Abendschau, 28 October 1969

[Abendschau, 28. Oktober 1969, 4:50 min]

In November 1968, 18 dffb students, among them Harun Farocki, Johannes Beringer, Hartmut Bitomsky, Gerd Conradt, and Holger Meins, were expelled from the film school. It was the final episode in a period of political engagement and turmoil after the events of June 2, 1967 which had politicized many students and marked their films. Skip Norman was not expelled, he remained a student and filmed his thesis film Strange Fruit in 1969.

In October 1969, the SFB program “Abendschau,” a local news program from West-Berlin, interviewed Heinz Rathsack, the school’s director, about the status quo after the political escalation in 1968. While Rathsack explains the steps that they have taken to pacify the situation after the escalation, a sequence from STRANGE FRUIT (with muted sound) is shown – “We have had the courage,” Rathsack says, “to go into enclosure for half a year without accepting new students until the end of this process, and to implement certain changes in the structure and in the study guidelines, about which there is a general agreement now. Self-administration is now in place, it functions and is connected with clear competences. The curriculum has been condensed, there’s more emphasis than before on learning the crafts, collaboration in groups is intensified, and there’s a stronger coordination between theory and practice-based courses. With these measures, crucial conditions have been established so that now, we have the courage to have our entrance exams in December and have a group of new first year students – the fourth one – start in January.” Then the interviewer adds casually: “We have just had a glimpse into a film by Skip Norman, Strange Fruit. The subject is racial conflict in the United States. And now, towards the end of our report, we want to look at an excerpt from DER REIFENSCHNEIDER UND SEINE FRAU – authored by Klaus Wildenhahn and Roland Hehn.”

The decision to use Skip Norman’s images without the sound; to combine them with the school’s director’s words instead of asking the filmmaker for a statement on his work; the fact that hardly anything is said about the film’s content: all this is awkward and dubious. Back then, in 1969, this type of carelessness might have been the norm and gone unnoticed.

April 11th, 2023 — Rosa Mercedes / 03 / Docs