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The many surfaces of history

Liz Rosenfeld's series of shorts, The Surface Tension Trilogy, screening Nov 30 at the Zeughauskino, presents five historical females in a Berlin that's not-quite-past, not-quite-present, inviting us to question our perception of history.

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From “Die Neue Frau”. Still by Alexa Vachon

Liz Rosenthal’s trilogy of experimental shorts, The Surface Tension Trilogy, sees its Berlin premiere on Zeughauskino at the Deutsches Historisches Museum on Monday, November 30 at 7pm.

Five remarkable women are resurrected, re-enacted and queered in Liz Rosenfeld’s experimental 66-minute trio of shorts, The Surface Tension Trilogy, ambiguously ‘set’ in Weimar Berlin. At first, seeing figures ostensibly representing Frida Kahlo or Leni Riefenstahl wander around an obvious and undisguised present-day Berlin, peer down into the modernised Olympic Stadium or travel on a perfectly familiar present-day BVG train, seems distracting, and obviously anachronistic.

But anachronism is the idea here; Rosenfeld’s trilogy is a melange of everything down to the filming styles, which range from crystal-clear HD to flickering VHS tape recordings and 16mm home video footage. A lesson is the last thing you should take away from this – no, Frida Kahlo and Anita Berber never did enjoy a one-night-stand together as depicted in the first short of the trilogy, “Frida & Anita”. Neither did Eva Braun and Leni Riefenstahl engage in an ambiguous, sexually-charged relationship (“Die Neue Frau”). But what if they had? What would they have talked about? The trilogy is rounded out by “HÖCH”, a pseudo-documentary interviewing Dadaist artist Hannah Höch that compares Weimar Berlin with the Berlin of the 1970s.

Rosenfeld purposefully casts her friends in the central roles in order to give the films an extra layer of meta-narrative: they are as much about the queer art scene in today’s Berlin as they are about the past. It’s a fluid, artistic, distinctly queer take on history rather than a scholarly fact-based one, so go in expecting to learn something… but not necessarily what you’d expect to learn.

The (free!) screening, produced by nowMomentnow and presented by the German Historical Museum, will be followed by a Q&A with Rosenfeld conducted by Berlin-based filmmaker Marit Östberg (When We Are Together We Can Be Everywhere).

The Surface Tension Trilogy, Nov 30, 19:00 | Zeughauskino Deutsches Historisches Museum, Unter den Linden 2, Mitte, S+U-Bhf Friedrichstr. Nov 30, 19:00.