Biography („Zur Person” in English)

Helke Sander

Director, Author

Helke Sander was born in Berlin.
1957–1958 Ida Ehre Actors’ school in Hamburg, Germany
1959 Marriage to the Finnish writer Marrku Lahtela (d. 1981), birth of son Silvo.
1962–1963 She starts her career direc­ting the Ernst Toller play ‚Hinke­mann’ at the Finnish Student Theatre, in which she also played a non-speaking role.She was soon direc­ting 4 –5 plays a year at the Finnish Workers’ Theatre, at the Student Theatre and at the Kans­an­teat­teri, the Helsinki ‚People’s Theatre.’ She also arranged happe­nings and impro­vi­sa­tions, mostly focu­sing on ques­tions such as: When does slow become fast, big become small, et c.  She also inter­mit­tently taught improvisation.
1964 Helke takes on direc­ting work for Finnish tele­vi­sion (she directs theatre plays for the commer­cial station ‚Suomen Mainos-Television’ and for ‚Suomen Yleis­radio’). She suddenly finds herself regarded as one of the new big names in direc­ting, getting whatever she wants; disturbed by this, she escapes.
1965 Back in Berlin, a new start.  She refuses to reesta­blish herself in German theatre, finding it „boring.“ She works for a while as a legal secretary.  Besides studying at the German Film and Tele­vi­sion Academy (DFFB) in Berlin, she works occa­sio­nally as a trans­lator and TV journalist.
1966–1969 she studies at the DFFB.  The growing public confron­ta­tion with the conser­va­tive German Springer press moti­vates her to become a co-founder of the ‚Action Council for the Libe­ra­tion of Women’ in January 1968, which conceives and esta­blishes the first Kinder­läden (child daycare centres), and trig­gers the debate about the connec­tion between women’s ability to give birth and their oppres­sion. These discus­sions inspire the subjects of her films ‚Kinder sind keine Rinder’ (Children are not cattle), and ‚Eine Prämie für Irene’ (A reward for Irene).  The latter, made in 1971, showed women’s conflic­ting double roles at home and in the workplace.
1970s Espe­cially in the early 1970s there is a visible inter­ac­tion between Helke Sander’s artistic and poli­tical activities.
1972 she is co-founder of the Women’s group „Brot und Rosen“ (bread and roses).  She campaigns for the repeal of the German anti-abortion law §218 and co-authors the „Frau­en­hand­buch Nr. 1“ (Women’s Manual No.1).In the same year, she produces the 40 minute film „Macht die Pille frei?“ (Is the pill libe­ra­tion?) toge­ther with Sarah Schu­mann, and in 1973 produces a film on foot­ball on tele­vi­sion, also with Sarah Schu­mann, entitled „Männer­bünde“ (Men’s asso­cia­tions).
1973 She orga­nises the „1. Int. Frau­en­film­se­minar“ (1st Inter­na­tional Women’s Film Seminar) in Berlin, toge­ther with film director Claudia von Aleman; this was in fact the first German women’s film festival, showing 40 prémieres.
1974 She founds the ‚only Euro­pean femi­nist film maga­zine’, entitled „Frauen und Film“ (Women and Film). She becomes its publisher, editor and author until 1982 (the maga­zine now has a new publisher and based in Frankfurt).
1974–77 After teaching film at the Hamburg Academy of Fine Arts (Hoch­schule für bildende Künste Hamburg) and hosting several film semi­nars in a number of West German cities, Helke Sander made her first full-length feature film „Die allseitig redu­zierte Persön­lich­keit – Redu­pers“ (The all round reduced perso­na­lity – Redu­Pers), focu­sing on the frag­men­ta­tion of modern life.  Though the film received several inter­na­tional awards and remained in thea­tres for a long time, it proved diffi­cult to esta­blish a conti­nuous film-making career.  She was not alone among female direc­tors in thin­king that success tended to be punished by project rejec­tions rather than being followed by new film-making oppor­tu­nities.  The ratio of finished to projected film concepts remained, despite many inter­na­tional awards, at a compa­ra­tively low 1:6.
1981–2003 Helke Sander was Professor of Film at the Hamburger Hoch­schule für bildende Künste.  She publishes occa­sional arti­cles and essays, inclu­ding the short stories „Die Geschichten der drei Damen K.“ (Three Women K.), the novel „Oh Lucy“ (1991), and, with Barbara Johr, she published the book compa­nion to the film „BeFreier und Befreite“ with the subtitle „Krieg, Verge­wal­ti­gungen, Kinder“ (War, Rapes, Children).She received the Melkweg Award for „Reality research.“
1985 she was elected to the Berlin Academy of Arts, from which she resi­gned in protest in 1989 due to the academy’s sexism and nepotism.
In 1989 she co-founded and later co-directed the Bremen Insti­tute for Film and Tele­vi­sion until 1993.
Retro­s­pec­tives and festi­vals in America, Asia, Australia and Europe have shown her films.