‘”Hello freaks, film friends and perverts! I was one of the first in the world to make a gay rights film after World War II, and I can say in all modesty that I’m probably the most productive gay filmmaker on Earth,” Rosa von Praunheim confidently writes on his website.
‘He is definitely the most hard-working one. Von Praunheim has directed about 80 feature and documentary films to date, as well as countless short videos for television. He initially didn’t even want to become a filmmaker, as he preferred painting. But he quickly noticed that he could reach a larger audience with his movies.
‘Rosa von Praunheim was born Holger Radtke on November 25, 1942, in a prison in Riga, during the German occupation of Latvia. Shortly after his birth, he was adopted by the Mischwitzky family, who brought him to East Berlin. The family lived in East Germany until they escaped to Frankfurt in 1953.
‘The young Holger developed an early interest for the arts. The first play he directed in high school was in Latin. He then studied at an art school in Offenbach and later at the Berlin University of the Arts. It was around that period that he assumed his stage name, “Rosa von Praunheim.” Rosa — German for “pink” — was a reference to the pink triangle homosexual prisoners had to wear in concentration camps, while Praunheim was the name of the district in Frankfurt where he lived as a teenager.
‘He directed his first short film in 1967. A year later, he received an award for “Rosa Arbeiter auf Goldene Straße” (Pink Workers on Golden Street). He became “famous and notorious,” as he likes to say, with his 1971 film, “It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives.” The title alone was already an unheard-of message in West Germany at the time. Even though the law criminalizing homosexual acts had just been reformed in 1969, homosexuality was still taboo for most Germans and the word “schwul” (gay) was used as an insult.
The filmmaker’s parents discovered that their son was attracted to men through this movie as well. This coming-out was a personal liberation for the artist, which he transformed into a wake-up call for all homosexual men. “I didn’t like gays who were completely apolitical and remained in the closet, who would find escape in parties instead of supporting the movement,” said von Praunheim. “I was angry at all the coward gays who would run away when chased by homophobes, instead of resisting as a group.”
‘With the film, Rosa von Praunheim became an instant icon of the gay and lesbian movement in Germany. He called homosexuals to “Get out of the restrooms and onto the streets!” and that encouraged countless people to reveal their sexual preference publicly. Within a short period, 50 gay rights groups were formed in West Germany. Von Praunheim became a star — in the art world as well. In 1972, his film was shown at the Documenta in Kassel.
‘The filmmaker pursued an unparalleled career and has won numerous awards. His films are campy and controversial, but often surprisingly peaceful and poetic. Many of them have gained cult status. That was already the case with his first feature film from 1970, “Die Bettwurst” (The Bolsters), a parody of bourgeois marriage. He also explored realities beyond his home country, directing, for instance, the documentary “Survival in New York” (1989) and its sequel, “New York Memories” (2010).
‘In 1985, he directed “A Virus Knows No Morals.” Instead of dealing with the issue of AIDS with what he called “a pity film,” he chose to do so with a black comedy. With the work, he aimed to entertain while raising awareness. “Many people criticize safe sex, because they believe the virus was created by the CIA and Germany isn’t threatened by it — as long as you avoid unprotected sex with Americans,” the filmmaker reported at the time of the release of this movie.
Von Praunheim organized Germany’s first large AIDS charity event in Berlin’s Tempodrom, featuring a series of major German artists such as Herbert Grönemeyer, André Heller and Wolf Biermann. He continued addressing the issue afterwards, creating an AIDS trilogy in 1990. While denouncing discrimination against people with AIDS, he outed two popular TV public figures, comedian Hape Kerkeling and TV host Alfred Biolek, on a TV talk show watched by some four million viewers. It become one of the greatest scandals of German TV history. “It was a cry of despair at the peak of the AIDS crisis,” explained Rosa von Praunheim later. He wanted to incite closeted people to move and show more solidarity with the gay community, which was strongly affected by AIDS and HIV.
‘Along with films dealing with homosexuality, the director has also centered many of his works on older women. Cabaret artiste Lotti Huber starred in von Praunheim’s film “Unsere Leichen leben noch” (Our Corpses Still Live) in 1981. In “Two Mothers” (2007), von Praunheim documented his journey to Latvia’s capital, Riga, searching for clues on his biological mother. His adoptive mother had only before told him that he had been adopted. He was nearly 60 when he found out that he was born in a prison and that his biological mother had been murdered in a psychiatric hospital. The artist further explored his own past in “Praunheim Memories” (2014), revisiting the streets of his youth.’
‘Much has changed within the 40 years of Rosa von Praunheim’s activist career. Since October 1, 2017, gay and lesbian couples can also get married. Isn’t that a wonderful birthday present? “No, not at all,” reacts von Praunheim. “We wanted something else. It’s now moving towards conformance and ‘let’s do like the heteros,’ but that wasn’t the plan.” Another fact disturbs him even more: “Many countries on Earth still criminalize gays. The situation is horrible for homosexuals in eastern Europe, in Africa and Asia. Churches vehemently fight against gays and lesbians. There’s therefore so much to do for us and for me, in the short time I still have to live.”‘ — DW
Rosa von Praunheim Site
RvP @ iMDb
“I made a lot of difference and I was controversial”
ROSA VON PRAUNHEIM Le provocateur
RvP @ MUBI
«il faut révéler l’homosexualité des prêtres»
IT’S A WOUND-ERFUL LIFE
“IN TERMS OF OPENNESS, A LOT HAS CHANGED”
RvP @ letterboxd
RvP @ instagram
The work of Rosa von Praunheim: tackling AIDS in Germany through film
Interview With Rosa Von Praunheim
Perversion of Society
Gender expression in Rosa von Praunheim’s City of Lost Souls
“Quise educar sexualmente a la gente”
Reconceiving Trans Womanhood And Sexual Pluralism In ‘City Of Lost Souls’
SPECIAL TEDDY AWARD 2014 – ROSA von PRAUNHEIM
My scene in the Rosa Von Praunheim film “Uberleben in Neukölln”
A restaging of NICHT DER HOMOSEXUELLE IST PERVERS’s legendary final scene.
Rosas Welt: 70 Filme von Rosa von Praunheim – Trailer Presse
from Goethe institute
Mr. von Praunheim, a certain pleasure in provocation and breaking taboos runs through your whole career. You triggered considerable controversy in the early 1990s by outing celebrities such as Hape Kerkeling and Alfred Biolek on a TV show. Would you do such things again?
Outing was then a big thing. You can’t do something like that alone, but only with others, and that’s very difficult because I’m a loner really. But I certainly enjoyed it. I’ve made a film about David Berger, a gay religion teacher who was kicked out of his job, and tell how many gay Catholic priests there are. It would make sense to out gays in the Church. But that’s not for me to do. It’s a job for others.
How do you see outings today?
I think it changed journalism in a very positive way. Back then the media reported about gays only in connection with AIDS deaths, crime and what not. Suddenly, gays were presented quite normally in the press, without making a problem of them. That was a big improvement.
In “It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives” from 1971, your criticism was also aimed at the gay scene, from which you called for more commitment and struggle. What has changed since then?
One of the demands was that you should out yourself, be open about your homosexuality and talk about it in your circle of friends, with your parents, at the job. In terms of openness, a lot has changed. I think that many people now grow up more naturally with their gayness – supported by the internet, by gay groups and so on. This of course doesn’t apply to everyone. But because the social climate has changed, a large percentage can now live in their relationships more freely and openly.
On the occasion of your 70th birthday, you’ve launched a mammoth project – “Rosa’s World”, with 70 new short films. Many revolve around queer themes, but you also devote some to strong woman. Why is it that in the course of your career you’re films have repeatedly concerned themselves with older women, ranging from Lotti Huber to Evelyn Künecke?
It began with my Aunt Lucie, who played in Die Bettwurst (i.e., The Bed Potato) and became famous because, with her wonderful naivety, directness and honesty, she embodied a very different type of woman from that which had been previously known in film. I’m interested in older woman particularly because with them you have an erotic, but not a sexual, relation, and because between them and gay men there is often a wonderful solidarity. Perhaps also because we mutually esteem each other and both belong to minorities that are discriminated against by hetero men.
You haven’t yet had a big commercial hit. What does success mean to you?
Success is everything. But success also means when someone takes up your work. Or when someone tells me that he likes one of the poems I write everyday. Or when a couple of viewers go to the movie theater to watch one of my films. Naturally, it would be great if a thousand or ten thousand people would go to see one of my films, or if hundreds of thousands saw one on TV. But you grow humbler with time, because you know how difficult it is to prevail in this media circus. You’ve been very lucky if you managed to do anything at all.
The cartoonist Ralf König, to whom you recently devoted a documentary portrait “König des Comics” (i.e., King of the Comics), is also very successful with a heterosexual public. How do you account for that?
I think it’s the humor that makes it easier for straights to love gay life. Moreover, his comics and my films aren’t moralistic, but rather about everyday observations that could just as well apply to heterosexuals.
In the past your films and your commitment have initiated a good deal. Is there anything about which you’re particularly proud?
I don’t really know what to think about being “proud”. I’m happy that in my old age it’s been given me to continue working. My consciousness is focused more on the present and the future. The past and what I’ve done doesn’t really belong to me.
If you compare the Rosa of the early years with the Rosa of today, how much has he changed and how much has stayed the same?
I can’t say. I feel more like a seven year old. I notice this in the drawings I do. In them there’s something that was in me very early on and which I didn’t develop. So in this sense I’ve stayed the same. Very infantile. And that’s a wonderful feeling.
19 of Rosa von Praunheim’s 91 films
Samuel Beckett, 1969
‘Someone who is obviously supposed to be Beckett is walking down a Berlin street with a briefcase under his arm. He is accompanied on the soundtrack by an Italian text taken from Dante’s Divine Comedy. While the big words are being spoken, the camera, in an accurate documentary manner, moves a door sign into the picture (“Lunch from Monday-Friday 12-3pm”), but above all the Schillertheater. Beckett sits in front of the lofty building and reads the BZ.’ — Dietrich Kuhlbrodt
It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives, 1971
‘Perhaps the best Praunheim film and if its visual side has acquired a value of a historical record of a time – almost archaeological -, its ideological side is a performance of a timeless ideology – since the past always crave to return. The film gained an unusual perspective for the present as a document of contemporary action – the political art seek a discourse that in 71 had already found its formulation.’ — josé neves
Die Bettwurst, 1971
‘It’s love at first sight: elderly secretary Luzi and young, unemployed Dietmar find each other by accident in Rosa von Praunheim’s outrageous genre, social satire.’ — IMDb
Berliner Bettwurst, 1973
‘The story of the lovers Luzi and Dietmar from Praunheim’s earlier cult favourite film “The Bettwurst” finds its continuation: A marriage and device loan attracts two to Berlin, there will be married in the Memorial Church.’ — IMDb
Porträt Marianne Rosenberg, 1976
‘The equipment of the 12-minute film, which was shot by a television team for the “Treffpunkt” series, has been brazenly increased to the kitschy. Marianne Rosenberg found nothing in it. Says Rosa von Praunheim. “She trimmed .” In the draperies of the interview apartment (it is Ulrike Ottinger’s) and in the dance movements of a third party (Tabea Blumenschein) a sub-image level develops that contains all kinds of lesbian signals. However, these are primarily not suitable for decryption. Marianne Rosenberg’s mother, who was there while the film was being shot, only intervened when asked about racial persecution. “That affects the image .” Interruption of the recording. And then came the simple “no”.’ — Dietrich Kuhlbrodt
Army of Lovers or Revolt of the Perverts, 1979
‘This is a really fascinating snapshot of the gay community in America at a crucial point in time — right in the middle of the Anita Bryant firestorm and just before the failure of the Briggs Initiative, the death of Harvey Milk, and the AIDS crisis. This was made right around the same time as Word is Out and Gay USA, but its tone couldn’t be any more different than those mostly self-affirming documentaries. Here, von Praunheim both dredges up and seems to revel in the contradictions of the gay rights movement — both celebrating the open sexuality (and having unsimulated sex on camera) while chastising urban, ghettoized gays for their complacency with the small gains that they had made; showing a Grace Jones performance at New York Pride and interviewing a lesbian activist who found that performance to be sexist and degrading; and interviewing not just figures like John Rechy, Harry Hay, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon and Fred Halsted, but also the founder of the American gay nazi party and one of the founders of NAMBLA. The result is a document that feels as messy, sprawling, angry — and occasionally sexually charged — as its subject matter. Can Criterion, Strand, or some other distributor finally pick up distribution rights for these Rosa von Praunheim films?? Crazy that they’re all so hard to find.’ — Evan
Tally Brown, New York, 1979
‘Tally Brown tells tales, sings songs, and commands the screen for documentary filmmaker von Praunheim (whose Survival in New York is also showing in this series). The classically trained Brown’s musical repertoire encompassed opera, rock, and much more. Her film collaborations with Andy Warhol and Taylor Mead are discussed, and friends Holly Woodlawn and Divine weigh in on a thrilling performer equally at home on Broadway and at gay bathhouses.’ — Quad Cinemas
City of Lost Souls, 1983
‘A group of American rock singers, dancers and acrobats live in Berlin. They are blacks, gays, transsexuals and Jews. What New York was for the 1960s, Berlin was for the ’80s. Ein groteskes Musical. Pollyfilla is a performer who defies traditional categorisation. As ScotsGay put it “they will engage in any act and transcend shame.” Adam Castle’s feral queer creature alter-ego stomps indelicately, the line between cabaret, drag and performance art. Behind the lurid façade of Praunheim’s film, lies a powerful dialogue about the queer and trans struggle for representation, which remains highly pertinent over 30 years later.’ — Another Gaze: A Feminist Film Journal
‘This film documents New York City’s gay community’s response to the AIDS crisis during the 1980s as they were forced to organize themselves after the government’s slow response to stem the epidemic. Activist who are interviewed include New York filmmaker and journalist Phil Zwickler, playwright and gay activist Larry Kramer and musician Michael Callen who co-founded people with AIDS Coalition. Framing the individual stories of these three men is a chronicle of the creation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT- UP and Queer Nation as the gay community confronted the AIDS epidemic.’ — collaged
The Einstein of Sex, 1999
‘Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) was a sexologist whose scientific investigation had an enormous impact on twentieth- century attitudes to homosexuality. Confronted with the conservatism of his era and driven by a determined humanism, in 1897 he founded the first political gay movement. Then in 1920 he founded an institute for sexology in Berlin. As a socialist homosexual of Jewish extraction, he was forced to flee his country in the thirties. During his stay in Los Angeles, Hirschfeld was called ‘The Einstein of sex’ by American journalists. He died in exile in Nice in 1935. Three years later, his colleague and friend Karl Giese comitted suicide, after a fruitless attempt to prevent the destruction of the Institute by the Nazis. Rosa von Praunheim wanted to found a monument to an important pioneer in the battle against homophobia in Der Einstein des Sex, which he considers to be his most conventional film. The film concentrates on the sensitive, tormented personality of Hirschfeld, on his emotional life and his political struggle. It also looks at the course of his love affair with Baron von Teschenberg, the happy years with Giese, his debates with the conservative anti-Semitic writer Adolf Brand and his relationship with his friend and guardian angel, the transvestite Dorchen.’ — IFFR
Cows Knocked Up by Fog, 2002
‘Catchy mix of farce and documentary. Portrait of a Berlin theatre company made up entirely of the homeless, alcoholics and junkies. They call themselves ‘rats’ and take the film over to have a party.’ — ogado
Men, Heroes and Gay Nazis, 2005
‘Given the often personal, sometimes lurid and typically gay-related nature of his films (and his ubiquity as a German public personality), it’s perhaps easy to overlook the fact von Praunheim has, over the course of more than 35 years, created one of the most fascinating sociopolitical-docu oeuvres in the world. “Men” is well up to par, making something coherent (if not conclusive) out of several overlapping themes, archival footage and interviews with current or former radical nationalists. Anti-immigrant sentiments, uber-masculinity fixations and obliviousness toward the movement’s general homophobia are noted. Pic also finds room to consider “new Fuhrer” Michael Kuhnen, a closeted neo-Nazi leader who died of AIDS, and the tolerated (to a point) homosexuality of Hitler’s SA commander Ernst Rohm.’ — Variety
New York Memories, 2010
’20 years after his successful documentary “Survival in New York”, Rosa von Praunheim returns to the city, in which he had the most exciting time of his life. Remembering his own experiences in the wild seventies, when New York City was characterized by sexual liberation and eccentric individuals, and recollecting the big changes in the eighties when AIDS started to take its toll, Rosa meets his former protagonists and goes on a personal journey to discover what has become of “his” New York.’ — MappealTv
Rent Boys, 2011
‘Despised, stigmatised and suppressed to the fringe of society — this is the reality young, male prostitutes face in Berlin. Most of the hustlers are immigrants, a lot of them act out of necessity. Rosa von Praunheim accompanies the young adults at their work in bars, porn movie theatres and on the street. He shows their reasons, their stories and above all, their strong will to survive.’ — mAppeal
Praunheim Memoires, 2014
‘The filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim remembers his humble origins from the unglamorous district of Frankfurt Praunheim.’ — letterboxd
Hitler und Jesus – eine Liebesgeschichte, 2014
‘Two actors improvise biographical scenes about Hitler and Jesus. They discover more and more similarities and set out in search of the reasons for their enormous success. Jesus wants to give love. Many conflicts have to be resolved until Hitler can finally come to accept this.’ — film portal
‘A staple of the Berlin festival, Rosa von Praunheim’s stylised brand of filmmaking has never held him back when it comes to difficult subjects. His latest feature, Tough Love, is no different, capturing the challenging and often distressing life of Andreas Marquardt in a campy dramatisation intercut with interviews from Marquardt himself. Prostitution, molestation and karate are the defining acts of Marquardt’s life, although the harrowing experiences of his formative years and his natural talent for martial arts soon take a back seat to his career as a pimp. Informed by his awful experiences with his mentally ill mother, a career in the sex trade suits the lowly opinion of the fairer sex to a T. It’s tempting to not view Tough Love with a critical eye. It’s very nature as a retelling of true events compounded by low budget production values makes it more reconstruction than cinema. But Prauheim’s stylistic approach is distinctly melodramatic and as a result the film ultimately fails to unite form and function.’ — The Up Coming
Survival in Berlin-Neukölln, 2017
‘About Stefan Stricker, who calls himself Juwelia and has been running a gallery on Sanderstraße in Berlin Neukölln for many years. Every weekend he invites guests to shamelessly recount from his life and to sing poetic songs written with his friend from Hollywood Jose Promis. Juwelia has been poor and sexy all her life, has always struggled for recognition, but only partially.’ — letterboxd
‘In Darkroom, cult director Rosa von Praunheim focuses on a true crime story that occurred in Germany recently, and the result is one of his most thrilling films. Lars, a male nurse from Saarbrücken, moves to Berlin with his lover, Roland. They begin to renovate an apartment and their happiness seems.’ — MUBI
p.s. Hey. ** ae, Hi. Oh, okay, gotcha about the zine. How can I order a copy? What is a cheesemonger? I guess I can look it up. I like that term, cheese + monger is kind of clashy or something. And I love cheese. Even though I’m mostly vegan at the moment. What is your ideal artistic pursuit? I decided when I was pretty young to center being an artist in my life whatever it took, and it’s been hard, money-wise, but I feel the opposite of regret about that decision. Sorry for all the questions. No, I haven’t read that book. And I should, right? Assuming so, I’ll hunt it. Have a superb day by whatever means. ** David Ehrenstein, Thanks, but I’ll de-cue James Taylor if you don’t mind, ha ha. ** Misanthrope, You’re so earthbound. It’s interesting. Does it freak you out whenever you start to think about the earth being just a ball rotating in the midst of infinite space? Glad to hear Kayla’s doing okay. Oh, eek, about the possible exposure, and yeah, better safe than sorry is the byword of our times, so angle for protectiveness, I think. This is an absolutely gigantic and absolutely tiresome thing indeed. ** Dominik, Hi! Exactly about the editing. I think one of the reasons I keep doing the escort and slave posts is because I love editing their profile texts into poems as best I can. Except when they’re already poems, which happens surprisingly often and is exciting too. Maybe I should create a profile on those sites offering my services as a profile text perfecter. Except, as we’ve already discussed, I’m not so good at helping them sell themselves as sex objects. My guess is that I wouldn’t have continued to fiddle with this idea of turning the ARTE thing into fiction if I wasn’t sure it would work if I found the right approach. Maybe I have finally. Hope so. We didn’t get confinement. Now they say they’ll decide next week. The thing is that our infection rates are pretty high, but they’re plateaued, not rising, so that’s the possible saviour. Your situation sounds like ours except the schools are open here. Ha ha. Scary love there. Love so cute and ambidextrous that it can rim itself on cam and make a fortune doing so which it then donates to us out of love, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, I wonder if your storm is heading over here. No sign of it as of 9:41 am. The clouds in our sky are pretty fucking dark though, I’ll say that. ** Bill, Hi. I saw Zac yesterday, and he seems completely recovered apart from some recurring headaches, he says. I was expecting ‘The Lure’ to be a film based on that old Felice Picano novel. For some reason, I’m just simultaneously bored and repelled by the whole idea of mermaids, I don’t know why. Like even if Bresson has made a mermaid movie, making myself watch it would be like pulling teeth. ** Steve Erickson, Some things I’ve read about the Stones posit Brian Jones as the experimental one, others posit him as a hardcore blues guy who didn’t like it when they went experimental. Strange. But, yeah, I don’t know who else in the Stones would have been the one to take them in that direction. Bill Wyman? Nah. No, no lockdown announcement yet. Like I told Dominick, they delayed the decision until next week. Hard to tell. Granted, I virtually never remember my dreams, but when flashes of them linger upon waking, I haven’t once had a dream to my knowledge wherein anyone was wearing masks. ** G, Hi, G. Cool. I thought it might be nice to be serene for a day, so I’m glad it had that output. I can’t remember the last time I went swimming. I think it was at an onsen in Japan, but that wasn’t even swimming, just water immersion. I doubt that anyone is doing any better than OK these days, although I suppose all the slaves happily chained up in dungeons are probably thrilled. Here’s hoping you can get to Canada soonish. I’m an optimist, but I think that by late spring traveling will be a viable option again. No, too early for ‘I Wished’ events, I think. I’m going to do the final edit with my editor, such as that is — I don’t really get very edited — soon. That’s about it. Big kiss right back at/to you. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, Corey. Oh, wow, that’s interesting: your weekend is Friday-Saturday? And then Sunday is back to work and so on? Huh.I know almost nothing about religion, which I assume is why your weekend is what it is (?), so that’s curious. Enfield is a good one. I wish I’d found it when I was putting the post together. Cool, thanks. I’ve never been properly scuba diving with a tank and all of that, just lightweight diving with a snorkel like you. But I liked it I would love to scuba dive. Hm. I unsurprisingly encourage you to ‘throw’ together a weird film for that festival. Truly, WTFN. ** Okay. Rosa von Praunheim. Sound familiar? Know his stuff? News to you? Today’s post gives you chance to begin to get his work under your belt, as it were. Which is not a bad idea, trust me. See you tomorrow.