Filmsamstag: An evening of feminist German film

The silence was deafening as an audience of eager students waited for a unique film program to begin.  Following a brief introduction to the lives and careers of three practically unheard of women filmmakers, Ute Aurand simply said, “We’ll just start.” That was how an unprecedented screening of nearly three hours of German experimental films began.

“Three German Filmmakers, Three Decades of Filmmaking” introduced an audience of Mount Holyoke students and faculty, as well as Five College students, to renowned Berlin filmmakers Aurand, Milena Gierke and Renate Sami.

Since 1997, the women have presented their work together.  As founding members of Filmsamstag (Film-Saturday), a unique curatorial collective that operated from 2000-2007, they boast a common interest in avant-garde, feminist and documentary cinema.  But what drives their work is a commitment to the diary film.

The diary film is an unheard-of concept outside the realm of avant-garde cinema. These films are often compelling examinations of daily life and explorations of the world surrounding the filmmakers. As Gierke explained, “Making any film is personal…[It is] my point of view, not yours, mine.”

Gierke, as well as Aurand and Sami, use different formats and methods to depict their view of reality and to create unique diary films.

In the program screened at Mount Holyoke there was a mix of 16mm, digital and Super 8 film.  The complexity and beauty of the images explored through these mediums is heightened by an overwhelming absence of sound and an insistence that Dwight 101 be pitch dark.  Emma Scarloss ’10 said, “I enjoyed that they [the films] were all different; some more experimental, some more documentary.”

What is perhaps most interesting is that, as Aurand and Gierke noted, the context of their work changes depending on the audience.  The unexpected presence of the American folk song, “City of New Orleans,” in Sami’s Film Diary, 1975-1985, confused many audience members and believed it contributed to a deeper, political meaning within the film.

The screenings atmosphere echoed the collective spirit of Filmsamstag; it was the first Five College film studies event since the major was created in 2006. The overwhelming student presence and response to the program implies that more Five College film events will be a tremendous success for the film department.

“Films From Three Decades” is being screened at the Goethe-Insitut in New York on Oct. 11-12.  For more information visit

Published: October 9, 2008
The Mount Holyoke News

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