Film Skip Norman-Programme 2: 1 Berlin-Harlem

Three people stand in front of a shop window in the street © Deutsche Kinemathek

Fri, 19.05.2023

7:00 PM

Goethe-Institut London

One of the final projects Norman contributed to in Germany before his return to the United States was also among the most notable, working as Director of Photography alongside Reza Dabui for the underground feature 1 Berlin-Harlem. Written and directed by German filmmakers Lothar Lambert and Wolfram Zobus, this subversive, prickly satire features cameos and small roles by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and members of his regular coterie – including Ingrid Caven and Brigitte Mira.

The plot begins as Black American GI John (played by actual army man Conrad Jennings) completes his service, whereupon attempts to settle into a professional life in Berlin with his white German partner are shortly frustrated by racist aggressions both subtle and overt. What follows is a drift through the fringes of the city’s outsider and subcultures – including queer cruising spots and Berlin’s "Black Panther Solidarity Committee" – in which fleeting moments of tenderness and sincerity prove less common than crass fetishization and brazen bigotry. Echoing the pointed critique of race relations of Norman’s earlier Blues People, 1 Berlin-Harlem offers a complex portrayal of social alienation and abuse, as well as the internalization and eventual response to such violence.

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1 Berlin-Harlem                    
Lothar Lambert & Wolfram Zobus, 1974, West Germany, English and German, 100 min
Directors of Photography: Skip Norman & Reza Dabui

CONTENT WARNING: Nudity, anti-Black language, domestic violence, sexual assault

Courtesy of the Deutsche Kinemathek