Ottinger, Ulrike: Profile

Born in 1942, Ulrike Ottinger began her career as a painter in Paris, and was widely exhibited in Europe before returning to Germany, where she directed her first film in 1971. She has lived and worked out of Berlin since 1973.

Ottinger gained major international attention for her first feature, “Madame X–An Absolute Ruler” (1977), a lesbian pirate punk film criticized by feminists, but also defended by other women filmmakers. Drawing on myths, fairy-tales, literature, painting, and theatre, Ottinger's lavish films verge on the fantastic and surreal.

Her documentaries, which are often filmic travelogues, pursue her strong ethnographic interests. Focusing primarily on regions in Eastern Europe and Asia, they deconstruct the idea of the exotic and explore the lives of migrant and minority cultures. Opposing the acceleration of present day life these films take their time and consciously ignore common standards of filmic duration.

Ottingers work has been screened in countless international festivals, venues and museums, including the Berlinale, the Viennale, the Feminale (Cologne), Festival dAutomne (Paris), the Mar de Plata, Jerusalem, Barcelona, Kiev, Munich, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Vancouver, London, Montreal, Tokyo, Sydney, Hong Kong and New Delhi Film Festivals, the Brussels Cinmathque, Cinmathque Ontario (Toronto), Cinmathque franaise (Paris), Anthology Film Archive (New York), MOCA (Los Angeles), MoMA (New York), Tate Modern (London), Renaissance Society (University of Chicago), Documenta (Kassel) and Palais de Tokyo (Paris), among others.

Ottinger achieves her enthralling visual effects through innovative and expressionistic use of costuming, composition, and unusual settings. A versatile talent, she assumes many of the creative and administrative functions on her own films; beyond directing, her credits include that of screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, and set designer. She has also worked as a theatre and opera director and ethnographer; her photographs have been exhibited in numerous venues, such as Kunsthalle Wien, Museum fr Fotographie (Berlin), Espai dArt Contemporani de Castelln (Spain), Center for Contemporary Arts (Rotterdam), David Zwimer Gallery (New York); she has also published several books.

For more information, visit


Zwlf Sthle (Twelve Chairs, 2004)
Ester (2002)
Sdostpassage (Southeast Passage, 2002)
Das Exemplar (The Specimen, 2002)
Exil Shanghai (1997)
Taiga (1991-92)
Countdown (1990)
Johanna dArc of Mongolia (1989)
Usinimage (1987)
Superbia Der Stolz (Superbia The Pride, 1986)
China. Die Knste Der Alltag (China. The Arts The People, 1985)
Dorian Gray im Spiegel del Boulevardpresse (Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press (1984)
Freak Orlando (1981)
Bildnis einer Trinkerin (Ticket of No Return, 1979)
Madame X: Eine absolute Herrscherin (Madame X: An Absolute Ruler, 1977)
Die Betrung der blauen Matrosen (The Enchantment of the Blue Sailors, 1975)
Laokoon & Shne (Laokoon & Sons 1972-73)