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The Female Gaze on Reunification at the International Women's Film Festival Dortmund:Koeln

By Liza Foreman


The Female Gaze on Reunification in Focus at the Internationales Frauen Film Fest DortmundKoeln


This year, the Internationales FrauenFilmFest DortmundKoeln (September 8-13, 2020) cast the spotlight on Reunification from the female perspective. The festival programmed a series of films made between 1990 and 2000 by women directors. 


Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of German Reunification on October 3, the films ranged from intimate portraits of lesbian artists, to photo essays of East German counter culture, to interrogations of Stasi agents by incensed actresses trying to uncover a motive.


Many of these filmmakers gathered in Cologne for a round-table September 13 to discuss what many see as a sweeping under the carpet of this recent history, or the bringing together of East and West Germans. 


The series included Becoming Black by Ines Johnson-Spain. The documentary film, which took seven years to make, tells the story of her upbringing in a white family in East Germany that insisted she turned out that way. At 12, she discovered papers showing her real father was from Togo.


The film opening the FrauenFilmFest also marked its German debut. Becoming Blackmade its world premiere at IDFA last year. 


Therese Koppe’s film A Quiet Resistance meanwhile focuses on an obscure artist couple.  


“What actually happened to the biographies of female artists who were educated and trained in the GDR and worked there after German Reunification,” asks Koppe who spent a year filming in their home. 


Lange Weile is a compelling photo essay of the friends and counter culture characters known to talented photographer Tina Bara that were taken to resist the boredom of being locked into the East Bloc. What happened to these people? Some wandered out West. Others joined the Stasi we discover along the way. 


And in Black Box, Tamara Trampe probes a former Stasi psychologist, tracing his life from childhood through to life after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  


In Enemy of the State, Annekatrin Hendel casts the spotlight on the poet and dramatist Paul Gratzik who, by now, is an old man rowing through the river recounting his younger days as a good looking writer.  The program also featured a series of short films. 


This year’s Festival was rescheduled from March and is one of a number of festivals taking place this Fall in Germany. The festival is the largest women's film festival in Germany, and one of the largest worldwide. 90 feature films were programmed. 


“Feminism is currently experiencing a new dawn,” says festival director Maxa Zoller. “DortmundKoeln International Women’s Festival has witnessed numerous women’s movements and their various degrees of intensity, and the latest swell has lead the festival to change, shift and revamp its focus.”


The motto of the festival for 2020 was “dialogue, diversity, empowerment.” New section Spot on, NRW put the focus on the experience of women working in the film industry today. Two new awards have been introduced, including the EVFA Short Film Award and the Shoot award for young female artists. Sections included both debut films, and a national awards for female cinematographers. 




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