Thursday, 17 February 2011

Berlinale 2011, Day 8, Panorama: Light-Flight, Annette Frick, Germany 2010

The rather poetic - original German - title of Annette Frick's film Leicht muss man sein, fliegen muss man koennen - which loosely translates into Light-Flight - refers to a quote by the late German photographer Herbert Tobias who died in 1982 as one of the early victims of AIDS. But AIDS is not the subject of Frick's documentary. Her film homes in on the life and work of Tobias who, though all but forgotten today, was not only ahead of his time but also quite influential, anticipating as he did, for instance, the work of Robert Mapplethorpe.

By way of numerous interviews Frick conducted over the years, she traces Tobias' life and work. Born in 1924, Herbert Tobias was drafted towards the end of WWII and spent time as a Russian prisoner of war until he managed to escape. He took to photography in the early 1950s while living in Berlin. Equally fascinated by masculinity as he was of haute couture, Tobias earned his living as a fashion photographer while at the same time photographing leather-clad men in images which Mapplethorpe would later become famous for. Tobias was as flamboyant as he was creative, getting up at noon with his models arriving in the late afternoon. Work was seldom finished before midnight, followed by long nights out on the town. Annette Frick searched all available archives to unearth as much material on Tobias as well as of him as possible. Her admiration for her subject is evident. Given its topic, it is shameful that Frick had to shoot her film on a shoestring budget. That it was made at all is thanks to Annette Frick's determination and the generosity of her friends, many of whom contributed either by working for free or by donating money. Why in a country like Germany, which often subsidises the most insignificant films through government funds, it proved impossible to get public funding for an important film like Frick's which, after all, revolves around a neglected part of Germany's cultural heritage, will forever remain a mystery to me. It seems to me, there's a project the guys from WikiLeaks may want to sink their teeth into ... I have a feeling that with regard to the disbursement of the much coveted German government film funds we'd all be in for a few surprises!

Annette Frick on stage after the screening of her film last night in Berlin

Annette Frick, next to her the painter and photographer Juergen Draeger, a friend of Tobias whom Frick interviewed for her film

Annette Frick and her collaborators