She excused herself, stepped outside, and vomited. Her body’s message was clear: Hollywood — even its indie precincts — was not where she belonged. She immediately flew back to Frankfurt and threw herself into Mr. Kubelka’s classes with a new vigor, borrowing cameras, wheedling film stock, and shooting “DARA I.”
Her eventual relocation to South Florida in 1992, landing her in Miami Beach when it was still half deserted, was another instinctual move: “It was warm, it was cheap, and there was a good film lab,” she remembered. It was also a homecoming of sorts. Ms. Friedman had been raised between West Palm Beach (65 miles north) and Bad Kreuznach, Germany.
“In Germany you would say I was a besatzungskinder, a child of the occupation,” she explained. Her father, an American who was part of the World War II invasion force, fell in love with Teutonic culture and sank roots. “That’s what happens after a war: The winner marries the prettiest girl in town,” she added wryly, noting the whispers that followed when a Jewish man from Brooklyn settled down with the daughter of long-established vintners, moving into the sprawling villa that his own country’s air force had partially bombed.
The awkwardness surrounding her didn’t stop when the family began spending the school year in South Florida, she said: “Jews didn’t see me as Jewish, and the Germans didn’t see me as German. But that’s how you become an artist, you become comfortable with your independent status as neither-nor.”
Despite identifying as an outsider, Ms. Friedman has prominently featured greater Miami throughout nearly three decades of her work: Her film “Revolution” (1993-2003) is a meditative walk across South Beach that now serves as a pre-gentrification time capsule; “Government Cut Freestyle” (1998) offers balletic footage of divers launching themselves off a local pier.