Interviews

Interview with Susanne Foidl

Sophie Charlotte Rieger
Sophie Charlotte Rieger

EWA Network meets Susanne Foidl

The first symposium of the Babelsberger Salon on "Gender Research Film" took place at the Babelsberg Film University during the beginning of May. The prelude was a screening of the film Freak Orlando by Ulrike Ottinger followed by a film talk. This was followed by lectures, podium discussions and a supporting program including a concert by the feminist rapper Sookee. Scientific topics such as "Dissolution of face, gender and identity" (lecture Renata Helker) or "speculation about the digital mirror stage" (lecture Sylke Rene Meyer) had their place here as well as feminist pornography (lecture Patric Catuz on "Shooting Sex") and the view behind the cameras (lecture Skadi Loist on "Diversity in Film").

Behind this successful three-day event was Susanne Foidl, Equal Opportunities Officer at the Film University Babelsberg. EWA blogger Sophie Charlotte Rieger, who attended a panel on perspectives and gender at the symposium, met with Susanne Foidl for dinner one week later and talked in detail about the responsibilities of an Equal Opportunities Officer, the role of film schools in the battle for gender equality and of course the symposium itself.

What is an Equal Opportunities Officer?

This is a person, mostly a woman, who is used as a political instrument to implement Article 3 of the German Basic Law. Although this article states that men and women are equal, in reality this is not the case. In the mid-1990s women's representatives were introduced throughout Germany, now known as Equal Opportunities Officers in Brandenburg.

 

What do gender equality officers do in practice?

We are there to remove structural obstacles. Theoretically for men as for women, however women are usually disadvantaged. We advise the university management and have access to all data, for instance payment, appointments and matriculation.

 

Do you have any influence on the teaching content?

No, the teaching is free and holy. But I have an influence on the teaching insofar as that the ideas of equality in teaching and research are now explicitly asked for in the appointment process. This is not a hard criterion, but at least it is requested. In addition, I have the means to initiate courses, such as a recent seminar on rape portrayals in films, together with my colleague Renata Helker.

 

You founded the Babelsberger Salon two years ago. What is this?

This is a space that should allow and promote the study of gender, film and aesthetics. A space for thinking and researching. This salon, this space, can take different forms. It can be a seminar or even a symposium.

 

And why symposium?

For me, a symposium is an event where things are discussed, rather than an event pretending to find answers. I do not want to just sit down, sit back, take notes, and end up saying: «Now I know.»  We need to keep thinking!

 

Was this achieved at the symposium "Gender Research Film"?

Yes. All who have spoken had a question at the end. Unfortunately, I noticed that there was not enough room for discussion. The time for the individual contributions was too short. But I will remember that for the future.

 

How did you put the program together in terms of content?

That was very subjective. Every event has a story of how I became aware of people. Christiane König, for example, once wrote an article about film as gender technology that really inspired me. In turn, Liz Rosenfeld inspires me as she transfers private desire into the political realm and understands this quite naturally as research. I work at the university with Ranata Helker and Skadi Loist,. To me it was also about showing: who is researching what and how? In terms of both scientific and artistic research.

 

Are you satisfied with the symposium? What was particularly successful?

Personally, I really liked the program and its dramaturgy. It was great to open with Ulrike Ottinger and her crazy movie "Freak Orlando" to then end with the performance of Anna-Lena Meisenberg. I also had the impression that people were talking to each other about what I had hoped for. On the other hand, many said in the feedback, there was not enough time for networking. I want to do better next time.

 

 That means there will be a second symposium?

You better ask me again in three weeks. At the moment I feel totally radicalized by the symposium.

 

What do you mean by that?

After the symposium I was in several professional situations where I talked to men about movies. Suddenly, their judgement felt really brutal to me. That's when I realized that I tolerated sexism less and less. For years I tolerated that, but after the symposium I realized that I have no desire to be forgiving anymore.

 

Apart from the symposium, do you think that teaching can change things towards more equality in the industry?

As soon as they leave school, women may make a movie and then somehow disappear. But that's not so clear to the students. There is also the question of the goal of film studies. I honestly do not train for the market, but teach artists. Especially in production and direction, students should definitely be prepared to enter the film

I do not want to just sit down, sit back, take notes, and end up saying: «Now I know.»  We need to keep thinking!

 

Was this achieved at the symposium "Gender Research Film"?

Yes. All who have spoken had a question at the end. Unfortunately, I noticed that there was not enough room for discussion. The time for the individual contributions was too short. But I will remember that for the future.

 

How did you put the program together in terms of content?

That was very subjective. Every event has a story of how I became aware of people. Christiane König, for example, once wrote an article about film as gender technology that really inspired me. In turn, Liz Rosenfeld inspires me as she transfers private desire into the political realm and understands this quite naturally as research. I work at the university with Ranata Helker and Skadi Loist,. To me it was also about showing: who is researching what and how? In terms of both scientific and artistic research.