Key figure of the New German Cinema and, alongside Margarethe Von Trotta, the only woman of the group to achieve international recognition. Unlike most other New German directors, Sanders-Brahms has remained a radical in terms of both her content (Marxist- and feminist-inspired canvases on life, politics and love) and form (use of alienation techniques, symbolism, interweaving of past/present and dream/reality).
Sanders-Brahms (she is related to the famed composer on her mother's side) began her career as a TV announcer and turned to directing several years later. Through the 1970s she turned out a series of prize-winning documentaries and features dealing invariably with such contemporary German ills as capitalist exploitation and machine-driven alienation. A highlight of this period is "Shirin's Wedding" (1976), which deals both with the "guest worker" question (a preoccupation for the New German Cinema) and the place of women within that schema.
In 1980 Sanders-Brahms made "Germany, Pale Mother", the film for which she remains best known. Freely based on recollections of life with her mother in war-torn and post-war Germany, the film was coolly received in her native land but earned substantial international acclaim; it features a riveting performance by Eva Mattes and masterful black-and-white photography by Jurgen Jurges.