MILLI’S AWAKENING/MILLIS ERWACHEN (dir. Natasha A. Kelly | Germany, 2018)

Nadu (born 1955) is a mask maker, Naomi (born 1965) is an actress and filmmaker and Maciré (born 1995) is a student and spoken word artist. They are three of eight women, who have the commonality of being Black in Germany and working in an art context. Their biographical narratives show to what extent art (in all its manifestations) can serve as a »remedy« to alleviate lived emotional isolation and social oppression. For centuries, Black women have been eroticized and exoticized by the white male gaze. In the works of many Expressionists, who are regarded as »European classics«, Black women were merely portrayed as »objects of desire«. The German painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 – 1938), for example, was less interested in exploring the anatomy of the female body. Rather, he wanted to feel his own manhood through the alleged »bondage to nature« of his motives. In 1911, at the height of German colonialism he painted the »Sleeping Milli« naked on a couch. His only source of inspiration was his male potency. While numerous art historians take the aesthetics as well as the sexual fantasies of Kirchner in the focus, the documentary film wants to immerse in the thought and emotions of his »muse« and let Milli awake figuratively. In interviews with the director, Black female artists of various generations, who have overcome the common colonial stereotypes and have formed their own self-determined identity as Black Women within the white German majority society, have their say. They report on their challenges in and with German art institutions, visual representation, political and social exclusion. Thus, art does not only form the architecture of the film, but is also presented as the foundation for the social and political activism of the project participants.