When Susan Sontag Sit in the Audience, directed by RB Cal-Kultur

Time is unfair, it pushes aside everything that stands in its way and advances relentlessly. Group discussions, for example, can be angry, startled, and even scandalous – it is unlikely that a rooster will crow years later. The event in New York City Council in April 1971 between Jermaine Greer and other feminists and Norman Mailer is an exception.

The legendary controversy has been re-enacted several times on theater stages in recent years, including by German director RB Kal. He even made a film out of his re-enactment that you don’t want to attach to a genre: “When Susan Sontag sat in the audience.” Susan Sontag played a supporting role that evening – she might have been in the title because the time was kinder to her than to the other participants.

The main role was played by writer Norman Mailer, who published his treatises on women and biological norms in “Prisoner of Sex” and made few friends with her. Now discuss with Jermaine Greer, who published The Female Eunuch the previous year, author Jill Johnston, Jacqueline Ceballos, one of the leaders of the National Organization for Women, and legendary New York thinker Diana Trilling, literary critic at Nation.

All hell broke out in front of town hall that evening. You definitely know it because D.A. Pennebaker, his co-director, and his wife Chris Hegedus were in the back of the room filming the whole thing. After they started with the primary groundbreaking JFK campaign film (1960), they made Town Bloody Hall (1979) together.

RP Kahl now plays Norman Mailer himself and re-enacts scenes with his comrades-in-arms, between them debates from a half-century away. Cal Germaine Greer and Diana Trilling with two women who, when discussing their natures, also rekindle the spirit of their role models: Saralisa Vollm, author and actress, and Heike Melba Wendel, real-life agent and author.

In the comparison between the past and the present, even empty spaces are exciting

“I wouldn’t have taken another role,” Heike-Melba Fendel says, but she loves Trilling’s texts, and sees the closeness to them. “Ideologies are the strict versions of myths,” Trilling once decided, an understanding of feminism that was certainly true. She was incredible. In the film, Heike-Melba Fendel represents exactly such situations – which she herself acquired from life experience and, as she now says, from a practical approach: “I must always be able to compare everything with life.”

Now compared to historical quotes often fantastic. It’s a question of whether socialism will help for a while, and you can find some ignorant young artists, or you can say they’re taking a fresh look at the issue. Sometimes the gaps are dramatic—at the time, Ceballos demanded that what is now called care work become a paid job, and Miller believed that was politically feasible.

In “Town Bloody Hall,” as in “When Susan Sontag Sat in the Audience,” Miller’s performance is a game of strength, he controls the strings, and Kahl echoes that stance beautifully. “He admits sometimes that he doesn’t look good in discussions with women, and that makes him look good again,” Wendel says with a smile. “A man decides how far a woman takes him.”

One of the interesting aspects of “Town Bloody Hall” was that the discussion reflected social dynamics. For this reason alone, Greer and Miller got into a right-wing brawl — raging, but not toxic. Nostalgia for such a debate is also a theme in Kahl’s movie. Of course, discussion does not provide a solution to this power struggle as long as conditions do not change. The evening was more upbeat after that. Backstage, Miller introduced Greer as a “lady writer”, repaying him with digressions about the male performer and his arrogance fueled by impotence. The “Town Bloody Hall” was created at the back of the hall as a team effort. But the last word for Chris Heguidos.

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