A sheltered childhood in Berlin, fleeing to Latin America, exile in the USA and return to the city she was born – the Jewish composer Ursula Mamlok can look back on an eventful life. In this documentary portrait, director Anne Berrini sensitively follows this unusual woman’s creative process and life.
Film by Anne Berrini (Germany 2013)
The composer Ursula Mamlok has maintained a congenial motto well into her old age: “I’m always up for what’s new!” She has needed to adjust to new things repeatedly in her eventful life – from her sheltered childhood in Berlin, where she was born as Ursula Meyer in 1923, to fleeing to Latin America, to exile in the USA to returning to her native Berlin. Even as a child she was more fascinated by notes than dolls; when others were going to the movies, she was playing piano. For Ursula Mamlok music became her raison d’être and a place of refuge when the world around her collapsed. In 1939 the Jewish family managed to flee to Ecuador at the last minute. In 1940 the 17-year old arrived in New York alone.
Ursula Mamlok studied with the most significant musicians in exile and emancipated herself in the American avant-garde. She enjoyed successes, received many prizes and taught composition for more than 40 years at the renowned Manhattan School of Music. In 2006 she returned to the city in which she was born, a decision that bestowed the composer a new creative period and a “second career”. Her music: a new discovery. Anne Berrini sensitively follows the music in Ursula Mamlok’s life in her documentary portrait. She observes the composer at work in Germany, alone and with musicians, accompanies her to New York, where the composer meets old friends again at preparations to the final concert of the season of the League of Composers, and relives her time in New York (66 years!).