Film Screening & Discussion Peter Nestler: An Open Mind

A man with a white hat stands talking with a number of sculptures in the background © Strandfilm, Image: Rainer Komers

Fri, 03.11.2023

6:00 PM

Birkbeck Cinema

Artists of the Sinti and Roma

An Open Mind is Peter Nestler's tribute to the varied cultural expression of the Sinti and Roma, mostly in Germany and Austria. The screening will take place at the Birkbeck cinema and is followed by a discussion hosted by Gareth Evans and with visual artist Delaine Le Bas and author Damian Le Bas, who are both members of the Romany community in the UK.

An Open Mind forms the second part of Peter Nestler’s diptych on the ways Roma and Sinti resisted the violence and injustice committed against them.  The film focuses on the work of various artists from the past and the present who have used writing, painting, film, and music as a form of personal expression, cultural celebration, and remembrance as well as a form of revolt.
For Nestler, it is important to emphasise their variety of expression and the openness of their approach. We meet Rosa Gitta Martl and her daughter Nicole Sevid, who read short texts in memory of the people who died in the "Gypsy camp" of Weyer in Upper Austria. 32 colour slides from 1941 had been the only record of them otherwise. Filmmaker Karin Berger pays tribute to her friend Ceija Stojka (1933-2013), an Austrian writer, painter, singer, and activist. A survivor of the Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz, Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen, she has had great influence on other Roma and Sinti artists. Another section of the film is dedicated to Spanish-born artist Lita Cabellut, who works with painting, video, and dance to address discrimination and other social issues. She talks about her work as an art director for Carmen Chaplin’s film about the presumed Roma background of her world-famous grandfather. Film scholar Radmila Mladenova discusses the relationship between cinema and photography and the use of racist stereotypes, for example in early films by D. W. Griffith and László Moholy-Nagy. As an alternative perspective she presents photographs that show a more just and egalitarian way of portraying the Sinti and Roma. The film also features the music of the Roma and Sinti Philharmonics, an orchestra that brings together musicians from all over Europe. An example of a change for the positive in recent years is the Kai Dikhas Gallery and Foundation, under the direction of Moritz Pankok, which offers artists a continuous forum to develop and exhibit their work.

Germany, Austria 2022, colour &. b/w, 101 mins. With English subtitles.
Director: Peter Nestler, Camera: Rainer Komers, Editor: Dieter Reifarth, Sound: Michael Busch, Production Companies: Strandfilm GmbH (Frankfurt am Main) in coproduction with Navigator Film Produktion (Vienna) in cooperation with Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) / 3sat (Mainz) Producer: Dieter Reifarth, Line Producer: Monika Lendl.

A collaboration between the the Essay Film Festival / Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI), and the Goethe-Institut London.
Damian Le Bas is a writer from the south coast of England. His first book, The Stopping Places: a Journey Through Gypsy Britain, won the Somerset Maugham Award, a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award, was BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and was shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. His next book will be published by Chatto & Windus in 2025.

Also from the south coast of England, Delaine Le Bas studied at St Martins School Of Art London. She works across various disciplines, creating installations, performance, photography and film. Her works focus on issues of identity, race, gender, sexuality and the continued violence and exclusions against whoever is perceived as “the other” within society.

Gareth Evans is a London-based writer, editor, film / event curator, producer & host and documentary mentor. He works on special projects for the London Review of Books and curates their Screen at Home series. From 2012 - 2023 he was the Adjunct Moving Image Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery. He has written many catalogue essays and articles on place culture, artists and the moving image, as well as the extensive text for Radiohead's KID A MNESIA catalogue. 
About Peter Nestler

German filmmaker Peter Nestler is among the most important documentarists of our time. His influential work, which is also receiving increasing appreciation outside of the German-speaking world, encompasses more than 60 films – made over six decades, Nestler's films are exemplary documentary works notable for their political and artistic persistence.
Born in Freiburg in 1937, Nestler began making documentaries in 1962, first in the FRG and then in Sweden after 1966, where he still lives today. Until the 1990s, he worked for Swedish television, directing almost one film a year, often in collaboration with his wife Zsóka Nestler (1944–2016). Today, in his mid-80s, Nestler continues his exciting work, which employs a variety of cinematic forms and at whose center stands a sharp analysis of the connections between politics and economics. "In essence," notes one of Nestler's collaborators, "he is shooting one long, big film, like a storyteller eternally spinning their tale. The individual films are merely chapters or excerpts from this life's work."
This is certainly the case for his most recent, two-part film Injustice and Resistance and An Open Mind, which sees Nestler resuming his decades-long examination of the fate of Germany and Austria's Sinti and Romani populations: a major and intense epic about a massive injustice told as a story combining trauma and self-assertion. (Constantin Wulff / Translation: Ted Fendt;  Courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum)