In the framework of BE.BOP 2012. BLACK EUROPE BODY POLITICS AfricAvenir and Art Labour Archives are screening the German post-war Founding Film (Gründungsfilm) “Toxi” (1952) by Robert A. Stemmle, on Sunday, 6 May 2012, 17h, at Hackesche Höfe Kino. The film tells the story of a five-year-old girl who suddenly appears on the doorstep of a well-to-do Hamburg family. The members of the multi-generational, white household react differently to the arrival of Toxi, who is Black, the daughter of an African-American G.I. and a white German woman who has died. As one of the first and most successful films to directly tackle the problem of “race” in post-fascist Germany, Toxi arguably has been instrumental in the (re)construction of the German nation as exclusively white and hit the box offices exactly when the first generation of the so-called “Black Occupation Children” began entering German schools, creating a public awareness of this situation. nIt also cemented the misrepresentation of the “self-explanatory” whiteness of German citizenship as a phenomenon discussed firstly in this period. As Afro-German historian, Fatima El Tayeb, argues, Black-German citizenship was legally prescribed as an oxymoron and German citizenship was established as exclusively white as early as 1905-1907 during the German brief but brutal colonizing endeavors in the African continent. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Michael Küppers-Adebisi (Afrotak TV Cybernomads) and BE.BOP 2012. BLACK EUROPE BODY POLITICS curator Alanna Lockward and by a reception.
This project is a collaboration between Art Labour Archives, Allianz Kulturstiftung and Ballhaus Naunynstrasse. This is the first time that an English subtitled copy of this film will be screened in Germany thanks to the support of the Goethe Institute.
One evening, a well-to-do Hamburg family finds a five-year old girl abandoned at the door of its villa. Her name is Toxi, and she is Black, the daughter of a German woman (who died) and an African-American GI (who returned to the U.S.). Director Robert A. Stemmle effectively details the prejudices existing in Germany against mixed marriages, as well as against the children produced by these partnerships. In a series of extremely well scripted scenes, various German positions on “race” and racism are discussed with remarkable honesty and candor. Just as young Toxi has worked her way into the hearts of this German family, a resolution of sorts appears: her American father returns, hoping to take Toxi back with him.n
Year of Release: 1952
Director: Robert A. Stemmle
Screenplay: Robert A. Stemmle, Peter Francke, Maria Osten-Sacken
Cinematographer: Igor Oberberg
Music: Michael Jary
Cast: Toxi (Toxi), Paul Bildt (Grandfather Rose), Johanna Hofer (Grandmother Helene Rose), Ingeborg Körner (Hertha Rose), Carola Höhn (Charlotte Jenrich), Wilfried Seyferth (Theodor Jenrich)
Running time: 88 minutes
Curator: Alanna Lockward
Alanna Lockward is an author, critic and independent curator specialized in time-based undertakings. In 1988, she was appointed Director of International Affairs at Museo de Arte Moderno in Santo Domingo. She is the founding director of Art Labour Archives, a cultural platform and agency responsible for producing situation-specific art events and exhibitions since 1997 in the US, the Caribbean, Europe and the African continent. She is chief editor of VideoArtWorld online magazine and general manager of the Transnational Decolonial Institute. She obtained her Licentiate at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco on communications science, and her MA at the Institute for Art in Context of the Univesity of the Arts Berlin. Her unique approach to transdisciplinary knowledge-production engaging visual arts, decolonial theory and Black feminism has been part of her lectures and presentations at different institutions such as the Humboldt University and Transart Institute (Berlin); the Roosevelt Academy-Utrecht University, Ninsee (National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacies) and the Dutch Art Institute (The Nethelands); Goldsmisths University of London and the University of Warwick (England); the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (South Africa) and the 11 Havana Biennial, among others. She has been awarded by the Danish Arts Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Allianz Kulturstiftung.
Michael Küppers-Adebisi works for AFROTAK TV cyberNomads – The 1st Black German Media, Culture & Education Archives since 2001. In 1996 he was the 1st Afro-German lyrical ambassador for the Goethe-Institute New York. For the African Diaspora Germany he modernized Social Media Activism. In cooperation with the Office for Civic Education of the Government he realized African Media Conferences at Goethe Institute, Heinrich-Boell-Foundation & House of the Cultures of the World. He initiated May Ayim Award – The 1st Black German International Literature Award and was honored by the UNESCO as “German Project for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade & its Abolition.” Other Media & Culture Awards: ADLER Entrepreneurship Award – African Youth Foundation 2005/ Best Practice Award – German Government Alliance Democracy & Tolerance 2008/ Best Practice Award – Council for Democracy & Tolerance of the Senate of Berlin 2009/ Publisher, Author, Filmmaker, Playwright on AfroEurope: Lost Tribes of Africa 1995/ Death of the White Grandfather 1999/ The Kidnapping 2001/ TheBlackBook & May Ayim Award 2004/ Music-Revolts, Migration & Politics 2011.
“Toxi offers a local glimpse into the worldwide crisis in racial formation emerging in the 1950s… still highly relevant!” Angelica Fenner, author of Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema.
“Toxi remains a cornerstone for any historical understanding of “race” and Blackness in post-war Germany.” Tobias Nagl, author of Die unheimliche Maschine: Rasse und Repräsentation im Weimarer Kino.
“This story must be told. We should not allow the lives of these children to be forgotten.” Regina Griffin, director of Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story.
“The film’s significance derives from the specific ways it reformulates, re-tells, and resolves the story of “race” after Hitler for German audiences: by locating it in the body, experiences, and emotions of a charming yet vulnerable black Bavarian child and suggesting that the source of (her) racial difference and place of (her) racial belonging are one and the same: multi-ethnic America.” Heide Fehrenbach (2007). Toxi and the Story of Race after Nazism. Princenton University Press.
“(…) the film, all along, has been advocating racial tolerance, not racial integration. What is more, it suggests that integration would have destructive social and psychological consequences for (white) family and (Black) child alike and reinforces a Black-white binary by insisting that the pull of race is as strong among bBlack characters as among white. The film thus envisions heredity and belonging as inherently racialized, and racial segregation appears as an unconscious natural mandate.” Heide Fehrenbach (2007).Toxi and the Story of Race after Nazism. Princenton University Press.
“The trajectory of Elfie Fiegert‘s career— as well as the narrative structures of Toxi and Der dunkle Stern – are part of the as yet unwritten history of the cultural devolution of Nazi-era racial ideologies. The 1950s was an extended moment when the issue of “race” and its postwar meanings were explicitly addressed and performed for West Germans. But this was accomplished by shifting the location of “race” from Jewishness to Blackness in order to distance it from the Holocaust and German’s crimes against humanity (which, after all, were still on trial in these postwar decades). This displacement rendered the issue one of juvenile stewardship and German control, and thus facilitated the articulation of a liberalized discourse of “race” as proof of West Germany’s successful racial reeducation and rehabilitation." Heide Fehrenbach (2005). Narrating „Race“ in 1950’s West Germany. The Phenomenon of the Toxi Films. In: Mayzón, Patricia; Steingröver, Reinhild (Hg.). Not So Plain As Black And White. Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000. Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press. .
“By the time that Black German children reached puberty, these earlier discussions were muted, and “race” was on its way to becoming a taboo topic.This resulted in a silencing of public discussions regarding the role of “race” in German society and identity. What is more, it authorized a cultural atmosphere of “racial” exclusivity in defining the nation. […] However, membership in the nation was culturally imagined (and until a few years ago, to a large extent legally prescribed) as the more exclusive domain of homogenous whiteness. This has left little space—social or psychological—for German Citizens of Color who, to borrow from W. E. B. DuBois, daily feel the “doubleness” of their lives as Blacks and Germans in a hostile, or at best, indifferent society that is their own.” Heide Fehrenbach (2005).Narrating „Race“ in 1950’s West Germany. The Phenomenon of the Toxi Films. In: Mayzón, Patricia; Steingröver, Reinhild (Hg.). Not So Plain As Black And White. Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000. Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press.
“There probably is no other popular film in the post-war German film history before Fassbinder which so explicitly and centrally tackles non-white representations as does Toxi by Robert A. Stemmle.” Yara-Colette Lemke Muniz de Faria(2002). Zwischen Fürsorge und Ausgrenzung. Afrodeutsche „Besatzungskinder“ im Nachkriegsdeutschland, Metropol-Verlag Berlin..
”After the end of the National Socialist „Rassenstaat” (Racial State) the offensive racism of the “Third Reich” disappeared from the screens, but not the conception, that Germany is a white nation. This became very obvious in the public debate about the Occupation Children” of African American fathers and white mothers. With the film Toxi, produced in 1952 exactly coinciding with the school enrollment of this first Afro-German generation, the producers ostensibly sought to provoke sympathy and understanding for these children. By portraying the existence of Black Germans exclusively as a “problem”, at the same time suppressing or displacing the Nazi past and pathologizing the mothers, the film de facto reproduced homogenizing conceptions of Whiteness.” Tobias Nagl in: Schwarze Deutsche, deutsches Kino. www.cybernomads.net
“Director Robert A. Stemmle effectively details the prejudices existing in Germany against mixed marriages, as well as against the children produced by these partnerships. In a series of extremely well scripted scenes, various German positions on “race” and racism are discussed with remarkable honesty and candor.” Madeleine Bernstorff (downloaded from http://www.projektmigration.de/content/fi-syn02.htm, A film program curated by Madeleine Bernstorff)
Heide Fehrenbach (2007).Toxi and the Story of Race after Nazism. Princenton University Press.http://www.amazon.com/Race-after-Hitler-Occupation-Children/dp/0691133794
Angelica Fenner (2011). Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema: Robert Stemmle’s Toxi http://www.amazon.com/Race-under-Reconstruction-German Cinema/dp/1442640081
With special thanks to the Defa Film Library of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. An English subtitled copy with an accompanying introduction by Heide Ferenbach can be acquired here:http://www.defafilmlibrary.com/product_info.php?products_id=147&osCsid=0110f392e865a58a9ea9563b67dd4034
D: Robert A. Stemmle, G, 1952, OEnglU
Date: Sonntag, 06. May 2012, 17.00 h
Venue: Hackesche Höfe Kino, Rosenthaler Str. 40/41, 10178 Berlin
Ticket Reservation: (030) 283 46 03
S Hackescher Markt, U Rosenthaler Platz
Entrance: 7,50 €, Discount through Berlinpass, Gildepass or Heavy User Card
More information: www.hoefekino.de/preise-und-rabatte)