November 2013, arsenal cinema

Living Archive - November 1973: The first international women's cinema conference


Exactly 40 years ago, in November 1973, the first international women's film conference took place at the old Arsenal in Welserstraße and the primary school opposite. It was organized by Filmmakers Claudia von Alemann and Helke Sander, who presented 45 films from seven countries - this was tantamount to a pioneering achievement. They invited 250 participants who were active in women's groups. On top of that, women who worked in the media came and thanks to the conference/festival they were able to build up a network for the first time. The same was true for the filmmakers. Most screenings were premieres and thus the event can also be considered to be the first women's film festival in the world, with films made by and about women. There had never been a women's film festival of this size before. However, in the forefront was the establishment of a public discourse. In this sense, the event was like a model and in the following years it was emulated and extended in many cities, for example in Frankfurt and Munich (by Angela Haardt).

The issues examined were "Women in the labor struggle, women in the depiction of the media, women and Paragraph 218, sexuality, role behavior, the women's movement in Europe and the US." Films of all lengths and genres that picked up on these themes critically were invited. In 1993, Arsenal, the "Blickpilotin" association and the "Übung am Phantom" group revisited the event after 20 years. Angela Melitopoulos also examined it in her "Möglich-keitsraum" events at the HKW and Arsenal. Now, four decades have passed. We invite you to join us on a long Sunday to re-watch the 28 largely short films that have been in Arsenal's collection since 1973. Claudia von Alemann and Helke Sander and Angela Melitopoulos and Stefanie Schulte Strathaus will guide audiences through the day's program and discuss it with members of the public and some of the participants of the November 1973 event.

The brochure that was published at the time "Zur Situation der Frau" contained valuable film and literature tips and presented a work and learning program. PDF Download (stss) (10.11.)

ABORT (Vibeke Lökkeberg, Norway 1972)
The theme of abortion was very topical in the women's movement of the 1970s. The film ABORT thematizes the problem through the example of a 16-year-old pregnant girl, who turns to local authorities in order to terminate her pregnancy legally, but who mostly runs up against discrimination. Sequences with a documentary quality are undercut with statements by women doctors advocating for women’s right to self-determination. Further interviews illuminate the arguments for and against abortion from various positions. The film ends with a montage set to Bertolt Brecht's song about abortion.

(Helke Sander, FRG 1971)
The film shows the situation at home and at the workplace and the conflicts, which arise between the two. EINE PRÄMIE FÜR IRENE was meant as a critique of the situation in the workplace and not of the situation of the women. It is the first film which picks up on the discussion on the connections between private and public space within the women’s movement.

ES KOMMT DRAUF AN, SIE ZU VERÄNDERN (Claudia von Alemann, FRG 1972/3)
Taking the example of women’s jobs in the metalworking industry, the film analyzes the kinds of work women do, the function of female workers in production and particularly their exploitation in the workplace and the family. Women workers talk about their situation and the ways in which they resist, supported by explanatory inserts.

FÜR FRAUEN – 1. KAPITEL (Christina Perincioli, FRG 1972)
The film thematizes how women are disadvantaged in the working world. Four married saleswomen at a self-service shop experience find out that they are not paid as well as their younger superior, and they discover ways to collectively stand up against their unequal treatment by their manager and the business owner. 

JANIE’S JANIE (Geri Ashur, USA 1971)
The film was made by women from the New York „Newsreel“ Group and is made up of a detailed interview with a woman – a 28-year-old white working class woman, mother of five, who has recently left her husband. As a woman, being alone in society, without money, without experience or specialized education, with five children, which need to be taken care of – this may develop the consciousness like thousand discussion groups. And Janie has developed in herself not only the consciousness of a woman, but a class consciousness.

L’AGGENTTIVO DONNA (Annabella Miscuglio, Rony Daopoulo and Collettivo Femminista di Cinema, Italy 1972)
A film about the place of women in Italian society during the 1970s. In a montage of statements by women on their personal experiences, housework, vocational difficulties, raising children, documentary scenes from school and family, as well as photos from art and social history, the film shows how the woman is always defined as the adjunct of the man.

LA LOTTA NON È FINITA (Annabella Miscuglio, Rony Daopoulo and Collectivo Femminista di Cinema, Italy 1973)
The film shows two actions which took place for International Women’s Day on May 8th 1972 and 1973. In 1972 the women organized a demonstration, the next year, they decided on a different strategy: in small groups the feminists appear in different parts of the city, in schools and universities, primarily however in the squares of the different neighborhoods.

YEAR OF THE WOMAN (Sandra Hochman, USA 1972)
The film marks a milestone in feminist (film) history. It is the first feature-length film in the US exclusively produced by women. It documents how, for the first time, women at the 1972 Democratic Party Convention in Miami conquered the political world that had been dominated by men. “Sandra Hochman wanted to show a new awareness of the dignity of women and she realized her intention by means of a hilariously funny film, in which a large number of prominent people appear, as do many committed member of international women’s organizations,” was how it was described in the Forum catalogue in 1973. The list of participants is long: Alongside Betty Friedan, Flo Kennedy, Germaine Grier, or Shirley McLaine we also see Norman Mailer and Warren Beatty.

THE MAGIC BEAUTY KIT documents a cosmetics home party in a typical American suburb.

THE WOMAN’S FILM (Newsreel, USA 1970)
The film was made entirely by women in San Francisco Newsreel. It was a collective effort between the women behind the camera and those in front of it. The script itself was written from preliminary interviews with women in the film. Their participation, their criticism, and approval were sought at various stages of production.

TU LUC VAN DOAN (Claudia von Alemann, FRG 1971)
In a montage of documentary shots taken from films about Vietnam, photos, and interviews, the film shows various aspects of the fate of Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War. The women have to manage continuing production, organizing the population, and defending the villages militarily. Their engagement for the liberation of their country also helped to create the conditions for them to get out of their own subordinate position in society.