Sanders-Brahms in 2011
20 November 1940|
Lower Saxony, Germany
|Died||27 May 2014
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Sanders-Brahms studied acting in Hannover from 1960–62, and German, English, and pedagogy in Cologne from 1962-65. Her early career involved work as a television announcer and model. During a trip to Italy in 1967, she interned with film directors Pier Paolo Pasolini and Sergio Corbucci, a decisive experience in her choice to pursue film-making. Beginning in 1969, she made her own films, writing her own screenplays and producing many of her films herself. Her film-making comprised both fiction and documentary films, and many of her films contain a strong autobiographical component.
Her early films engage critically with the themes of labour, migration, and the situation of women in West Germany. Under the Pavement Lies the Strand was a central film for the German women’s movement and for the student movement, as well as for the director's own emergence as an explicitly feminist film-maker. The controversial made-for-television movie Shirin’s Wedding depicted the tragic death of a Turkish migrant to Germany, addressing the subject of forced marriage. From her reading of classic German literature, she developed a special sympathy for the work of Heinrich Von Kleist. At least three of her films are either based on, or explicitly refer to, that author.
Sanders-Brahms gained international recognition with Germany, Pale Mother, which addresses German women’s experiences during and after the Nazi period. As a director of the New German Cinema movement, her scripts focus on the concerns of the political left.
Her final theatrical film Geliebte Clara ("Beloved Clara") concerned the love triangle between Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms, who was a distant relative of Sanders-Brahms. She then made one last work, a TV documentary So wie ein Wunder, about the musician Werner Heymann shown on German television in 2012.
Her films count among the most significant of the New German Cinema, and have been awarded many prizes at festivals worldwide. In 1982, she was a member of the jury at the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival.
Abroad, Sanders-Brahms was highly received by film critics from countries such as the United States, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom. In her home country of Germany however, her work was not as well regarded. German critics found her films "heavyhanded" and "navel-gazing." Shortly before her death, she was quoted saying: “Before I die, I’d just like to make one last attempt to rescue my films from oblivion in my country and say: at least have a look at them.”
- Unter dem Pflaster ist der Strand (1975)
- Das Erdbeben in Chili (1975, TV film)
- Heinrich (1977)
- Germany, Pale Mother (1980)
- Die Berührte (1981)
- Flügel und Fesseln (1984)
- Laputa (1986)
- Felix (Segment: "Er am Ende") (1988)
- Apple Trees (1992)
- Mein Herz – niemandem! (1997)
- Geliebte Clara (2008)
- Kosta, Barbara (1994). Recasting Autobiography: Women's Counterfictions in Contemporary German Literature and Film. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP.
- Linville, Susan (1992). "The Mother-Daughter Plot in History: Helma Sanders-Brahms' Germany, Pale Mother". New German Critique. 55: 51–70. doi:10.2307/488289.
- Kupferberg, Audrey. "Helma Sanders-BRAHMS profile Director". FilmReference.com. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- "Awards for Germany, Pale Mother". imdb.com. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- "Berlinale 1982: Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
- "Helma Sanders-Brahms".
- Filmemacherin Helma Sanders-Brahms gestorben Archived 27 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine., stern.de; accessed 25 December 2016.(in German)
- ""Germany Pale Mother"". @GI_weltweit. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- Helma Sanders-Brahms Bibliography (via UC Berkeley)
- Tast. B. (1980), Helma Sanders-Brahms, Düsseldorf: Lory, (Issue 8 of Kulleraugen / Materialsammlung) ISBN 3-88842-108-X.
- Knight, J. (1992), Women and the New German Cinema, London: Verso, ISBN 0-86091-352-X