‘Monika Treut’s transgressive brand of filmmaking is a much needed intervention into the arena of sexual politics. Her misbehaving women are a vital form of resistance. — Julia Knight, Sight and Sound.
‘Monika Treut was born in Moenchengladbach, Germany, on April 6, 1954. She studied literature and politics at Philipps-University, Marburg. In the mid-seventies she began working with video. Her PhD thesis The Cruel Woman: Female Images in the Writing of Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was published in Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 1984.
‘In the mid-eighties Treut started to write, direct and produce award-winning independent features and documentaries, which screened at numerous film festivals throughout the world and enjoy international distribution. Retrospectives have been held in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Taipei, Toronto, Cambridge, Helsinki, Hamburg, Thessaloniki, Prague, Warsaw, Athens, Los Angeles and Lisbon.
‘Treut’s first feature, co-directed with Elfi Mikesch, was the controversial Seduction: The Cruel Woman,1985, which since has become a cult classic. The black and white coming-out tale Virgin Machine followed in 1988. My Father Is Coming, a comedy of manners set in New York, was released in 1991.
‘In 1992, Treut began directing documentaries including Female Misbehavior, four portraits of bad girls, among them Annie Sprinkle and Camille Paglia; Didn’t Do It For Love in 1997, a portrait of Norwegian-born Eva Norvind, B-movie star in Mexico, later dominatrix in New York; Gendernauts in 1999, about a group portrait of transgendered cyborgs in San Francisco. In 2001 Treut completed Warrior of Light, on Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, an internationally renowned artist and human rights activist who works with endangered children in the streets and slums of Rio de Janeiro.
‘Since 2002 Treut is infatuated with Taiwan. There she wrote, directed and co-produced 3 documentaries, Tigerwomen Grow Wings about three generations of women, featuring well-known writer Li Ang, famed opera singer Hsieh Yueh Hsia and young film director DJ Chen. Made in Taiwan, a portrait of a 17-year-old dance student followed in 2005. In 2009 Treut released Ghosted a feature film about an unsual love story between Hamburg and Taipei. Most recently another documentary was finished The Raw and the Cooked, a culinary journey through Taiwan, which aptly premieres at the 2012 Berlin international film festival’s section Culinary Cinema.
‘Since 1990 Treut has also been teaching and lecturing at Colleges (Vassar, Hollins, and Dartmouth), Art Institutes (SFAI) and Universities (IU Bloomington, UI Chicago, UC San Diego and Cornell U) in the U.S. Treut runs the independent film production company, Hyena Films, with offices in Hamburg, Germany.’ — Hyena Films
Monika Treut @ IMDb
Hyena Films . Films by Monika Treut
Monika Treut Film @ Facebook
Monika Treut’s films on Fandor
Monika Treut @ Vimeo
Monika Treut : Die grausame Frau. Zum Frauenbild bei de Sade und Sacher-Masoch
Lesbian Desire Rewrites Venus in Furs
Monika Treut: Female Misbehavior!
Monika Treut’s films on MUBI
Pro-Porn Rhetoric and the Cinema of Monika Treut
Not Enough Body
From Taboo Parlor to Porn and Passing
Interview with Director Monika Treut
IN CONVERSATION WITH MONIKA TREUT
Podcast: A Place For Film: Filmmaker Monika Treut
German director reflects on three decades of lesbian-themed films
Mondo Tranny: Monika Treut’s Gendernauts
Monika Treut captures the power of youth and nature
Master Class Monika Treut
Trailer zu Special Teddy Award für Monika Treut – Berlinale 2017
Monika Treut ein Portrait 2005
100 Records – Monika Treut, Jungfrauenmaschine (2009)
Filmmaker: So what inspired this latest fiction film? It seems quite a departure from 2012’s The Raw and the Cooked – a doc about Taiwan’s culinary traditions – not to mention from your more radical early films. Do you see a common thread throughout your body of work, or have your interests changed greatly over the years?
Treut: Of Girls and Horses was initiated by my German distribution company, Edition Salzgeber. For a few years now, they have been coproducing LGBT-themed, low-budget features. They give me free reign in everything. At first I wanted to stay away from the idea, since I clearly have had many experiences making low and no-budget features. But then I remembered my love for horses, which started in my childhood and teenage years when I was a tomboyish “horsegirl” spending all my afternoons in the stable. I’ve always wanted to convey the attraction to these powerful animals in a movie. At this point in my life I also longed for a change of scenery – getting out of the cities, away from the ubiquitous screens and digital devices, and the overflow of information. When I found the location, the horse and cattle farm in the middle of nowhere in Northern Germany, I was smitten by being able to spend a fair amount of time up there, with little internet access, just surrounded by animals and nature and the relaxed farmers.
The common thread of my films so far? Well, it was possibly the difficulty to get them financed, and the small budgets, which came out as a result. Each of the films was met with skepticism by the funding bodies, not so uncommon for female filmmakers. So I produced most of them myself through my production company Hyena Films. The subjects of the films have always been closely connected to the changes in my life.
Filmmaker: When it comes to filmmaking you’re a “switch hitter” like your fellow countryman Werner Herzog. You seem at ease moving between the worlds of fiction and nonfiction. Do you use specific skills for each form? Or is your working method more like the Danes, who are trained not to separate doc from narrative – to just shoot movies?
Treut: I like switching between the two to ease the pain. In fiction the shoot is nervewracking but postproduction is heaven – and with documentaries it’s the opposite. But really, I believe working in both forms is inspiring – to allow for real life to intrude into fiction, to be open for happy accidents, to leave space for actors to improvise. Whereas in documentary filmmaking I believe it’s helpful to work with a strong narrative structure, especially during the editing process.
Filmmaker: Since you’re an artist who’s worked in both Germany and the U.S., I’m curious to hear what you think are the biggest differences between the two countries. I know several filmmakers who’ve moved to Berlin in recent years, finding the city more conducive to creativity I suppose.
Treut: Often it seems that one’s creativity is helped by being in a foreign environment, and therefore losing one’s sense of security. In Germany it’s easier to find public funding for art and film projects. In the U.S. there’s more support from the actual filmmaking community. But the latter might just be my personal experience.
Filmmaker: I find it pretty mind-blowing that your feature film debut Seduction: The Cruel Woman and documentary Gendernauts: A Journey Through Shifting Identities were released in 1985 and 1999, respectively. I mean, it took literally decades for the culture to catch up with you. So now that we’re in the age of 50 Shades and Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, what are your thoughts on the mainstreaming of both BDSM and gender nonconformity?
Treut: I’m all for equal human rights, and I’m happy that the U.S. and Western Europe slowly seem to be coming to a better understanding of trans people. But of course there are still huge problems, not even mentioning the grim situation in most areas of our planet. I can’t say much about Caitlyn Jenner. Her story is small news on the other side of the Atlantic. I understand that in the U.S she’s big news since she was an American celebrity as Bruce Jenner. If this helps to raise people’s consciousness about the terrible binary gender prison that’s great. But as for 50 Shades, I doubt that mainstream attention is able to change people’s attitude on a deeper level.
Filmmaker: Back when I was growing up genderqueer I didn’t have a word for what I felt. I also didn’t know why I was so strongly drawn to the world of S&M. But looking back I realize that above all BDSM allowed me to exist in a genderless space. It’s all tops and bottoms and switches in that community – i.e., you’re defined by your power preference, not by male/female or even necessarily gay/straight. Have you long seen a link between sadomasochism and personal identity?
Treut: I think that was also partly my attraction to the world of S&M in my early years, the playfulness and the irony of gender and power roles. Other than that I was attracted by the power the classic S&M scene gives to women, following the literary sources like Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novels, foremost Venus in Furs. And of course the fantastic world of fetishes – costumes, whips, boots, wigs. I believe I’ve learned a lot through communicating intensely with the subjects of my documentary films. Like with Eva Norvind, the subject of my documentary Didn’t Do It For Love, a former dominatrix who changed her identity many times throughout her turbulent life.
11 of Monika Treut’s 19 films
The Virgin Machine (1988)
‘Young Hamburg journalist Dorothee Müller is fed up with her persistent lover, Heinz. A complete ingénue, she innocently embarks upon an exploration of romantic love – is it merely a ‘woman’s malady’? The places where she undertakes this research include a pleasure-addicted hormone researcher’s practice and the monkey house at the zoo. Unable to find any satisfactory answers, Dorothee decides to leave Europe and head for California where she continues her research by conducting interviews and some personal explorations. In swinging San Francisco she meets three remarkable women: a cheeky Hungarian named Dominique who sneers at the German work ethic and offers to help Dorothee in her research; Susie Sexpert, a specialist in sexual pleasures who has an astonishing collection of dildos, and finally the attractive Ramona, who performs a hot strip as a drag king in a lesbian bar. By the end of her journey Dorothee has rediscovered her own sexuality and put several illusions firmly behind her.’ — Berlinale
My Father Is Coming (1991)
‘Treut – a German director whose sex-pol essays like Virgin Machine and Seduction: the Cruel Woman have earned plenty of controversy and cult acclaim – here spins a tale of sexual awakening, presided over with ecstasy-aunt jollity by ‘post-porn sex goddess’ Sprinkle. Vicki (Kästner) is a sexually confused actress holding down a waitress job, and trying to persuade her visiting Bavarian papa (the marvellously shambling Edel) that she’s happily married, although her ‘husband’ is fully occupied with vogueing Latin boys. Happily, La Sprinkle is on hand to distract papa with tender mercies and household appliances while Vicki makes her mark as a nightclub diva. A low-rent, loosely structured lesbian coming-out story that entertains a range of sexual orientations, Treut’s film enshrines an engaging worldview – SoHo chic seen from a sort of polysexual Teutonic ‘Carry On’ perspective.’ — Time Out (NYC)
Female Misbehavior (1992)
‘Female Misbehavior is a collection of five films that explore the outer limits of female sexuality and behavior. Each film features a woman who has challenged the status quo, provoking shock and outrage in some and gaining respect and admiration from others. Annie is an inside look (in more ways than one) at Annie Sprinkle, porn-star, performance artist and sexual diva. Dr. Paglia is a confrontation with Camille Paglia, the infamous author. Bondage centers on an S&M practitioner and her use of pain as pleasure. Max is the story of a transsexual’s journey from female to male. And the feature length Didn’t Do It For Love explores the fascinating life of Eva Norvind, the blond Norwegian bombshell who was Mexico’s Marilyn Monroe in the 1960’s and New York’s leading dominatrix in the 1980’s.’ — collaged
Danish Girls Show Everything (1996)
‘This Danish omnibus film consists of 20 shorts, by a bevy of international directors; the project as a whole was conceived by Danish visual artist Ane Mette Ruge and Dutch opera-director Jacob F. Schokking. The title represents a pun; in addition to its obvious sensationalistic implications (which is used ironically – almost nothing in the film, aside from some incidental nudity, is exploitative), the “everything” refers to the plethora of subjects at hand, with the filmmakers exploring topics from national identity to ornithology, to trips abroad to Vietnam and Brazil, to the history of Berlin’ — filmaffinity
the entire film
Didn’t Do It for Love (1997)
‘DIDN’T DO IT FOR LOVE is a documentary portrait of Eva Norvind, a.k.a. Mistress Ava Taurel, born Eva Johanne Chegodaieva Sakonskaya in Trondheim, Norway. The film follows Eva’s many careers, from her time as a showgirl in Paris to becoming Mexico’s Marilyn Monroe in the 1960s to establishing herself as New York’s most famous dominatrix in the 1980s. Using clips from Norvind’s Mexican films, stills from various periods, and interviews with friends, partners and family, Treut’s documentary traces Eva’s search for the wellspring of her obsessive and dark sexuality.’ — gd.de
Gendernauts: A Journey Through Shifting Identities (1999)
‘GENDERNAUTS explores phenomena of gender fluidity at the end of the last millennium in the Bay Area, California. It is a film about cyborgs, people who alter their bodies and minds with new technologies and chemistry, with an emphasis on biological women who use the male sexual hormone testosterone. Max Wolf Valerio, San Francisco’s leading gender mixer, who reads from his book, Max, A Man; Jordy Jones with his Net art; Texas Tomboy with his video art; Stafford, who explores new business venues and, together with Jordy Jones, organizes ‘Club Confidential’, the world’s leading gender bender event. And there’s Hida, an intersexual woman who happily inhabits the middle ground between male and female; and two extraordinary biological women who support transgender people: sex goddess Annie Sprinkle and ex-centrefold model Tornado, who was Stafford’s lover and is the self-proclaimed mother of Texas Tomboy. Excursions are made into the life of the spotted hyena, a very special animal society. The female hyena has an enlarged clitoris that looks like a penis. Her bloodstream carries a large amount of testosterone, especially when she’s pregnant. The tour guide for this journey through shifting gender identities is Sandy Stone, also known as the ‘Goddess of Cyberspace’, who is the Director of the ACTLab at the University of Texas at Austin. Director Monika Treut is a member of this year’s Joris Ivens jury.’ — idfa.nl
Warrior of Light (2001)
‘WARRIOR OF LIGHT shot on location in Brazil is a feature-length documentary on Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, award-winning artist and human-rights activist who has gained international recognition for her work with street children in Rio. The film recounts how a woman turned her back on a wealthy lifestyle, driven into action by the execution of 8 streetkids by military police in 1993. In subsequent years Yvonne’s struggle to better the lives of endangered and abandoned children has led her to found Projeto Uere (Children of Light) a radical project committed to protection and education of kids who live in the streets and slums of Rio which has brought her into conflict with Brazil’s wealthy elite.’ — Hyena Films
‘An unusual love story that bridges two worlds. Artist Sophie Schmitt travels from Hamburg to Taipei to come to terms with the sudden and unexplained death of her Taiwanese lover Ai-ling. There, Sophie is pursued by a pushy journalist who seems obsessed with Ai-Ling´s fate. A series of strange happenings unsettle Sophie until she manages to demystify her perception.’ — m-appeal
The Raw And The Cooked (2012)
‘tHE rAw AND tHE cookED is a culinary journey around the gourmet’s paradise, tai- wan. the film makes seven stops along the way. In the island’s capital, taipei, we visit a traditional taiwanese restaurant, a legendary dim-sum palace, and one of the city’s lively night markets. Next, we encounter the hearty cuisine of the Hakka, taiwan’s largest ethnic community; we’re introduced to the pure and delicious seafood specialties of the Ami indigenous tribe; and we get a glimpse of the Buddhist influences on taiwanese cuisine. Finally, we are invited to a banquet by one of the island’s most creative chefs. combining traditional cuisine and best organic ingredients, he weaves a culinary magic to create spectacular and novel dishes.’ — Hyena Films
Monika Treut ‘The Raw And The Cooked’ Interview
Of Girls and Horses (2014)
‘Girls love horses, according to Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, because they identify with their strength. They are, Orenstein explained, in a NPR segment, a source of “power and motion and transformation.” This sense of transformation is what Monika Treut harnesses in her new film, Of Girls and Horses. Of Girls and Horses is a departure from the earlier work that put Treut on the queer map—I mean, I still giggle nervously when I think about her 1992 documentary Female Misbehavior with Camille Paglia. This film turns toward youth, toward innocence, beauty and power as they exist in nature. Some moments linger too long in the heaviness of metaphor, and some parts of the narrative, particularly Nina’s story about her relationship with her partner, feel disconnected from the primary plot. Yet Treut is asking the viewer to sit, rest and take in the energy around them—it is the same task demanded of Alex. This injunction is subtle and startling, just like the vital energy of girls, and of horses.’ — afterellen
Zona Norte (2016)
’15 years after our award-winning documentary WARRIOR OF LIGHT, the portrait of internationally acclaimed human rights activist Yvonne Bezerra de Mello and her work with street kids in Rio, ZONA NORTE is investigating the development and sustainability of the project. Over the years, Yvonne has developed a new pedagogy that helps children who are traumatized by violence to overcome their experiences and the resulting learning problems. The children we portrayed 15 years ago are now young adults. They report from their lives in the most dangerous favela in the north of the city. They are the living proof that an alternative pedagogy is capable to break the vicious circle of poverty and violence.’ — z-n
Interview with MonikaTreut about “Zona Norte”
p.s. Hey. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi! It’s 2019. What the hell happened?! Marc Almond is playing here soonish. I’ve never seen him live for some weird reason. I should go, right? Seems like it. Excellent about the zine class. seems great. You’re on fire, bud. ** David Ehrenstein, Good question. I’m sure you and he could work something out. Rex Reed doing cabaret? I mean, what would that entail. He sings? ** Dominik, A very happy beginning of 2019 to you, maestro! ** alex, Hi! Every time I put together those slaves posts, the prospect of a life term in prison starts to have a certain je ne sais quoi. *ha ha, wink, elbow in the ribs, etc.* In turn, thank you for making the doing of this blog a doable deal, and for typing bits of you to me. You looked up Nature Boy! Yeah, lake face, yeah, totally. Big love to you, Alex, and may this year award you all kinds of crazily sublime stuff. ** Keatonback, I slept through it. Conked out at 11 pm, as usual. So it was mind blowing in its own mellow way. Hope yours pushed some limits or other. Book by you, love by and for you, Italy, friends! Your year takes the cake theoretically. I can’t remember the last time I saw a death metal singer in the real world unless Attila counts. ** Natty, Natty! Hey, pal. You’re the veritable sight for sore eyes. Well, I, of course, second your trip to Paris prospect, and I’ll buy you dessert. It is a weird world, that’s for sure. Maybe slightly less so over here in Paris where a free dessert and warm company awaits you. Do finish your second novel. It would be such a boon for those of us who are tenably deprived of your marvelous wordage, and, let’s face it, the world could definitely use a boon. So good to see you, maestro! Love, me. ** Misanthrope, HNY! It has been 2019 here for 9 or something hours now. I’m down for an excitable year. I’m on the case. Okay, interesting, your premise. Like ‘CMBYN’ goes to hell in a hand basket? It sounds big in your description. It has a whiff of ‘classic’ smushed all over it. Nice, man. ** Steve Erickson, Bon 2019! I stayed in. One couldn’t really ‘stay in’ more than I stayed in. I look at Letterboxd all the time. It’s quite helpful when making film posts, for one thing. I should know this, but what does the ‘d’ stand for? Everyone, Steve starts your New Year with this alert: ‘I know how narcissistic this is, but I’ve started a page on Letterboxd (more or less, Goodreads for cinephiles), where I will list the films I see (I began with the film I saw yesterday), do brief comments on those I don’t review and post links to my reviews. Here’s the link, for anyone who wants to follow it.’ I’ve heard of Sneaks but that’s all. I’ll fill in that word’s blankness. ** JM, Hey, happy start to the best year ever, man! I’m recovering from my NYE celebration which means drinking coffee to wake up from a peaceful 8 hour snooze. All of Stephen King’s books? I mean, aren’t there, like, 1000s of them or something? I only read two: ‘Cujo’ and … I forget the other one. Things are good here. Getting ready to work on stuff and organising ‘PGL’ roll-out stuff, and essentially continuing on the same old but ever freshening track. ** Sypha, I think you being snarky about my Marilyn Manson anecdote is what gave you that cold, ha ha. Just a theory, mind you. ** h, Welcome back and a happy year with a new fourth number! New Years is zip to me. The change barely even registers, so I get it. Enjoy your wintery city, and I’ll do the same with mine. ** Okay. The new year begins with an outlay of the films of Monika Treut for no particular reason. Check it. See you tomorrow.