Avant-Garde Filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger Is Montgomery Fellow

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Selections from her work will be shown at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2, in Loew Auditorium.

Ulrike Ottinger
In its complete form, Ottinger’s Chamisso’s Shadow—which won best documentary at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival—is a 12-hour immersive journey from Alaska to the Bering Strait. (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery Fellows Program)

German avant-garde artist and filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger—in residence this fall as a Montgomery Fellow—will present selections from her newest work, Chamisso’s Shadow, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, in Loew Auditorium at the Black Family Visual Arts Center. Tickets are free, but should be reserved in advance through the Hop box office.

Ottinger’s prolific work spans more than four decades and demonstrates the artist’s ongoing obsession with the borders between real and imagined worlds, social outsiders, travel and exploration, and the interaction between European and non-Western societies. 

In a review of a recent documentary about Ottinger’s life and work (Ulrike Ottinger: Nomad from the Lake, directed by Brigitte Kramer), POV magazine called Ottinger “a trailblazer for women in film and queer directors.” 

The review continues, “Her singular style is impossible to pin down in the way that a David Lynch film is ‘Lynchian’ or a Federico Fellini film is ‘Fellini-esque.’ Maybe ‘Ottingerish’ needs to be a wider part of film geek vernacular.” 

In its complete form, Chamisso’s Shadow—which won best documentary at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival—is a 12-hour immersive journey from Alaska to the Bering Strait, tracing the region’s history, culture, and natural environment. (Tuesday night’s audience will see about an hour of the film, followed by a discussion with Ottinger.) 

The film was inspired by the writings of 19th-century writer Adelbert von Chamisso, who served as a botanist on a Russian research expedition to the region. Ottinger places that and other historical explorations in conversation with present-day stresses on the region’s people and environment. 

The title of the film alludes to a famous story by Chamisso, Peter Schlemihl’s Miraculous Story, in which the title character sells his shadow to the devil. “I believe the past and the present of these journeys belong together and can’t be separated just like poor Schlemihl and his shadow in Chamisso’s [story], where Schlemihl seeks to recover and reinstate his lost shadow as he travels through the world,” Ottinger writes on her website

In addition to Tuesday’s screening, Ottinger will be visiting classes and meeting faculty and students throughout the term.

The Montgomery Fellowship is a lifelong distinction, one with long-term benefits for Dartmouth, says Klaus Milich, the program’s director. “We are creating opportunities for students and faculty to engage some of the most accomplished people in the world, on and off campus.” 

The Montgomery endowment, created by a gift from Kenneth ’25 and Harle Montgomery, has for more than 40 years brought distinguished guests to campus to stay in the Montgomery House on Rope Ferry Road and live, work, teach, and engage with the Dartmouth community.

In the winter term, the program will host Jake Sullivan, former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and senior policy adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

Hannah Silverstein can be reached at hannah.silverstein@dartmouth.edu

Hannah Silverstein