Saturday, November 25, 2017

Happy Birthday to German Film Director, Gay Rights Activist Rosa von Praunheim

Rosa von Praunheim was born today, November 25, in 1942. He is a German film director, author, painter, and the most famous gay rights activist in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

A prolific director, he has made more than 70 feature films. He began his career associated to the New German Cinema as a senior member of the Berlin school of underground filmmaking. He took the artistic female name Rosa von Praunheim to remind people of the pink triangle that homosexuals had to wear in Nazi concentration camps. 

A pioneer of Queer Cinema, von Praunheim has been an activist in the gay rights movement. He was an early advocate of AIDS awareness and safer sex, but has been a controversial figure even within the gay community. His films center on gay-related themes and strong female characters. His works are characterized by excess and employ a campy style. His films have featured such personalities as Vaginal Davis, Divine, and Jeff Stryker.

Von Praunheim was born in Riga, Latvia Central Prison during the German occupation of Latvia in World War II. His biological mother died in 1946 at the psychiatric hospital in Berlin Wittenauer Heilstätten. After his birth, he was given up for adoption. He only knew these facts when his adoptive mother, Gertrud Mischwitzky, told him in 2000. He discovered the fate of his biological mother in 2006 after a lengthy investigation. He documented his quest in the film Two Mothers (2007).

He received the name Holger Mitschwitzky and spent his early years in East Berlin. In 1953, he escaped from East Germany with his family to West Germany.

In 1971 he also caused a stir with his documentary It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives which led to several gay rights groups being founded and was the beginning of the modern gay liberation movement in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. This movie affected gays in the USA, too.

In the early 1970s he lived for some time in the United States where he made a series of documentaries about post-Stonewall American gay scene. In Army of Lovers or Revolt of the Perverts (1972–1976) he took on the American gay and lesbian movement from the 1950s to 1976.

With the eruption of the AIDS epidemic, Praunheim worked in a tetralogy of AIDS themed documentaries. A Virus Knows No Morals (1985), was one of the first feature films about AIDS. The documentaries Positive and Silence = Death, both shot in 1989, deal with aspects of AIDS activism in New York. Fire Under Your Ass (1990) focuses about AIDS in Berlin.

In Germany Rosa was very vocal in his efforts to educate people about the danger of AIDS and the necessity of practicing Safer Sex. These efforts alienated many gays who came to consider him a moralistic panic-monger. He would remain a highly controversial figure in his native country. On December 10, 1991, Praunheim created a scandal in Germany when he outed celebrities in a film. 


No comments: