Schlingensief 55

     |    Saturday October 24th, 2015  |     10

Over five years ago, on August 21, 2015, pathbreaking film and theater director Christoph Schlingensief died of cancer. His controversial work had evolved steadily over 30 years. Schlingensief first became known with a film practice that strived to create Germany’s own “cinema of trangression”, not by emulating the mid-80s New York ‘school’ of the same name with its explorations of extreme violence and alternative sexualities, but by using trash and gore to shake German society out of denial. Then, at the turn of the millennium, Schlingensief moved into the realm of social intervention, blurring the line between performance and reality. He was celebrated and reviled alike and in any case never failed to raise questions. Was his staging The Ring of Nibelungen in Bayreuth (with Wagner fan Angela Merkel in the audience) a desperate attempt to gain mainstream acceptance or a brilliant subversion? Did his reality show experiments lead the format ad absurdum and question our notions of exclusion and inclusion, or was it just exploitative of the (often marginalized)people he claimed to champion? His last major project, the opera village in Burkina Faso, seems almost like unambiguous philanthropy, yet with questions about cultural imperialism dangling in the air.

Today, Christoph Schlingensief would have turned 55. The Lichtblick and other cinemas in Berlin are paying tribute with film screenings (part of the proceeds going to the opera village). Whether you end up worshiping or despising him, it’s worth taking the time to re-visit Schlingensief’s work to gain insight into what made Germany tick in the past three decades.

realeyz presents the documentary CHRISTOPH SCHLINGENSIEF AND FILMS for a first overview of his work; then watch his first film FÜR ELISE, his personal take on the German national anthem, on the compilation BACK TO POLITICS, moving on to controversial casting show satire FREAKSTARS 3000 featuring people with various disabilities and the documentary CRACKLE OF TIME – THE OPERA VILLAGE IN BURKINA FASO about Schlingensief’s last project.

Schlingensief’s voice was in any case a loud and unique one; it is particularly missed in these times, which elicit reactions ranging from rage to cynicism. Can his contributions from the past help us to weather the present and work towards a saner future?