Why you should care
Because there but for the grace of goodness goes you.
I was 8. Playing around, running free, in the Hilmteich woods of Graz, Austria, one of the safest spots in the entire world.
Did I know I was going to become a film director? I was just a rebellious, shabby supernerd, hooked on Enid Blyton and detective games. My friend was slim, pale, with long blond hair and a wide-open grin like the sun.
An older guy fed us a few huffs from a joint one day, then started a game of hide-and-seek. I searched and searched. Then I found them, the big guy’s dick up my little friend’s ass. The red face. The breathless puffs. A knife pointed at me: A word and I’ll gut you for good. Take a good look. You’re next.
Deadly seconds of silence. Then I decided. I screamed.
We reported it to the police. We reported it to our parents. Good boys. We were shivering. We were desperate. All the while being ridiculed. Until the doctor checked. They found the guy, himself underage, had fled from a school ”for difficult children,” looking for a fast fuck on the lam.
…slowly she learned the well-established state artist she had handed her kids over to was a former Nazi.
And guess what? Nothing happened. Besides our kid’s friendship breaking apart. Him never getting away from the trauma. Much later taking the Genet-way out as a sailor, to the sea, then killing himself.
The scream stayed with me. I did my best, I raised my voice, but still I felt guilty. Still, I could not help him slip away. Still, I felt myself raped despite not being directly penetrated.
Thirty years forward.
I directed an intentionally tasteless punk porn musical on Mozart and child abuse as basis for breeding, Wunderkinder. My first documentary, Foreigners Out! Schlingensiefs Container, about a mock Big Brother-style concentration camp re-enactment for asylum seekers, had already wandered around the world and made me to a degree famous as an arthouse transgressive. There I met Florence.
Florence Burnier-Bauer is a madwoman in the best sense. Lively. Sparkling. Dangerous. Decent. Intense. With a spine-shivering cackle erupting from her throat from time to time, while she tells you her manifold live-stories, all caked neck-deep in one basic theme: Sexual Terror. And laughing away the Horror. What a strategy of survival.
She had fought for 20 years to make her story as an abuse victim heard. To warn. To inspire. Celebrities. Judges. Attorneys. Politicians. Journalists. They all had heard her. All she got was suffocating deadly silence. And then we met.
Florence was born into a very rich family’s home in the suburbs of Paris right after the war. The grandfather was a Russian hussar and he was the first to rape her when she was a child.
Then her grandfather passed her around in a secret man’s circle of old and gray fighters for the fatherland. Her father found out and got jealous, wanting his own piece of his offspring. When Florence started to talk, or tried to, she was shut away in an insane asylum and hooked to a zombie life of syringed bliss.
Then 1968 in France happened and Florence, old enough now, fled for a vagabond life on the road. Bad thing was that she was fueled by contempt for all of those hippies, bohemians and situationists. They were smart-aleck kids from the rich homes she had so furiously left behind. The only thing she took from them was the heroin. But she kept with the principled participants: the hobos and proles.
Sexual abuse followed, though. So she made it an instrument and became a part-time prostitute, and a dedicated thief.
Three kids later, her maternal instinct drove her to a utopia that promised relief from the patriarchal oppressions of the world: the Austrian commune Friedrichshof, led by famed actionist artist Otto Mühl.
No nuclear families. No police. No threat. No oppression. A social experiment to better the world.
What she experienced there was very different, though. On arrival, her kids were immediately taken away to break the chains of the mainstream. She had to obey a strict cult-like order of hard commune work, partly for outsourced businesses, as well as planned fornications. And slowly she learned the well-established state artist she had handed her kids over to was a former Nazi who was an overpowering, coke-snorting pedophile.
Her life-cycle of sexual abuse had finally passed on to the next generation.
So we decided to share our scream.
I learned that that scream I made as a kid was the nourishing anger that gave my entire disobedient art and filmmaking its motion and motivation. She learned how the extreme precision and spite and pitch black humor in her narrations had made her survive and not break under the turmoil of her tormented life.
This was the thing she had learned from Otto Mühl, her guru-devil, through Selbstdarstellung, or Self Impersonation, where you theatrically act out your darkest sides and put them into words. Learn to voice it. Only then you can heal.
She used these techniques of words as weapons, made them into a knife and stuck it deep into the figure that oppressed her. Florence was crucial in the court case against Otto Mühl, putting him into prison for seven years and dissolving the commune.
Still, so many crimes and wounds remained unspoken of. Florence didn’t want to stay shut. To her, this raspy, furious voice was the key and anchor to keeping her walking.
And to me? Florence’s life story was a magnifying glass of how these structures of abuse get copied and pasted throughout different forms of social togetherness. And how awareness, to listen and to tell, are the means to put it to an end. So we worked for six months to put this wild ride of a biography into one narrative. And we re-enacted it as one single, two-hour filmed interview, that isn’t exactly an interview but a statement of self-empowerment.
It went around the world. It made Florence reunite with her lost family. One day, way before #MeToo, even Rose McGowan knocked on my chatroom because of it.
So, now it’s your turn, folks. Scream.