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Culture

Berlinale Juror Schlingensief Wants Films to Touch the Soul

As a jury member at the 2009 Berlinale, Christoph Schlingensief told Deutsche Welle the movies that get his vote need make a spiritual impact and be driven by passionate filmmakers.

Schlingensief in front of a bank of TVs that make up an art exhibit

Schlingensief said he is still waiting to see a real sensation at this year's Berlinale

Christoph Schlingensief, a leading personality in Germany's cultural scene, is renowned as a film, theater and opera director, radio play writer and artist. His works repeatedly challenge the frontier between politics and art and provoke public debate.

As a filmmaker he first became known between 1989 and 1992 with what is known as his German Trilogy, which includes "The German Chainsaw Massacre." His opera productions include "Parsifal" (Bayreuth 2004), "The Flying Dutchman" (Manaus 2007), "Jeanne d'Arc" (Berlin 2008) and "Eine Kirche der Angst vor dem Fremden in mir" (Duisburg 2008).

As a juror at the 2009 Berlinale, Deutsche Welle asked him what he's looking for from this year's entries.

Deutsche Welle: You're known for not shying away from controversy in your work, be it film or theater. As a juror, how important is it for you that these films grab you right from the beginning?

The 2009 Berlinale jury: Henning Mankell, Christoph Schlingensief, Alice Waters, Gaston Kabore, Tilda Swinton, Isabel Coixet and Wayne Wang

Passionate filmmakers get more of Schlingensief's attention than shining stars

Christoph Schlingensief: My start in movies was that every time I made a film, I had to fight for it to be made. I didn't have enough money, or there were complications in my family -- my father or my mother didn't like it. It took me eight years to make my first super-8 movie, and so I am a fighter for movies and movie-making.

When I see a lot of movies, I sometimes feel there is a whole television station behind it: a producer, wrapped inside a producer and yet another producer. A whole conglomeration of voices. Whereas I think it's important to feel the fire of people in their movies. You have to feel they have an interest in showing you something, or that they want to find something.

They have to be a little bit like (German naturalist and explorer Alexander von) Humboldt -- take the camera and follow a theme and see what happens there. I have a feeling a lot of films are made by people who already know everything. They show you the movie and in the end you gain a lot of knowledge, but this is not enough for a movie.

A movie doesn't need to have a specific meaning, but it needs to touch my soul, affect me spiritually.

How does digitalization, and the cost saving associated with it, affect filmmakers?

A row of identical Berlinale ads

Cheaper cameras could mean an influx of passionate, new movies to future Berlinales

The jury has been talking about it, that a camera with a chip inside that costs 10 or 20 euros is coming. These cameras will then go to the Third World, not to rich countries, and young people will get ahold of them, and they can film their lives. It is important for the future that we see what happens in their hands, when people make films who don't have access to big film studios or film departments.

Maybe this could be like a kind of Youtube site where you see movies from people who make films because they want to do it, and because they can't stop. A little like psychopathic movie making. This is the future. But it will only be the future when we say, "It's allowed. You are allowed to show me your soul." Then it gets really interesting.

But if film just comes from film departments, or from producers who find a new talent, then it's not good. We have to look to movies from people who speak about their own soul, their own situation.

What criteria do jury members have in mind when they are looking at these films?

I want to find a political movie, or a movie with a really interesting new filmmaking language. Our jury is very interesting because everybody has a political feeling.

We're not interested in movies with imitation effects. We are interested in the pictures, in the way the director has done the movie, the camera work, the actors and also the political aspect of it. Up to now, I haven't found movies with an interesting film language. And only sometimes with political aspects. I'm still waiting to find a sensation.

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