies of the 1990s, the women are no longer satisfied with mere financial independence. No, as lawyers and managers, they want positions of power themselves -- and it is here that they pose a real threat to men. To further their careers, such women will deploy their bodies selectively whilst friendship, love and family life are all subordinated to the struggle against men. The image of successful woman is thus, by and large, a negative one.

Even if Hollywood seems to think that it is the goal of all ambitious women to acquire boardroom power (either that or marry the boss), the primary aim of most women is to assure themselves financial or creative independence. Yet success is not just dependent on the self-realisation of the individual protagonist. The actual historical situation, power interests, social structure and family set-up ... these are all factors which women are exposed to, factors which are equally as important as addressing career specific topics and the threat of failure. Which is why the films in this festival series look at various facets and various career women other than those dished up by cinema and pre-prime time TV.

Career possibilities for women will vary with prevailing national interests -- as amply demonstrated in The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter. The film traces how many American women got the chance to forge ahead at work when the US entered the Second World War. In other words, after many years of unskilled labour, they were able to train for a job in the industrial sector. But the financial independence provided via employment in the armaments industry was of course limited for time. At the end of the war, the men came back to their peace-time jobs, pushing their female colleagues back into lower paid employment.

Women employees are often sacrificed to the dictates of the national job market. Women are not Little Men caricatures some of the many and varied methods used to drive women out of areas of production -- back into the secretary's office, for instance. Home and family are willingly ceded to women as a field of work. That financial dependency on a partner resulting from life as a housewife can hold hidden dangers is the idea behind It was a Wonderful Life (see also Spaces off). Once it comes to a separation, such a career can - if the worse comes to the worse - end on the road.

Skills and body. A combination against which the professional qualifications of women are still measured in many sectors of industry. Exactly how to handle such specifications is of course a big problem since an amenable attitude today could lead to positions tomorrow where on-the-couch casting is no longer necessary. Well, that's what aspiring film starlets and women producers interviewed in The Dark Side of Hollywood would have us believe.

 





Spaces Off

Over the last few years, the word "space off" has enjoyed a certain popularity in several different contexts - in queer theory and sociology, for example - to define parts of our cities and metropolitan areas as "spaces off". In the Duden German Dictionary, interestingly enough, you will not find any entry between "organisiert" und "unorthodox". Though the definition there of "niemandsland" or "no mans land" [sic] is more rewarding: "military area between two enemy lines; unexplored, unowned land". Which is slightly reminiscent of the definition of "utopia", a concept which - post 1968 and in the wake of globalisation - seems to have dropped completely out of fashion: "Utopia, the (gr.) nowhere land, the ideal of a perfect society; a fantasy; a vision".

The use of the word "space off" assumes that initially there is a space, a place, where one is "normal". Clearly, there are certain statements generally accepted as truth and anything that has no place in that scheme of truth is inevitably banished to another place, a space off. That which is not normal is abnormal and has to be normalised ů as we see in the documentary film No Probation. The Psychodrama Of A Murderess, a portrait of a girl who has grown up behind bars.

Apparently, one is not to supposed to hang around for too long in places coded as spaces off. For that would be tantamount to social marginalisation. But how some people land up at these places involuntarily but then proceed to adapt, to have to adapt, is shown in It Was A Wonderful Life. This is a sympathetic look at homeless women in a number of American cities. However, you don't notice that they are in distress until second glance. With no roof over their head, no money, they remain somehow invisible in these spaces off.

This series of films at the Festival sets a counterpoint to the career women films (see "My Brilliant Career") and starts where life's journey finally goes off the rails of "normality". In the worst case scenario, people are simply locked up in special purpose institutions: in the loony bin or in the clink. Either way, normality outside remains the order of the day. Canadian director Holly Dale's feature film Dangerous Offender, for example, gives us the life of Marlene Moore, the first woman in the history of Canadian "justice" to be locked up as a dangerous offender: a threat to the general public. This life sentence is precisely that. There is no chance of a pardon, it is the severest punishment that Canadian justice knows. The spaces off to be shown in our series "The Philosophy of on the Road" - a selection of classic road movies - rounds off the section dedicated to the theme of utopia.