Monday, June 25, 2018

Ella Bergmann-Michel: La donna con la Kinamo 1

Ella Bergmann-Michel.

The Woman with The Kinamo: Ella Bergmann-Michel
    All films are silent documentaries with German intertitles, restored by the DIF Frankfurt to 35 mm.
    Introducono Madeleine Bernstorff e Sünke Michel.
    Grand piano: Matti Bye.
    With e-subtitles in English and Italian.
    Viewed at Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, 25 June 2018.

Wo wohnen alte Leute / Where Old People Live.

    Where Old People Live
    Director: Ella Bergmann-Michel. Year: 1931. Country: Germania.
    Scen.: Mart Stam, Ella Bergmann-Michel. F., M.: Ella Bergmann-Michel. Prod.: Ella Bergmann-Michel su commissione di Mart Stam. 35 mm. L.: 236 m (l. orig.: 240 m). D.: 13‘ a 16 f/s. Bn.

"In 1929-1930, the Henry and Emma Budge-Stiftung foundation, established by the eponymous Jewish husband and wife, commissioned Dutch architect Mart Stam to design a home for the elderly. He asked Bergmann-Michel to make a short film, which was her first. Filmed using a tripod and hand-cranked camera, it is a eulogy to modernist architecture, light, air and sun. No longer chaotic, but calm, green and with single rooms. The flexibility of the spaces is rendered with simple special effects. Ella Bergmann-Michel highlights the expressive nature of the new building, emphasizing the huge entrance and open common areas flooded with light. In the final scene, the guests, looking out from a long row of balconies, greet the camera with happy smiles. Together with other films, this short was part of the Neues Bauen – Neues Wohnen [New Architecture – New Housing] programme." Madeleine Bernstorff

"This building had large pleasant, sun-lit rooms. It had been finished in 1929 and was, according to Frankfurt standards, very modern, offering all the amenities that old people might need. Thus the home for the  elderly was filmed, showing their well-being. The floor plan of the building and the variability of some of the rooms were animated through special effects using drawings." Ella Bergmann-Michel

AA: A Modernist approach to housing in the spirit of Functionalism. The ideals of simple, stylish, elegant, light-filled and open spaces are familiar to the Finnish traditions of Alvar Aalto who probably knew and admired this film.

Erwerbslose kochen für Erwerbslose / Unemployed Are Cooking for the Unemployed.

    Unemployed Are Cooking for the Unemployed
    Director: Ella Bergmann-Michel. Year: 1932. Country: Germania.
    F., M.: Ella Bergmann-Michel. Prod.: Ella Bergmann-Michel per conto dell’associazione delle cucine per disoccupati di Francoforte. 35mm. L.: 171 m (l. orig.: 180 m). D.: 9‘ a 16 f/s. Bn.

"In the spring of 1932, Ella Bergmann-Michel bought, on the advice of Joris Ivens, a portable spring-driven camera, the Kinamo N 25. The association of soup kitchens for the unemployed in Frankfurt built up a network which that year offered a hearty hot meal to around 16,000 people. Finding itself short of funds, it decided to produce a promotional film. “The global crisis of 1931 has triggered an unprecedented wave of poverty in Germany. Added to the terrible psychological condition of unemployment in large cities is the spectre of hunger. One portion of soup costs 10 pfennig. The food is picked up from the kitchens and eaten at home, with the family. The cost of production is so low because the idea underlying the canteens is the self-organization of the unemployed” (“Die neue Stadt”, April 1932). Ella Bergmann-Michel wrote the script for the film and shot in twenty-eight canteens, with some short fictionalized scenes. The short was screened in cinemas alongside the main feature, or outside on a mobile screen built by Robert, Ella’s husband." Madeleine Bernstorff

"I shot it with three 1000W bulbs in my backpack and the little Kinamo camera (whose film negatives I inserted into reels in dark basements or photo shops). The footage I shot – the product of observing 28 kitchens where the unemployed handed out 10,000 liters of soup to unemployed – served as basis for the commercial’s theme, which was supposed to communicate convincingly the request for more donations. The film ran as a supporting feature in cinemas and as an open-air film at night at the Hauptwache underneath the Schiller monument. Ticket sales came to more than 600  Reichsmarks per night." Ella Bergmann-Michel

AA: Also here there is a Functionalist spirit at work. An approach of dignity to an epic problem of injustice: hunger and unemployment. "Nobody should starve". In Finland this film would be topical today, with our epic breadlines, a result of our two recent economic recessions which left tens of thousands permanently unemployed.

Fliegende Händler in Frankfurt am Main / Travelling Hawkers in Frankfurt am Main.

    Travelling Hawkers in Frankfurt am Main
    Director: Ella Bergmann-Michel. Year: 1932. Country: Germania
    F., M.: Ella Bergmann-Michel. Prod.: Ella Bergmann-Michel, Paul Seligman. 35mm. L.: 673 m. D.: 37‘ a 16 f/s. Bn.

"A reportage on street vendors, almost all unlicensed, during the economic crisis. Some walk around with carts full of vegetables, escaping as soon as the police appear, letting the others know. There is a series of images of a limping newsboy, fairground shows, toy sellers and a merry-go-round operator at work. In this film, Ella Bergmann-Michel combines her particular sensitivity for movement, dynamism, light and shade with compelling social empathy. “The dynamic centre of it all is the large Ferris wheel at the fair, whose enormous iron rods are reminiscent of the wheel spokes of the fruit carts and fairground wagons, creating an effect of abstraction from everyday life and showing the artist’s interest in the connection between nature, society, and technology” (Kristin Vincke)." Madeleine Bernstorff

"With the 35 mm handheld camera one could film the street vendors in the squares and streets without being seen, some of them with sensationalist promotional acts and others who tried hard to avoid being noticed by policemen, because the wares were for sale without permission. The final sequences were devoted to the vendors who performed at the wholesale market’s fairgrounds. There the political police was already watching me, and I was glad to be able to carry my film reels home untouched." Ella Bergmann-Michel

AA: A more rhapsodic collection of footage, interesting, and fascinating, but with a random approach. Memorable views of illegal street vendors always on the alert, ready to flee when the police arrives.

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