In her two feature-length documentaries verliebt verzopft verwegen (2009) and FtWTF – Female to What the Fuck (2015), both realized together with Katharina Lampert, she deals, for example, with changing gender identities or with lesbian biographies of the 1950s and 60s. The works join a body of filmmaking that focuses on marginalized perspectives, whether in relation to the body, language, education or contemporary history.
Smart: You’ve had various stints in the film industry. How would you describe your current job description?
Cordula Thym: I am a documentary filmmaker, editor and sound woman. Meanwhile, I do more directing and producing in my own projects, including the participatory video project Not Ashamed (2017), in which girls and young women deal with bodyshaming. I am currently conceiving a multi-part crip docu-fiction with Eva Egermann.
It sounds like you juggle a wide variety of roles and activities. How can we imagine your day-to-day work?
That’s right. I first have to invest a lot of work in planning and funding applications, first for project development, then for production. Once the funding is secured, I can start filming – with FtWTF, for example, we shot for a total of four years, not continuously, but it was all about accompanying long-term processes. After that, I was busy editing for over four months, and post-production took a total of half a year.
In other words, there are regular ‘downtimes’. How and where did Smart come into play?
I worked for a while in a production company as an assistant editor, but wanted to do my own projects. Then I worked in a ‘mishmash’ of employment, self-employment and wage replacement. That was pretty grueling. Luckily, I ended up joining Smart – the co-op saved me a lot, especially during the pandemic. I’m glad it didn’t catch me in the middle of self-employment, and that I always get good advice at Smart. In any case, the move from being an assistant to working on my own projects was one that led away from relative security and toward more imminent precariousness.
Where do you see the biggest obstacles?
Clearly a lack of money – I always have to work on my own projects much more than I can budget. Also, my concentration on non-mainstream topics puts me in an outsider’s position; that was already the case during my training at the Film Academy and it still feels that way. Whereas with FC Gloria and similar initiatives, of course, something has already changed.
At the same time, your films run at renowned festivals and have won several awards. Relativ eigenständig, for example, won the Diagonale editing prize in 2017. How do you edit an award-winning film?
For me, editing is like writing. I’ve never written a book, but that’s how I imagine it: You write the film with images, rhythm, dramaturgy and pacing. You’re constantly making decisions, what serves the narrative, what’s superfluous? That also means that you have to watch the film over and over again from beginning to end to see what works and to ‘boil it down’ to the essence.
And where does your motivation to deal with marginalized issues come from?
It’s related to my biography and activism, I was active in Türkis Rosa Lila Villa for many years. With Hana, Dul, Sed, Brigitte Weich’s documentary about the North Korean women’s soccer team, for example, I liked this ‘woman to woman’ approach, there was nothing exotic or Eurocentric about it. Then we were missing lesbian role models and stories in Vienna, so Katharina [Lampert] came up with the idea for verliebt verzopft verwegen. And the topic of transitions, that is, the transition from one gender identity to another, was completely underrepresented; there was very little at all on transmasculinities and non-binary gender identities in the German-speaking world ten years ago. That was a gap we wanted to fill with FtWTF.
Would you describe yourself as a feminist filmmaker?
What does that mean to you?
Feminism was at the beginning of my politicization because I first experienced the injustice of our society in that regard. That then expanded to include queer, decolonial, and anti-ableist politics. I want to counter the binary view cinematically and show social connections – not academically, however, but in an accessible way. That’s very important to me.
Interview & text: Xenia Kopf
Schweiffels: Mein Herz (2020) – director, camera, editing
All Stars Inclusive Band (2019) – concept, director, editing
Not Ashamed (2017) – concept, director, editing
Mein Stottern (2018) – sound
Relativ eigenständig (2017) – editing (with Christin Veith)
FtWTF (2015) – concept, director with Katharina Lampert
Liebe Geschichte (2010) – sound
verliebt verzopft verwegen (2009) – concept, director, editing, with mit Katharina Lampert
Hana, Dul, Sed (2009) – sound, sound editing
 Anti-ableism critically deals with the norm of the ‘healthy’ and ‘able’ body and its deviations: ‘disabled’, ‘disfunctional’, etc. More e.g. in the Crip Magazin (German, glossary in issue 1, p 24).