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____"We called the cinema Sputnik"

In the mid-eighties we were running a big old cinema from the fifties collectively. It was situated in Wedding, the workers district of Berlin. The cinema was previously owned by a Turkish entrepreneur who had wanted to show Turkish films there. We called the cinema Sputnik, after our pre-Gorbachev anti-cold-war ideas. I was the only female member of this collective. A friend. Maria Schmidt approached me with the idea to organise a film programme with her for the first lesbian week in Berlin (1985). We viewed many films and edited together a one hundred minute compilation at Bildwechsel ( awomen`s media centre in Hamburg) we called it Clichès - Lesbians in Film, from modified Vito-Russo-position.

Over the week we screened films such as Madame X by Ulrike Öttinger, Olivia by Jacqueline Audry ( wich we got from Circles); je, Tu, Il, Elle by Chantal Akerman, and some experimental films, the 1972 Near the big Chakra by Anne Severson. We had declared the cinema a ladies-only place, and every night the cinema was packed. We had the idea of creating a seperatist voyeuristic space, and trained several women as projectionists. Our vampire film night ended with the strange and special Daughters of Darkness by belgian filmmaker Harry Kümel, starring Delphine Seyrig as the contemporary vampire seductress, speaking with her soft, warm voice and using some vocabluary of the women´s movement.

When I was projecting the film I noticed some women from the audience jumping on the stage and trying to cover the six metre creen with the jackets and trying to draw the big green stage curtains. Some women came up to the projection booth and ask me to stop the film. I told them that they should be patient with the development of the plot, wait for the aggressive bridegroom of the blonde bride to be killed and Countess Barthory (Delphine Seyrig) to continue her elegant seduction of the bride. But the tumultuous incidents continued and I stopped the film and went down to help my colleague Maria. I was afraid they would destroy the cinema. Some women were almost physically fighting, some were saying they didn`t want to see heterosexual vilence during lesbian week, and others were saying they didn´t want censorship. As Maria and I stood completely speechless, Ulrike Ottinger jumped onto the stage to give a speech to the audience about how they should continue to watch the film, for Delphine Seyrig had probably done more for the women´s movement than many memers of the audience. I told the women who wanted to get their money back "to buy back their lesbian innocence" if they felt like that. This was atime when many such incidents occurred.

Issues of representation identity and identification were questioned, even to the point that some women rejected the notion of the soft and peaceful essential character of women. The lesbian SM movement also caused some reasons for heavy debate. In Germany Andrea Dworkin´s pornography debate was featured in the biggest mainstream feminist magazine, Emma. When I travelled to Britain some years later, 1989, I heard that the film She must be seeing thingd by Sheila McLaughlin had provoked a split in the lesbian summer camp, and in Manchester there had even been a bomb threat against a cinema showing that independent and ironic film.

Madeleine Bernstorff in: "A political feeling, I hope so",
+ film programme with Emma Hedditch, at Cubitt gallery, London, 2004