Content

Widerstandsmomente (Moments of Resistance) carries voices, writings, and objects from the anti-Nazi resistance into the present. Politically engaged women of today respond to historical resistance and make links to current events. A line is drawn from what was before and what is today to what might be: a society based on solidarity without discrimination or exclusion.

Director’s note
Jo Schmeiser

Something of a Possible Future
Monika Bernold

Dissidence Across Space and Time
Christian Höller



Director’s note
Jo Schmeiser

Authoritarian politics are on the rise again. In Austria, in Europe, and around the world. Governments are passing laws that override human rights and workers’ rights. Democratic achievements such as the European Convention on Human Rights or the eighthour day are being called into question. But at the same time, resistance is being organized from below: migrants and refugees are fighting back, workers are striking, women are insisting on their right to self-determination. Practical solidarity is emerging between groups affected in different ways.

In my family there were active Nazis and passive followers. There was also a resistance fighter who survived the camps. When I began working on this film in 2014, I wanted to make something about resistance by women, in the past and in the present. I listened to recordings of my great-grandmother Anna Čadia made in 1988. Recordings in which she speaks about the Communist resistance and Ravensbrück concentration camp. The ongoing impact of the Nazi period in the present, on the lives of women with different histories, was something I had already dealt with in earlier films (Things. Places. Years, 2004 and Love History, 2010, with Simone Bader).

Something felt wrong as I began with footage in which I hold mementos of my great-grandmother in my hands: a cardigan she knitted in prison; a tiny Red Triangle made of bone given to her as a present by a fellow prisoner in Ravensbrück. Was this woman, the grandmother of my stepmother, actually my great-grandmother at all? And what would it say if I presented myself as the great-granddaughter of a resistance fighter? Would it highlight the less awkward aspects of my story? I realized I didn’t want to make a film about her or about myself. I didn’t want to cast an individualized, biographical gaze on a story that concerns everyone, albeit one’s own perceptions are always colored by biography. I wanted a collective angle. Looking less at individuals and more at what they did in the past, what they are doing today, and what they might do in the future. A virtual collective. Resistance in everyday life, together, as a form of possibility.

So I expanded the film’s viewpoint to include women who resisted and who did not survive the Nazi period. Those who were unable to speak about it after the liberation. The women of the “Gruppe Soldatenrat” (Soldiers’ Council Group) who encouraged soldiers to desert from the German army. I worked with the little that remains of their resistance: pamphlets, photographs, secret messages. I expanded the frame further still to include women who are engaged in resistance today, who speak out, in their thinking and in their actions, or who start out quietly, in little moments. Women young and old. What do they make of anti-Nazi resistance? How do they recall it? Where does it help them to fight against injustice today? In view of the political developments in Austria, in Europe, and around the world, I am interested in how resistance takes shape and proliferates. As a possibility in the face of the impossible.



Something of a Possible Future
Monika Bernold

How to start writing about this thought-provoking film? Perhaps what’s lacking: in the pictures, in writing, in myself, in the present? Or what there’s too much of: the outrages of today’s politics, racism, or even demands on one’s own actions? The film addresses an in-between, between what’s there and what’s no longer/not yet there. That’s what I’ll write about. “It’s burning, brothers, it’s burning!,” the Shtetl song “Undzer Shtetl Brent,” white text on a black screen, the first and last shot, between them the film.

Combining people, stories, and objects, Widerstandsmomente (Moments of Resistance) turns linear history into simultaneity held together by what lies between. The gesture of confronting activists of different generations with sound documents, letters, objects, and photographs of *women who were active in the anti-Nazi resistance allows history to be experienced as a nexus of past events plus the work of memory in the present. Clio, the muse of historiography, walks between Mnemosyne, the river of memory, and Lethe, the river of forgetting, featuring in the film not as knowledge but as this in-between, captured in images and sounds, arising from an approach to editing that follows an aesthetic of complex connections.

Interviews with *women in places that are important to them create a topography that helps us to get to know the protagonists and to situate them. We accompany an Argentinian activist from the women’s and migrants’ organization LEFÖ to the Old Danube in Vienna. Another activist from the Linz migrant associations maiz and das kollektiv chooses an out-of-the-way place on the Danube, away from the city center. We see one young activist in Berlin, while another looks out over Lake Neusiedl during her interview. The film makes links, between the interviewed *women and their activism against structural violence and racism in today’s society. But also to the horrors of the twentieth century, to the Shoah, to *women who were imprisoned in Ravensbrück concentration camp or who were active in Communist resistance groups.

Widerstandsmomente highlights the coexistence of actions and subjects, the coexistence of different times and places of resistance, but also the coexistence of everyday life and work. On construction sites, in a factory, in a public building, we see people at work in beautiful long takes. Something akin to reality provides a visual and acoustic frame and backdrop for the interviews and historical recordings, as well as the ways they are appropriated by the protagonists today. We see, read, and listen to history in images. Repeatedly, clean breaks are inserted in the form of black screens with text. Historical documents, the lyrics of a Yiddish song in German, a Red Aid leaflet, or a “whisper joke” are translated by the white text of these intertitles into the now of the film. In the abstractness of their typographic design, source texts are stripped of their historical layers, allowing them to be read (as an) in-between.

The voices, the concert of voices that we hear, in which past and present mingle and join together, create the work. We learn about reading recipes aloud as an act of survival in the resistance. We see impressively effective techniques in a self-defense course for girls. The materiality of a knitted children’s jacket, presented to us full-frame by the camera, functions as a visual cue for stories about the challenges of combining a life of activism with a life of parenthood. Over the course of the film, the multimedia juxtaposition of historical quotations and current imagery, of old tape recordings and contemporary signs of resistance, of interviews with activists and the sights and sounds of working life both indoors and out, blends into a conceptual amalgam whose aesthetic ruptures and dislocations cause examples of activism from different times and places to be perceived and conceived of as indissolubly linked to a possible future.

If, as Hannah Arendt argues, the plural is the basic condition for existence and the basic condition for the political, then in Jo Schmeiser’s film this connecting with others becomes a connecting with testimonies, with the legacy of those who resisted the Nazi regime. The film creates links between very different figures of resistance, connecting them and us as viewers with the fundamental question of when and how to act. The idea of the film: to start something together now, to do something, and maybe carry it through, needs other people and links to the stories of other people who have started to act against injustice. The political, as this film strikingly shows, comes into being in fields of the in-between, for example between history and the present, success and failure, making it a matter of more than just speaking and acting in the plural. It is also more than a mere heroization of resistance. In 2019, Widerstandsmomente tells us something of a possible future that may lie in catastrophe or in the potential for joint action against this catastrophe.

Translation: Nicholas Grindell
Copyediting: Lisa Rosenblatt
Editor’s note: *women refers to all who identify as women. Thanks to gender et alia and Lisa Rosenblatt for their input on how to render the German term “Frauen_” in English.




Dissidence Across Space and Time
Christian Höller

Weaving together current times with the historical in such a way that a polyphonic and simultaneously insistent resonance space arises. Meshing together scattered approaches, actions, attitudes of political dissidence with one another so that a larger, albeit heterogenous tableau begins to take shape. The maxim behind Jo Schmeiser’s Widerstandsmomente (Moments of Resistance) can be summarized as such; a polyvalent narrative that is likewise clustered around the focus of anti-authoritarianism.

To begin with are individual testimonies of contemporary forms of activism, presented by ten conversation partners between Linz, Vienna, and Berlin. Staged at locations that for the women signify resistance, or freedom from discriminating constraints, the statements also stake out a further inflammatory framework, which becomes even more explosive in light of today’s rampant New Right politics. The net expands in space and time — casually, as though of its own accord — back to the 1930s and 1940s: Without comparisons or (senseless) relativizing of the past and present. Instead, echoing in the historical voices, transmitted for the most part via sound documents, is a chorus of women’s resistance that is just as multifaceted as it is situationally split: from the combatants of the “Gruppe Soldatenrat” (Soldiers’ Council Group), who tried to convince members of the armed forces to desert during World War II, through to forced laborers who gathered their courage to defend themselves against brutal rural patriarchs.

At times, the gaze wanders across current, strangely ambivalent seeming sites such as wine-growing regions, a major printing press, with its largely automatized processes, or the Audimax of the University of Vienna, where cheap labor and knowledge work go hand in hand. Historical artifacts, concise inserts, even political jokes successfully offer counterpoints. As a whole, this renders Widerstandsmomente a skillful collective suggestion distributed across space and time, whose power (and current necessity) is found in its productive openness and inconclusiveness.

Translation: Lisa Rosenblatt

First publication: sixpackfilm, 2019
 
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