Eth­nol­o­gist, anthro­pol­o­gist, film maker, book author

In Jan­u­ary of last year, we lost our long­time col­league Bar­bara Lüem for­ev­er. Her fatal acci­dent has left a gaping hole in our team that no one can be expect­ed fill.

Bar­bara helped guide the film forum begin­ning with its second incar­na­tion in 1987 and filled many roles in the years since. She was an expert eth­nol­o­gist, a cinephile, and a friend. Bar­bara was also our res­i­dent visual anthro­pol­o­gist. It was her gift to remain focused on the ethno graph­ic per­spec­tive with­out losing sight of film his­to­ry or aesthetics.

Barbara’s life was deeply influ­enced by her com­mit­ment to pursue knowl­edge beyond the walls of acad­e­mia. She con­duct­ed much of her research in the field, whether as a stand keeper at Basel’s out­door market, or in her quest to find Saint Bar­bara (sic!) beneath the mines of the Got­thard tunnel, or as a member of the Swiss sailor choir “Stör­te­bek­ers”. Her book “Heimath­afen Basel” (Home Port Basel, 2003), impres­sive­ly doc­u­ment­ing the his­to­ry and cul­ture of Swiss sea­far­ing extend­ing from the Rhine to the high seas, gar­nered atten­tion far beyond Switzerland.

Her own trav­els fre­quent­ly took her to the island of Tuvalu in the Pacif­ic Ocean. We can likely sur­mise the kind of sen­si­bil­i­ty that informed Barbara’s approach to her eth­no­log­i­cal research on the island from the fact that a native family saw fit to adopt her. Indeed, she had an endur­ing fas­ci­na­tion with the seas and their shores. Ten years ago, we joint­ly con­ceived and fea­tured a film series devot­ed entire­ly to the sea and coastal life. In her intro­duc­tion to the pro­gram, Bar­bara wrote: “The seas, lakes, and oceans – what would they be with­out the coasts, cliffs, and shores? These land­scapes give the bodies of water their bor­ders, yet also reveal their seem­ing limitlessness.”

What better way to honor Babara at this year’s fes­ti­val than with a film that she surely would have enjoyed seeing again, 10 years after we orig­i­nal­ly pre­sent­ed it? The ref­er­en ce is to Johan van der Keuken’s THE FLAT JUNGLE – a film that, as expressed by the title of that year’s pro­gram, depicts “nei­ther solely water, nor entire­ly land”.

With our eyes set on the film forum pro­grams we have fea­tured over the last 20 years, and the sto­ries behind their cre­ation whis­per­ing in our ears, we bid a final heart felt farewell to Bar­bara. We wish to thank her from the bottom of our hearts for her years of ded­i­ca­tion, and we hope sin­cere­ly – in a sen­ti­ment likely shared by forum guests from all over the world – that the freiburg film forum and Bar­bara Lüem’s name will remain for­ev­er close­ly linked.

Ner­i­man Bayram, Werner Kobe, Mike Schlömer and the team of the Kom­mu­nales Kino