By Marina Brafa
Mia May’s life is a perfect example how the early cinema system worked and developed. Born Hermine Pfleger on June 2, 1886 in Vienna, Austria, she began her stage acting career at the early age of five. At the dawn of the moving images, she and her husband Julius Otto Mandl (whom she had married in 1902) made the transition from theater to film - although they did not abandon theater completely. Joe May and Mia May, as they now called themselves, worked together on many projects making their first steps into the emerging film business. Their first 27-minute long film was directed by Joe and starred Mia and was meant to be the introduction to the theater piece Rund um die Alster/Along the Alster. In 1911 the couple moved to Berlin where Joe became a director at Continental-Kunstfilm GmbH whilst Mia continued her acting career on stage. Only their second film In der Tiefe des Schachtes/In the Depths of the Pit (1912) would push them to abandon the realms of theater: the couple wrote the script for this film about a woman who commits suicide because of an unrequited love. Again, the two of them divided work with Joe as director and Mia as lead actress.
Mia kept on working as an actress both in Germany and back in Vienna, e.g. in the 1915 film Charly, der Wunderaffe/Charly, the Wondrous Ape. The same year the Mays founded a production company in Berlin called the May-Film GmbH where Mia took over the management for a time whilst still developing her acting career. She was playing along with Max Landa (The Suffragette; Flight Around the World) in the Joe-Deebs-crime films (produced by Joe May) which became widely popular in German-speaking countries. Spurred by its success, Joe decided to produce a spin-off show featuring his wife Mia. The movies had dramatic titles such as Die Sünde der Helga Arndt/The Sin of Helga Arndt (1916) and Nebel und Sonne/Mist and Sun (1916) and made Mia May famous. Along with Asta Nielsen and Henny Porten, Mia became one of the divas of Weimar cinema. She worked with important contemporary filmmakers like Fritz Lang (Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler; Metropolis) who also scripted one of her most popular films Hilde Warren und der Tod/Hilde Warren and Death (1917) and was director and writer of the film Das wandernde Bild/The Wandering Image (1920) where Mia played a pregnant woman – again – struggling for love.
In those days, the celebrity couple was at its height: successful as director and actress, owning a flourishing production company, living a life between Germany and Austria and working with the most elaborate filmmakers of their times. However, this story came to an abrupt ending in 1933.
Joe May was a Jew and with the Nazis taking over power, the Mays left Germany and emigrated to the U.S. They settled in Los Angeles but were not able to continue their successful film careers there. Joe May shot his last movie in 1944. The Mays founded an Austrian restaurant that failed after a couple of months and only survived with the help of friends and the “European Film Fund.” Little is known about their further lives. Joe May died in 1954 at the age of 74; Mia died on November 28 , 1980 in Hollywood at the age of 96.
It just so happens that the 2018 Hamburg Cinefest, which takes place from November 17-25, 2018, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Weimar Republic. The festival program is dedicated to Joe, Mia and their daughter Eva May, showcasing a selection of their movies: “Director and producer Joe May discovered and worked with many talented people (Harry Piel, Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbour, E.A. Dupont, Paul Leni and many others) and pioneered film genres such as the detective film, melodrama, and filmic puzzles.” Not to forget the fair (and big) share that his wife Mia holds in this!
Find further information on Mia May in her Filmportal profile (German).
Rediscovering a Female Filmmaker
By Christina Schultz
Recha Jungmann, who was active as an actress starting in the 1950s and then as a filmmaker from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, was telling stories of women when even less women felt comfortable doing so. There were no 5050 by 2020, Times Up, Yes She Cannes or Me Too movements empowering women to challenge the patriarchy and fight for equality. And yet she made three feature length films and several short films (which will be screened at Remake. Frankfurter Frauen Film Tage, more info below) that center around topics like mother- and womanhood, love and loss.
For example, her first documentary film, Renate (1968), is an intimate love story from the perspective of the eponymous 13-year-old girl. Her film Two Right, Two Left, Drop One, "a short flighty poem" about two women arguing over a man, premiered at the 1st Toronto Women's Film Festival in 1972. One of Jungmann's feature length films, Etwas tut weh (Something Hurts, 1979), is a poignant, personal investigation of what hurt (or still hurts) the director: the postwar past, the familial suffering, the destruction at the hands of the Nazis. Other titles include Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (Our Mothers, Our Fathers) about the scars left behind in the postwar period and Zwischen Mond und Sonne (Between the Moon and the Sun), an ode to Jungmann's son Titus.
Following the above works, Recha's career then shifted from film to television (especially documentaries) after a lack of funding for a further film project. She never became a big (although "big" is still relative) name like some of her German female filmmaking contemporaries - one might think of Margarethe von Trotta, Helma Sanders-Brahms or Helke Sander, generally mentioned in German cinema books. But we hope to change that! You will have multiple chances to see Recha Jungmann's films, hear her speak about her work and perhaps even meet her in and around Frankfurt, Germany.
Here is a list of screenings for Recha Jungmann's films as part of the Remake. Frankfurter Frauen Film Tage / Remake. Frankfurt Women's Film Days (click on the events below for more info):
Saturday, November 3 at 8:30pm
Etwas tut weh and Renate
Kino im Deutschen Filmmuseum
Guest: Recha Jungmann
Sunday, November 4 at 5:00pm
Two Right, Two Left, Drop One and Zwischen Mond und Sonne
Kino im Deutschen Filmmuseum
Guest: Recha Jungmann
Thursday, November 8 at 11:00am
Etwas tut weh
Pupille - Kino in der Uni
Wednesday, November 14 at 8:15pm
Etwas tut weh
*All photos are copyright Recha Jungmann (provided graciously to us by the Kinothek Asta Nielsen) unless otherwise noted.
Please visit the links above for more information about tickets, event locations and other fabulous movies and events! The site is available in English and auf Deutsch.