Frida and Anita

20 May

by Tavia Nyong’o

Frida & Anita from Liz Rosenfeld on Vimeo.

Frida & Anita, the new film by Liz Rosenfeld, had it’s Berlin premiere last night at Moviemento, to a packed house of friends and fans. The 20 minute short, which stars Les Margeaux and Richard Hancock as its respective titular stars, is a queer reverie of an imagined romantic encounter between Frida Kahlo and Anita Berber, one that never happened and perhaps couldn’t have, but which, in its very impossibility,  illustrates the performative premises of all nostalgia.

Rosenfeld draws her viewer in with the devices of silent film, like jerky intertitles, which are coupled with luscious technicolor cinematography (by Samuel Maxim and Imogen Heath). Frida and Anita meet in a Weimar-era lesbian nightclub that is also a present day queer bar, habituated by many of the actors themselves. As the film progresses (or, like night and day in bohemian Berlin, ambles) the period frame shifts and dissolves, as the characters Frida and Anita merge with their present day incarnations in Hancock and Margeaux. The two (or is it four?) trade philosophy, politics and sex in three languages.

Margeaux is positively the döppelganger of the teenage Kahlo, in the days before her accident, strolling around in her father’s suits with an air of proletarian insouicance. Hancock conjures Berber out of thin air, literally, drawing upon the most subtle of movements to evoke her presence, not on the basis of gender imitation, but rather through a kind of queer transubstantiation.

The screening was a community event, with many of the cast and crew in the audience. It was accompanied by a variety of shorts by those who had contributed in some way to the film. Highlights included Screen Tests by Sam Icklow, which featured the filmmaker romping around in various post-Warholian scenarios with bosom buddy Eric; Imogen Heath‘s meditative The Poetics of Porn which seemed, among many other things, to be a paean to dendrophilia, Tom Weller‘s witty Maikäfer flieg, in which the filmmaker documents the fluctuations in his vocal range over the two year period that he was taking testerone and gender transitioning by singing the same children’s song about a “Cockchafer fly”; and original contributions from Leila Evenson, Christa Holka, and Hancock himself.

Frida & Anita is the first of a trilogy of films about Weimar and queer nostalgia. The second is already in the can, and the final one will be shot this coming summer. DIY filmmaking at its finest, and, at this pace, its fastest!

One Response to “Frida and Anita”

  1. John Smith July 13, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Hi Tavia,

    I hope you wont mind my blatent piece of self promotion, but readers of your Berber piece, and queer culture generally, may be interested to know that I have just published the first full translation (by Merrill Cole) of ‘Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy’in a small edition of 300 numbered h/b copies.

    It includes the wonderful D’Ora images which, where I can find them, I have licensed form various collections, and these have all be restored to make them look their best.

    There are also a few extra bits and pieces – an into by Cole, and essay by Mel Gordon (Berbers biographer) and a few other D’Ora images (one hand mounted on the cover).

    The website is:

    http://www.siderealpress.co.uk.

    I have also added my own essay on Berber/Droste/ the book etc here:

    http://siderealpressxtras.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/anita-berber-sebastian-droste-and.html

    If you would care to mention it somewhere I would be terribly grateful.

    Thanks so much!

    REGARDS!
    John N. Smith

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