Peter Lilienthal: Shirley Chisholm for President

Shirley Chisholm for President, Peter Lilienthal, 60’, FRG, ZDF 14.11.1972, OV with German subtitles

It is not known what objections the ZDF directorate had to this film in 1971. Eckart Stein’s answer from Das kleine Fernsehspiel is interesting: he writes that the film could not be planned in greater detail because the protagonists “will play a major role in shaping the form and content of the film. (...) Lilienthal will film these people from an extremely subjective and artistic point of view, so we believe we can only find a place for his idea in our Nachtstudio (Late Night Programme).” Peter Lilienthal’s plan to film Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to run for US presidency, without any explanatory commentary, seemed very radical in form and content back then. In 2023, Netflix announces a biopic of the politician featuring Oscar winner Regina King in the leading role.

Peter Lilienthal, (1929–2023) a well-known German film and television director of feature and documentary films, grew up in exile in Uruguay and returned to Latin America time and again for his film work. In 1983, he received the Berlinale’s Golden Bear for David, also several times the German Film Award and the Adolf Grimme Award. His early documentaries were made for Das kleine Fernsehspiel, amongst others, Start Nr. 9 (1971) and Shirley Chisholm for President (1972), as well as the feature films shot in Latin America La Victoria (1973) and Calm Prevails Over the Country (1975), both of which premiered in the Berlinale Forum.