Narrator: Kenneth Kuhn.

Narrator: Kenneth Kuhn.

Story of conductor Freida Belinfante, though compacted into just over an hour , has enough material for several movies. This feature, underwritten in part by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, has been making the festival circuit and should have bright ancillary life on cable and other specialized venues.

Belinfante, who died in 1995, was a half-Jewish musician in the Netherlands in the early part of the 20th century when she realized two things about herself: She wanted to conduct and she was a lesbian. Both marked her as someone outside the mainstream.

When World War II erupted and Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belinfante joined the resistance. She helped forge identification papers, briefly disguised herself as a man and even managed to talk herself out of several situations that could have resulted in her death.

After the war she came to the United States, where she led the Orange County (California) Philharmonic for a few years before politics and her lifestyle caused her to lose her job.

Late in life she got another opportunity to conduct, which is shown here. Pic mixes interviews and film material of Belinfante with archival footage and interviews with others who knew her across her career.

Bookings at gay/lesbian festivals is obvious strategy, but screenings in the context of the Holocaust, careers in music and even of women trailblazers would all be appropriate. Belinfante’s life story is remarkable, and docu gives her her due.

On tech side, docu easily mixes stock and contemp footage. Most material is in English, with only some interviews needing subtitles.

But I Was a Girl: The Story of Freida Belinfante



A First Run/Icarus Films release. A Frame Media and HPS production. Produced by Bernard Neuhaus. Directed by Toni Boumans.


Camera (color), Maarten Kramer; editors, Tenn Pfeil , Berenike Rozgonyi; sound, Flip van den Dungen; assistant director, Klaus Muller. Reviewed on videocassette, Boston, April 25, 2000. (In Boston Gay/Lesbian Film Festival.) Running time: 69 MIN.
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