Ruth Beckermann: The Search for Personal, Collective and Political Identity

Ruth Beckermann, Austrian director with Jewish roots, has been making film essays and documentaries for over forty years. Her films were screened at numerous festivals to international audiences. Beckermann’s work revolves around memory, personal and collective identity, often including the element of a journey. The director employs diverse formal approaches ranging from personal essay through found footage to hybrid docu-fiction to explore Jewish history and culture, antisemitism, the period of Nazism as well as the current migration issue.

Beckermann was born in 1952 in Vienna; her parents were Holocaust survivors. Her film career started in 1977 when she made her activist film Vienna: Arena besetzt (Arena Squatted) as a member of a video collective. In Paper Bridge (1987), the director embarks on a journey through the landscape of former Austria-Hungary, tracing the history of her Jewish family; and, on a general level, mapping the space of Central Europe and its identity. East of War (1996) was made as part of an exhibition about the Wehrmacht. However, rather than addressing the Second World War as such, it focuses on the forgotten and retained memories of Nazi Germany soldiers. In Homemad(e) (2001), Beckermann turns to her home: Marc-Aurel Strasse in Vienna. She shows the district which used to be the centre of textile industry before the war; now there is a single Jewish textile merchant left. American Passages (2011) captures the director’s associative journey through the United States under Obama, contrasting the enthusiasm of unlimited possibilities with the opening gap between the poor and the rich; which eventually led up to electing Donald Trump president. In Those Who Go Those Who Stay (2013), Beckermann returns to Europe to examine anti-immigration movements on the one hand and the stories of asylum seekers in Europe on the other hand. The Dreamed Ones (2016) is the director’s first docu-fiction about poets Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan who fell in love with each other in post-war Vienna and kept up a rich correspondence.

Watch the selection of films directed by Ruth Beckermann online at DAFilms!

Selected films

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