Freakstars 3000

(Christoph Schlingensief, Germany, 2003)


The concept behind Christoph Schlingensief’s bold Freakstars 3000 takes a while to fully grasp.

Schlingensief is a fascinating artist-provocateur-media celebrity whose previous guerrilla-works since the early ’80s include The Film Critic Trilogy – Film and Neurosis (1983) (this I would like to see), Egomania (1986) and United Trash (1996).

Here he orchestrates a parody of the reality-TV talent contest Popstars, with the twist that it features disabled people.

The very real disabilities of the participants are, however, almost never mentioned. After they have brushed up on their singing (coached by Fassbinder’s star Irm Hermann) and dancing, Schlingensief organises not only an anarchic live concert for the winners (in which one winner is presented as "in the tradition of Nico", and another splendidly mimics Nana Mouskouri), but also an unnerving series of strange skits, including mock Home Shopping ads. (The DVD version of the film helpfully, relentlessly extends all of this material.)

Now Freakstars 3000 really takes off. Schlingensief is himself a talk-show host, and so he lets his assembled talent improvise a series of televised debates, each person masquerading as the head journalist of a major newspaper. The ensuing hysteria comprises a devastating critique of what passes for rational discussion in the mainstream media. It’s almost like a modern-day remake of Jean Rouch’s disquieting Les maîtres fous (1954).

Of course, Schlingensief knowingly courts the charge of gross exploitation of the disabled in this project. The feeling which his film exudes is, however, quite different: in its sly, wayward manner, it becomes a celebration of creativity, courage and risk.

© Adrian Martin November 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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