May 2011, arsenal cinema

ABSENT PRESENT and other films by Angelika Levi


Angelika Levi's voice leads through her filmography like a thread. The filmmaker is also visible - sometimes more, sometimes less. It's as though she floats through her films. The starting point of her associative worlds is direct experience. She repeatedly determines her position to ensure her own identity, to then abandon herself to the flow of imagination. She neither revolves around herself nor looses her ground. Instead, she creates a confidence allowing the viewer to freely follow the chain of associations and discern a method of social criticism in undetermined processes of perception, something which can never come to an end.

Angelika Levi studied at the dffb from 1986-1992. So she started off in former West Berlin of the 1980s, between a mood of nuclear apocalypse and the squatters' movement, the struggle for gay-lesbian forms of life and feminism, punk, New Wave and drugs, surrounded by the Berlin Wall, in a time when aesthetic experiments and the rejection of self-contained narrations were part of the program. At the time, she was not only active as a filmmaker but also played in the women's band Subsonic. Since then, Berlin has always been where she has worked and returned to after her travels. Therefore, her filmography also reflects a part of contemporary history.

The occasion of this four-part retrospective is the premiere of her new film, ABSENT PRESENT (2010, Dec. 16). Benji was brought from Namibia to the GDR in 1979 as a young child and sent back in 1990 after German reunification. Levi got to know him there in 1991. Two years later, he hitchhiked back to Europe disguised as a tourist. But "in this film there is no main character. Benji, who should have been it, has disappeared," it is stated at the beginning of the movie. On her search for traces, Levi associatively links the story of the refugee with the stories of flight of those she meets underway. The journey leads from Germany to Namibia, to the Spanish mainland and the Canary Islands, all the way to Senegal. Without wanting to draw a geographical or political map, an essayistic documentary on the various forms of traveling emerges: vacation and migration, voluntary and forced return.

MEIN LEBEN TEIL 2 (2003, Dec. 15) starts with the archive of the filmmaker's mother, who collected and archived her own life story. "Based on objects, photos, sound and film recordings, I narrate what has been told and also not told in the family. The film is about traumatization and simultaneously about how macro- and micro-levels permanently produce history, archive it, include it in a discourse and classify it - and how I myself continue to collect so that everything together results in a narrative."

The first of the two short-film programs (Dec. 15) features several super 8 films, including SEX PARTY (1986/87, with Josje Pater): "A lot of what the women filmed at a party in the punk and squatter scene was 'lost' in the Kodak film lab. SEX PARTY therefore remains incomplete, a fragment, and as such, one could say, a testimony of the precariousness of queer culture." (Marc Siegel). Also a part of the program: FAUST AUFS AUGE (1988, with Antje Schäfer, who collaborated in almost all films as camerawoman), based on models of the film architect Robert Herlth for Murnau's Faust and other films (1986–1994).

The second short-film program (1984–92, Dec. 16) is about Kafka, ghosts, memory, postmodernism, architecture, fairy tales, and science fiction (including DAS KLEINE OBJEKT A). Photographs and video loops by Angelika Levi are on view in the Rote Foyer and the Black Box on both days.