Rosa von Praunheim was born in 1942 as Holger Mischwitzky in Riga, Latvia. His artist name Rosa refers to the pink triangle (rosa Winkel) that homosexuals were forced to wear in the Nazi concentration camps. He has made more than 70 films, many of which deal with his favorite subjects: homosexuality, older women, New York City.

In 1971 he achieved notoriety throughout Germany with his film It’s not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, but the Situation in Which He Lives. The self-critical film was crucial to the founding of the new German gay movement; over 50 political gay groups sprang up in the wake of this film’s showing in the cities and towns of Germany. His film Army of Lovers documented the American gay and lesbian movement from the 1950’s to 1976. He documented the New York underground theater and film scene with several films including Underground and Emigrants (1975) and Tally Brown, New York (1977).

Back in Berlin he made feature films such as Red Love (1980), Our Corpses Are Still Alive (1981), and City of Lost Souls (1983). These films were invited to festivals all over the world. His feature film Horror Vacui won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for best experimental film in 1985. Anita – Dances of Vice (feature, 1988) the life story of a scandalous nude dancer in Berlin in the 1920’s, earned international attention.

With the black comedy A Virus Knows No Morals (1985), he produced one of the first feature films about AIDS. The documentaries Positive and Silence = Death, both shot in 1989 and dealing with aspects of AIDS activism in New York, together with Fire Under Your Ass (1990) about AIDS in Berlin, composed the AIDS Trilogy.

In Germany Rosa was very vocal in his efforts to educate people about the danger of AIDS and the necessity of practicing Safer Sex. These efforts alienated many gays who came to consider him a moralistic panic-monger.

Survival in New York (1989), a documentary about three young German women living in New York, became Rosa’s biggest commercial success in German-speaking countries. In 1992 he produced the moving life story of the East German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, I Am My Own Woman, which earned the International Film Critics Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

Again in Germany, Rosa von Praunheim outraged the public by outing famous show business personalities and politicians on television. This led to a crisis of gay boycott of his work and a climate of enmity which made his life difficult but nonetheless interesting. In spite of enemies and middle age, his energy remained unbroken. In 1996 he finished a feature-length documentary called Transexual Menace, the self-willed spelling of the name of an exciting political action group whose transgendered members have chosen to define themselves and demand their rights.

Gay Courage – 100 Years of the Gay Rights Movement in Germany and Beyond (1998), a documentary taking off from Magnus Hirschfeld’s founding of the first political group in history to fight for homosexual rights (Berlin, 1897). The gay Jewish sexologist Hirschfeld is the focus of The Einstein of Sex – The Life and Work of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (35mm, 100-minute dramatic feature, 1999). Can I Be Your Bratwurst, Please?, (35mm, 28 minutes, 1999) is an Erotic Tale produced by Regina Ziegler and starring Jeff Stryker.

In 1999 Rosa made Wunderbares Wrodow, a prize-winning documentary about the people in and around a German village and its castle; and in 2000 Fassbinder’s Women – The Blissful Victims of Rainer Werner F. about the private life of the controversial German director. The film was shown on television and caused sensations at many international festivals.

In October of 2000, Rosa was made a professor and taught film direction at the Film and Television Academy at Babelsberg in Potsdam for five years.

Queens Don’t Lie premiered in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival in February, 2002. This portrait of four political Berlin queens - Bev Stroganoff, Ichgola Androgyn, Ovo Maltine, and Tima die Göttliche - has since been invited to festivals on every continent except Antarctica.

The feature film Cows Knocked Up by Fog, starring members of the Berliner homeless theater Rats 07, premiered in September, 2002, at the Venice Film Festival, was later screened at Hof and Rotterdam, and ran in selected German cinemas.

In honor of Rosa’s 60th birthday on November 25, 2002, the German-French cultural channel ARTE broadcasts a theme evening including a new self-portrait shot by Swiss cameraman René Krummenacher called Phooey, Rosa!.

ZDF and ARTE commissioned the documentary Rats 07, which was completed in the autumn of 2003.

At the Berlin Film Festival of 2005 Rosa was invited to show two new films. Who Is Helene Schwarz? is about the »muse of the new German cinema.« Helene has worked as a secretary at the German Academy of Film and Television in Berlin since 1966 and is still taking care of students today at the age of 82. A loving portrait of a wonderful woman and a look at the history of West Germany’s first film school from its revolutionary beginnings. Men, Heroes and Gay Nazis documents the interest of some gay men in radical right-wing politics.

Your Heart in My Brain (2005) is a feature film about cannibalism. Martin Molitor and Martin Ontrop play the cannibal and his victim. Rosa’s words: »I’ve seldom had the pleasure and privilege of working with such brilliant actors.«

In 2006 Rosa shot With Olga on the Volga, a documentary about a mass of tourists on a boat trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Among them are four real Berlin characters. The feature film Six Dead Students is a comedy about Rosa’s time as a professor at the film school.

In the year 2000, Rosa’s 94-year-old mother admitted to him that he is not her son. She said she found him in a children’s home in Riga during the German occupation. That was all she would say. Three years later she died. At first Rosa didn’t want to look for his biological mother at all because his adoptive parents had been such so loving. Later he became curious, but because he had no idea what his real surname was, the search seemed hopeless.

Then a Latvian journalist suggested his friend Agnese, whose tireless research in the archives of Riga was rewarded by the discovery of Rosa’s real name. No less amazing was the existence of his birth certificate in Berlin. He found out that he was born in 1942 in Riga’s Central Prison. Rosa documented the search for his biological mother in the film, Two Mothers: The Search Began in Riga. It was finished in time for his 65th birthday and is his 70th film. It premiered in October, 2007, at the Hof Film Festival in Germany.

In January of 2008 Dead Gay Men and Living Lesbians premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. It includes portraits of three witnesses of the Nazi era – Walter Schwarze, Joe Luga and Albrecht Becker, all of whom have passed away – and of seven strong, modern lesbian women.

In 2008 and 2009 Rosa made a film called A History of Hell and showed a short at Hof about the serial killer known as the »Pink Giant«. At the Berlinale Film Festival in 2010 New York Memories premiered, the sequel to Rosa’s box-office hit Survival in New York from 1990. In early 2011 Rent Boys will come to the cinema, a documentary about male prostitution.

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