Helga Reidemeister

Cast, Director, Screenplay, Director of photography, Editing, Sound, Miscellaneous, Producer
Halle (Saale) Berlin

Biography

Helga Reidemeister was born on 4 February 1940 in Halle an der Saale. After graduating from high school in Cologne in 1959, she studied free painting at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin from 1961 to 1965. She joined the Socialist German Student Union (SDS) in 1966 and worked as a social worker in the Märkisches Viertel in Berlin-Reinickendorf from 1968 to 1973. In the course of this work she got to know the workers' wives of the satellite city newly built there, who protested against the excessively high rents and the inadequate infrastructure. Commissioned to mediate the conflicts, Reidemeister organized a cultural programme with films that she borrowed from the Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek (Friends of the German Cinematheque). However, the women did not feel represented by these films and encouraged Reidemeister to study at the Film Academy in order to make a film together from the perspective of the workers' wives. After her first application to the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb) was rejected by the selection committee, which consisted exclusively of men, she sought support from the female film students and was finally accepted in 1973. In order to enable more women to study film, she joined the selection committee herself after her first year of study.

Reidemeister had already made her first documentary film "Wohnste sozial, haste Qual" in 1971. During her studies at the dffb, she made two documentaries which attracted greater attention: "Der gekaufte Traum" (1977) portrays the Bruder working class family, whom she met during her time as a social worker in the Märkisches Viertel. Equipped with a Super-8 camera by Reidemeister, the family had already begun filming their everyday life independently in the fall of 1969. However, when they looked through the four-hour material at the editing table together with Reidemeister in the summer of 1974, they realized that it depicted the family's problems only superficially and left the social context out of the picture. Reidemeister, who had not yet intervened in the film shooting, then spent a lot of time with the family and documented everyday life together with them. The result was a multi-layered mixture of family self-testimony and reflection on social relationships.

Her third film "Von wegen 'Schicksal'" ("Is This Fate", 1979) was also made in close cooperation with the filmed persons. It portrays the 48-year-old Irene Rakowitz, mother of four children, who after 20 years of marriage files for divorce in order to lead her own life. The film accompanies her in her struggle for a self-determined life and the problems, disappointments and hopes that her decision brings with it. For "Von wegen 'Schicksal'", Reidemeister's graduation film at the dffb, she was awarded the Filmband in Gold for Best Newcomer Director at the 1979 German Film Awards.

Many of Reidemeister's other documentaries are also distinguished by their personal portraits of individuals, mostly women, whose lives also point to social problems. In "Mit starrem Blick aufs Geld" (1983) she takes a look behind the scenes of the fashion world and shows the everyday professional life, the challenges and worries of her sister Hilde Kulbach, who led a life as a successful model.

Despite her frequent collaboration with women both in front of and behind the camera, Reidemeister only reluctantly described herself as a feminist filmmaker. Her work has its roots in the working class, which as she states was excluded from feminist discourses in the 1970s when she began making films. She also said that she did not want to exclude men in her films. In an interview with "Filmdienst" in 2015, she declared: "I would describe myself as a filmmaker who is always for justice and who fights or wants to fight when she has the strength.

In some of her films, she dealt with life in her adopted home Berlin, during and after the division of West and East Berlin, as well as the effects of the fall of the Wall on German civil society and identity. The documentary "DrehOrt Berlin" (1987) shows the different lifestyles of the inhabitants on both sides of the Wall two years before its fall, without taking sides. "Rodina heißt Heimat" ("Rodina means Home", 1992) tells of the last months before the withdrawal of the Soviet army, two years after the reunification of Germany, using the example of the Thuringian garrison town of Meiningen and the surrounding GDR border area. The documentary was awarded the Peace Prize of the Berlin International Film Festival. In "Lichter aus dem Hintergrund" (1998) Reidemeister accompanies the East Berlin architectural photographer Robert Paris and describes his search for new orientation and identity in a reunified Berlin that is foreign to him. "Gotteszell – Ein Frauengefängnis" ("Gotteszell – A Women's Prison", 2000) deals with everyday life in the Gotteszell women's prison in Baden-Württemberg and discusses questions of guilt and atonement with the inmates and the prison guards.

Her last three films form a trilogy about life in the war in Afghanistan. In "Texas Kabul" ("The Secret of Joy", 2004) she travels through various countries and meets people who critically examine the war in Afghanistan, including four women who report on their lives shaped by resistance to the war, for example Jamila Mujahed, the first unveiled presenter on Afghan television. "Mein Herz sieht die Welt schwarz – Eine Liebe in Kabul" ("War and Love in Kabul", 2009) is about Hossein and Shaima, who have loved each other since childhood, but are driven apart by the war and the strict laws of family. They still manage to see each other, but they live under constant fear of family revenge. For this film Reidemeister was awarded the Prize for Cultural Identity and Diversity of the Festival de Cine Internacional de Ourense in 2009. In "Splitter - Afghanistan" (Shattered Afghanistan – How Can I Imagine Peace", 2013) the focus is on patients at the Red Cross Orthopaedic Centre in Kabul, people disfigured by war, who nevertheless bear their suffering without complaint and look to the future with hope.

Reidemeister was a professor for documentary film at the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy and held teaching positions in Germany and abroad since 1988. She was a member of the German Film Academy, the Lower Saxony Film Commission and since 2001 a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.

On November 29, 2021, Helga Reidemeister died in Berlin  at age 81 after a long illness.

Filmography

2011
  • Miscellaneous
2010/2011
  • Editing
2002-2005
  • Participation
2003/2004
  • Director
  • Screenplay
  • Producer
1999/2000
  • Director
  • Screenplay
1999
  • Participation
1997/1998
  • Director
  • Screenplay
  • Producer
1992
  • Director
  • Screenplay
  • Interviews
1986/1987
  • Director
  • Screenplay
1982/1983
  • Director
  • Screenplay
1978/1979
  • Director
  • Screenplay
  • Still photography
1974-1977
  • Director
  • Screenplay
  • Director of photography
  • Lighting design
  • Editing
  • Sound