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.