I am the Tigress

A curtain, a shadow, one dancing hand, and then another: Tischa Thomas stages her performance. She pushes herself into the frame bit by bit, with flowing movements, to the rhythm of the music. Right before our eyes, “The Tigress” emerges from the individual body parts. She’s a performer of the first order, full of ambition, who challenges herself every day, whose dream is to have a number 1 spot as a bodybuilder. Philipp Fussenegger and co-director and DoP Dino Osmanović accompany 47-year-old Tischa to bodybuilding competitions in the USA and Romania and show her training sessions: “Look at you. Look what you've done. Look what you've created. Do you like that? And I will say to myself in the mirror: Yeah, I do like this. [...] I like what I have created.”
“The Tigress” however does not exist in a vacuum, but rather in many different contexts. She tells the story of her transformation from a severely overweight mother of three into a goddess. “Girls have muscles,” she declares to her grandchildren, and paints the nails of one of them with glitter nail polish so that they look like Grandma’s. She also has an intimate relationship with Ed, her loyal buddy, who accompanies her everywhere. Tischa earns her living as a model and a dominatrix, where a “muscle worship session” brings in a few hundred dollars. On the street she is often exposed to verbal attacks, which she fends off with an equal amount of vehemence. Tischa’s appearance challenges the concept of femininity that the cisgender normative environment still considers normal. (“It's going to change the way women look at themselves ... forever”, Gloria Steinem had promised in 1985 on the occasion of “Pumping Iron II: The Women”.) 
I am The Tigress fights for and with Tischa for acceptance and freedom. And when she tears her wig off her head, when she sings “The Eye of the Tigress (!)” in a karaoke bar, and towards the end, when she floats in the sea, carried along by the blue of the water, her head held high, relaxed, those are the times when, for a fleeting moment, she is truly free. (Sylvia Szely)

Translation: John Wojtowicz

Tischa ‘The Tigress’ Thomas is destined for the stage. In the course of her transformation to bodybuilder and goddess, the forty-seven-year-old U.S.-American has toughened her body, and at the same time, also her soul. I Am The Tigress shows her switching from one stage to the next—whether as dominatrix, bodybuilder, grandmother, or girlfriend. In the portrait, opposites merge; moments of capitulation and victory, everyday life and state of emergency blend. The tigress prowls through extremes. (production note)

Orig. Title
I am the Tigress
Germany, Austria, USA
80 min
Orig. Language
Philipp Fussenegger, Dino Osmanović
Philipp Fussenegger, Dino Osmanović
Dino Osmanović
Mario Batkovic
Judy Landkammer
Sound Design
Moritz Kerschbaumer
Colour Correction
Daniel Hollerweger
Tischa Thomas, Steve Scibelli, Edward Zahler
Executive Producer
Michael Steinwand, Philipp Fussenegger
Supported by
Filmförderung der BKM (Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien), Land Vorarlberg, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Festivals (Selection)
Vienna - Porn Film Festival ("Best Documentary" Award)
Saarbrücken - Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
Bruxelles - Pink Screens
Cork - IndieCork Film Festival
London BFI Flare, LGBT Festival
Innsbruck - Porn.Film.Fest
New York - Lighthouse Film Festival
Hrastnik - Kamerat Labour Film Festival
Camden - International Film Festival
Jersey Island - „13th Parish“ Festival of Independent Film
London - WatchAUT Film Festival
Ljubljana - BalKam Festival
Bad Aibling - Nonfiktionale
Montréal - Massimadi LGBTQ + Black Film Festival