An exemplar of truly independent film-making, whether of potent feminist features or experimental ethnographic studies, Ulrike Ottinger is also a multi-media artist of rare scope. This remarkable long-form journey through one Europe’s most neglected border zone found life originally as a commissioned installation for art fair Documenta 11. Otttinger’s first work with video saw her shoot on mini dv as she travelled from Poland to Bulgaria, along with extended stays in Odessa and Istanbul (subjects of the second and third films in this trilogy). Instinctively drawn to the marginalised — Roma villages, a costal club that’s a front for sex-trafficking, Armenian slums — she teases out a vision of Europe that is a world away from the suits in Brussels. The striking images play against a commentary drawn from regional historic and literary sources, while Ottinger’s pioneering representation of women’s experience is echoed in her awareness of the enduring ‘babushkas’ who maintain families, markets, perhaps even their communities entire.
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