Early films of Helma are about labour, migration and the situation of women in West Germany. “Under the Pavement Lies the Strand (1975)” was a central film for the German women's movement and she emerged as a feminist film-maker.
Another milestone for her career is “Shirin's Wedding (1976)”. The controversial made-for-television movie Shirin’s Wedding depicted the tragic death of a Turkish migrant to Germany, addressing the subject of forced marriage.
She was empathatic for the works of Heinrich von Kleist in classical German literature. At least three of his films are based on the work of von Kleist or are explicitly attributed to him.
Sanders-Brahms, referred to the experiences of German women during and after the Nazi period, has gained an international reputation with Pale Anne. As a director of the new German cinema movement, she talked about politically fading concerns in her scripts.
Sanders' last two works are Geliebte Clara (Beloved Clara) and “So wie ein Wunder”. The first one was her final theatrical film “Geliebte Clara” ("Beloved Clara") concerned the love triangle between Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms, who was a distant relative of Sanders-Brahms. The second one was a TV documentary is about the musician Werner Heymann, shown on German television in 2012.
Sanders has been awarded many prizes at festivals worldwide and In 1982, she was a member of the jury at the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival.
She passed away in Berlin of cancer, in 2014.
• Das Erdbeben in Chili (1975)
• Under dem Pflaster ist der Strand (1975)
• Heinrich (1977)
• Germany, Pale Mother (1980)
• Die Berührte (1981)
• Flügel und Fesseln (1984)
• Laputa (1986)
• Felix (1988)
• Apple Trees (1992)
• Mein Herz – niemandem! (1997)
• Geliebte Clara (2008)