Women and the New German Cinema

Women and the New German Cinema

Women and the New German Cinema

Women and the New German Cinema


There were virtually no women film directors in germany until the 1970s. today there are proportionally more than in any other film-making country6, and their work has been extremely influential. Directors like Margarethe von Trotta, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Ulrike Ottinger and Helke Sander have made a huge contribution to feminist film culture, but until now critical consideration of New German Cinema in Britain and the United States has focused almost exclusively on male directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders.

In Women and the New German Cinema Julia Knight examines how restrictive social, economic and institutional conditions have compounded the neglect of the new women directors. Rejecting the traditional auteur approach, she explores the principal characteristics of women's film-making in the 1970s and 1980s, in particular the role of the women's movement, the concern with the notion of a 'feminine aesthetic', women's entry into the mainstream, and the emergence of a so-called post-feminist cinema.

This timely and comprehensive study will be essential reading for everyone concerned with contemporary cinema and feminism.


Although the work of women directors forms an important part of the New German Cinema, women's filmmaking has developed along a course different from that of their male colleagues, and this has contributed significantly to its marginalization in most studies of the new cinema. in order to demonstrate this divided history it is necessary first to outline the factors that gave rise to the New German Cinema and the institutional structures that supported it. Through the work of film academics and critics such as Jan Dawson, Thomas Elsaesser, Sheila Johnston and Eric Rentschler, a body of work now exists that offers a highly complex and sophisticated analysis of this area; and the first half of this chapter is heavily indebted to this work.

The New German Cinema came into being as a result of a body of criticism that was directed at West German cinema in the late fifites and early sixties. This criticism eventually precipitated the introduction of a complex network of public subsidies which attempted to promote a national cinema that was both culturally motivated and economically viable. the origins of this criticism stemmed largely from the Allies' handling of the film industry after World War Two. Their policies, guided by a combination of ideological and economic considerations, left West German cinema artistically impoverished and economically vulnerable.

At the end of the war it had been deemed necessary to 're-educate' the German people in order both to denazify Germany and to build up . . .

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