Strange Fruit, dir. Skip Norman, West Germany 1969, 29 min, English
Produced between 1966 and 1969, these early student films range from deconstructed narratives and deceptive agit-prop to experimental essays, revealing not only the protean, multifaceted style of the young Norman, but an incendiary conceptual throughline that would inform later self-authored projects and collaborations, including a commitment to social justice and critiques of hypocritical liberalism.
Both Cultural Nationalism and Strange Fruit take explicit inspiration from the Black Panther Party, the former borrowing a Bobby Seale text that mounts an adroit challenge to counter-revolutionary ‘Black Capitalism’, the latter expanding upon documentation of a Seale speech in Copenhagen to illustrate and amplify the activist’s message. Wedding non-fiction with noir-tinged narrative, featuring Norman in a small role, the mostly wordless debut Riffi is an ambitious, cryptic reflection on the act of pursuit whether in the context of romance or violence. Directly inspired by Amiri Baraka’s 1963 analysis of ‘Negro Music in White America’ the experimental Blues People boldly confronts and challenges the dynamics of fetishization, holding up a mirror not only to anti-Black racism in the United States but Germany in a pointed deconstruction of desire and dominance.
This screening of Norman’s DFFB films marks the world premiere of new 2K restorations undertaken by the Deutsche Kinemathek. As a prelude the programme features a fleeting glimpse of Norman captured on the streets of Berlin by friend Ingrid Opperman.
Skip Norman, West-Berlin, ca. 1969–70
Dir. Ingrid Opperman, West Germany circa 1969-70, 1 min., silent
Dir. Skip Norman, West Germany 1969, 11 min., English
Dir. Skip Norman, West Germany 1969, 29 min, English
Dir. Skip Norman, West Germany 1966, 16 min, English and German
Dir. Skip Norman, West Germany 1969, 18 min, English
Total runtime: 108 min.
Skip Norman, West-Berlin, ca. 1969-70 courtesy Ingrid Opperman. All other films courtesy Deutsche Kinemathek.