An Interview with Philip Scheffner (Director)
Sharing Space Through Revision
Q: How did you learn about the case at the center of this film?
PS: In 1996, four years after the fact, I heard about it from people involved, when I was researching for another film. There were two points that struck me. One was the victims’ names. The Romanian names were very unusual, names not so commonly heard among Germans. The other point was the circumstances where the dead were discovered. Under the hot summer sun, two corpses were found lying in a corn field. That image, for me, was a strongly impressionable and cinematic scene.
Q: Was it pre-planned, to have the bereaved speak about the case, and then have them review their own testimonies?
PS: Yes, I did have this structure in mind from the conception of the film. I interviewed the families in short chapters within five minutes and played this recording back to them while filming them listening to it. During this process, my crew and I shared the same space and time with them. The audience of the film listens and watches all this, when the film is completed. The structure of listening is repeated, so that the audience and protagonists are creating together a new space. In a sense, the cinema hall becomes a social and political public space. That was my original intention. In Germany, this sort of case was never accompanied by such a “space for speaking up” in the mass media nor the court. There was no alternative space or a place where an alternative narrative could be presented. This film in fact is an attempt to create one, through the medium of cinema.
Q: What was the reaction of the bereaved families after seeing the film?
PS: I invited the families to the screening of the Berlin Film Festival and they watched the film. For them, I’m sure it was a difficult and painful film to watch. But they accepted it. They agreed to come on stage and discuss the film with our audience. It was a very moving discussion. One of the sons of the victims said, “The family had not spoken about the case or our father much ever since. But thanks to this film, we have been able to share each others’ thoughts and feelings.” He told us how he felt it was important for the film to be screened. It was as if, for him, each screening landed a small punch in the perpetrators’ face. Moreover, every time his father’s name was spoken or projected on the screen, he felt that his father was converted, from just an anonymous somebody killed at the border, to a figure of historic standing.
(Compiled by Kimuro Shiho)
Interviewers: Kimuro Shiho, Nomura Yukihiro / Interpreter: Saito Shinko / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Nogami Taka / Video: Inoue Saya / 2013-10-12