New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2024

WHAT IS HAPPENING? ART IN THE LIFE OF GERTIE FRÖHLICH, Torii 鳥居, Joey Skaggs: Stop BioPEEP – Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 7PM!

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Available September 20, 2024 4:00 AM UTC
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In 2018, director Marieli Fröhlich began to film the life story and artistry of her 88-year-old mother, Gertie Fröhlich. The film, 'What is Happening?' was abruptly halted by Covid and Gertie's passing in 2020. As a female director, she was motivated to complete the film and dignify the legacy of her multi-hyphenated mother's life work, which unseen powerful Patriarchal forces had systematically obscured. The creation of a singular narrative made up of edited interviews of Fröhlich's contemporaries (a virtual who's who of filmmakers, artists, and writers, including her partner Peter Kubelka), the documentary tells the story of a woman whose life was defined solely by art and her resilience within the restrictive parameters of the art world and society of the era from which she emerged.

Within a historical context, her achievements are highlighted by her key role when her partner Peter Kubelka founded the Austrian Film Museum and by her curation, vision, and behind-the-scenes instigation of the seminal Galerie Sankt Stephan in 1954 in the former rooms of the legendary Neue Gallerie by Otto Kallir, to name just two.

The film exposes hidden Patriarchal forces, beginning with her strict father and the Catholic priest turned art dealer, Otto Mauer, who eclipsed entirely her role in founding the influential Galerie Sankt Stephan, creating a platform for abstract artists in conservative post war Vienna, when Gertie was only 24 years old.

Starting from the wartime trauma that shaped Fröhlich's childhood, her family's perilous escape from Slovakia to Austria, where, against all odds, she transformed herself from refugee status, or 'Displaced Person,' to the conduit and social enabler for much of the Viennese art world. Further explorations reveal the repressive role of the Catholic Church, chauvinistic bias in the art world and her personal life, and a lack of reciprocity from the avant-garde she did so much to promote.

Throughout the documentary, director Marieli Fröhlich amplifies the artist's voice through recollections from her contemporaries, Gertie Fröhlich's diaries and voice-over, and the tenacious American researcher and art historian Julia Jarret, who chose Fröhlich for her published academic thesis. Stylistically Surreal montages and dreamlike footage complement the otherworldly style of Gertie Fröhlich's oeuvre.

  • Year
    2024
  • Runtime
    30 minutes
  • Language
    English
  • Country
    Austria
  • Director
    Marieli Fröhlich
  • Screenwriter
    Marieli Fröhlich
  • Producer
    Marieli Fröhlich
  • Filmmaker
    Marieli Fröhlich
  • Cast
    Gertie Fröhlich, Peter Kubelka, Rudolf Polanszky, John Sailer, Julia Jarrett