Berlinale: Berlinale Topics


Perspektive Deutsches Kino 2007
They know what they’re doing.

Hotel Very Welcome by Sonja Heiss

The young German films presented in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino 2007 are keeping a close touch to their protagonists. They show a fine sense for the dramas of everyday life and also display an astounding technical and formal maturity. "I think it’s astonishing to see that these young filmmakers know what they’re doing, even when they’re not talking about themselves", says Perspektive head Alfred Holighaus about this year's harvest, which also comes as a proof of quality for the German film academies. An interview about the Perspektive programme 2007, fims that are strong because they are interested in real life. "In principle the same applies to film as to good footballers: they go where it hurts."

In this year’s Perspektive programme there is a strong documentary focus, with four films in the genre, more than ever before, as well as narrative films with documentary impact. What does this tell us? Is the German reality so interesting or is it simply the documentary form that’s so fascinating?

It’s a mixture of both. I think that the German reality is totally interesting. But that’s not new. We already had a strong presence of German documentaries at the Berlinale two years ago. The subject matter for documentaries is without a doubt out there. But it’s also the case that documentaries have become more interesting for both, filmmakers and audiences. That also makes documentaries more interesting for producers – and this is reflected in our programme. On the other hand, reality is playing an ever-larger role in feature films. This has been apparent in our programme for several years now. This growing interest has resulted in more and more of the hybrid forms that you mentioned.

Social topics such as people’s growing precarious economic situations or migration, which have been ignored or stigmatised by policymakers, are often taken up by the films and depicted without resorting to clichés. Can we again expect social and political impulses from German filmmakers?

Zirkus is nich (No Circus) by Astrid Schult

Yes, but exactly in this sense. Not in the sense that we’re getting a wave of anti-globalisation films or anti-healthcare reform films, but that the people in the films reflect the social and political problems that form reality. That might be the healthcare reform or the welfare cuts, but these issues are not being addressed through these catch words, rather we get much closer to the acute day-to-day problems of people. If you look very carefully, you can see very clearly the political implications. But I don’t think that the primary motif of these directors is political. The motif is thematic: Here’s a serious situation, we want to tell you about it.

Do you have the feeling that the subject matter comes from the immediate realities of the directors or is it rather an interest in the lives of other people.

I think you have to honestly say that both play a role. In Zirkus is’ nich’ by Astrid Schult, for example, an eight-year-old boy is forced to play the father role in his family. The filmmaker didn’t take this story from her own life. But if you look at certain residential neighbourhoods in the cities, you notice these phenomena and you address them. This film was created with the eyes of somebody who takes an interest.

This is also true for fictional films. In Autopiloten, Bastian Günther tells the stories of several people who are going through their midlife crisis. The director himself is approaching middle age. The artistic maturity, which I admire in this film, comes exactly from the serious interest with which he imagines the lives of his characters: he found the right actors and hit the right note to be able to tell this story. I think it’s astonishing to see that these young filmmakers know what they’re doing, even when they’re not talking about themselves.

Autopiloten (Autopilots) by Bastian Günther

Another example is Hotel Very Welcome by Sonja Heiss, a feature with a strong documentary approach. It’s a subjectively told film about backpacker tourism, which on the one hand talks about the life attitudes of very young people, but is on the other hand a commentary on another type of globalization. It’s a completely political film, but at the same time a travel satire.

If you take a look at the stories, the films often talk about extraordinary situations, or unusual, confrontational constellations. Do young film directors need the kick of an extreme situation?

I don’t think it’s bad for cinema to be interested in extreme situations. That’s spectacular – and in the cinema, it’s about being spectacular. Of course, that's not the whole story. We all know many films, that are great exactly in the way they are totally unspectacular. But in principle the same applies to film as to good footballers: they go where it hurts.

What is also striking is that the majority of films this year were made by women. Traditionally women have always played an important role in day-to-day production in German film, but the directing was done mostly by men. Do you believe that this year’s situation could turn into a lasting trend?

I don’t believe that this trend will subside any time soon. Will the majority of films in Germany be made by women in ten years? Honestly, that’s not so important for me. There are good reasons why women are so important in the process of production: Women simply keep house well and I mean that in a positive way. They organize well, they know how to handle money and they’re not afraid of pulling the emergency brake. Grown-up boys aren’t often as good at this. But I’m not in favour of stressing these differences. I find it statistically satisfying that so many films are made by women. But that alone is no mark of quality for me. The films are great, we’re happy about them. But if these films had been made by men they would be great films by men, instead, they’re great films by women.

Aufrecht stehen (Stand Straight) by Hannah Schweier

A large number of the films are diploma films from film academies or first features by graduates. Dieter Kosslick sees here a sign of the excellent training young talents receive at German film schools. Is this optimism justified?

Yes, I’ve also noticed that. For years, the Perspektive Deutsches Kino has been proof of the high quality of film education in Germany. What’s interesting is that there’s not just one academy that is the place producing all the talented German filmmakers. Every year one makes new discoveries and they sometimes come from Berlin, sometimes from Munich, or another school. This year several graduates of the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy in Ludwigshafen are represented. It appears that cycles exist at the film schools. Like wine, there are stronger and less strong years.

The Perspektive consciously tries to boost newcomers, the younger generation of German filmmakers. Here we primarily interested in the generation of directors. But the producers are also often very young. How would you depict the situation of young producers in Germany?

Producers are also educated at the film schools. This education also appears to make a lot of sense. For years we’ve been able to observe how debut projects have been produced in collaboration already at the film schools. Directing and production students join forces and work on their first projects together. I think that’s very sensible, because it usually results in a longer cooperation. The film schools often play the role of co-producers, because they provide equipment or because the film is a diploma film. The ZDF “Kleines Fersehspiel” also plays a very important role. It’s one of the few TV programmes that actively support debut films, because they don’t slavishly heed the ratings. This gives young filmmakers the necessary artistic freedom.

German films have a strong presence throughout the entire programme of the Berlinale 2007. But what’s noticeable is that Germany is playing an increasingly important role in co-production for large projects. What lies behind this trend and what do you think of it?

Film is an international product, even if it is created in a national framework. That’s the cultural arm of globalization. Film is the most cost-intensive art form, but it’s also a “people’s business” which is all about teamwork and contacts. In the case of international co-productions, it’s as much about financial as artistic partnerships. For large productions, it’s always been important to have international partners to be well-equipped to tackle the global market. Germany is an important market and so it is a significant country for co-productions. This will continue to be the case. If the film has its own identity because of its story, then that’s totally legitimate. I don’t think one should produce German films that are just about German topics, or English films just about English topics. The film and its story should remain in the foreground. Then a group of producers will meet to put their financial resources together, but also to put their heads together. Because if there’s a struggle about something artistic, it can’t just depend upon money.