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Culture

US filmmakers tell 'real' Germans' stories

Two US filmmakers get to the core of the human experience by talking to random individuals. Their Germany Interview Project, produced by David Lynch, gives an intimate look - not at the country, but at its people.

Collage of four interview partners involved in the Interview Project Germany

No big ideas at work; just real people telling real stories

Interview Project originally started life last year as a 20,000 mile, 70-day road trip across the United States which saw filmmakers Austin Lynch and Jason S conduct spontaneous interviews with people they met along the way.

The project's executive producer was Austin's father, Hollywood film director David Lynch, who introduced each of the 121 interviews which premiered on his website davidlynch.com. The series proved so successful that it scooped two prestigious Webby Awards in the categories of Best Documentary Series and The People's Voice.

Teaming up with producer Stephan Balzer from the red onion communications agency and documentary filmmaker Judith Keil as interpreter, Interview Project Germany is the first time the filmmakers took the project outside the US.

"Really this could have happened in any country. It just happens that Germany came through with the financing and I think it has a lot to do with the economic situation in Germany," he said, "And I think from Germany doing it, hopefully other countries around the world will see that it's not just a United States-specific thing. It can be taken around the world."

The art of coincidence

The team spent 27 days on the road traveling to all corners of Germany to collect material for what would be a final series of 50 intimate portraits.

"The process was the same here as it was in America," said director Austin Lynch, "Get out of the car and if they said yes, we'd do the interview. It's just simplistic coincidence and I think that's the beauty of it."

The road-trip here was the first time both filmmakers had been to Germany. But they can't distill their interviews into a simple and straight-forward picture of Germany.

48-year-old Bettina, portrayed in the Interview Project Germany

A stand-out story: 48-year-old Bettina's life has been paved with hardship

"Everyone wants the answer that we came to Germany and came away with this amazing of what Germany is, and really this project isn't about countries, it's about people and these questions," said Jason S., "Everybody deals with kids and parents dying and getting married and having kids and their dreams and that's worldwide. So there isn't for me something right now that I'm taking away that's my thing about Germany."

While Austin Lynch is reluctant to pick a stand-out interview, Jason S. has a favorite: 48-year-old Bettina from Clausthal-Zellerfeld in Lower Saxony. One of six children, Bettina didn't have a close relationship with her parents and left home at a young age.

After Bettina's youngest brother committed suicide, she restored contact with her family after an absence of 12 years. Then her father suffered a stroke and she cared for him. Despite her hardships, Bettina remains optimistic: While she is still single, she says she's still young and there's plenty of time for her to find love.

"I honestly really love Bettina. There's something about the way she looks into the camera at the end and gives that smile and there is that glint of hope after having that hard life," said Jason S., "We are cutting on feeling and it would be great if within each interview we could give you sadness, happiness, hope. Bettina's got all that. You get into her story and it's very hard, but she shines through with a smile and she has hope."

We've all got something in common

As Interview Project Germany goes live, the team is preparing to pack their bags and return to the US or the first time in almost six months. From there, they will wait and see where the road takes them next.

Wherever that will be, they'll go with a new understanding of being human.

"I can't tell you aside from people are people and they taught me again that it doesn't matter where the people come from, we should all get along,“ said Jason S. "This project really showed me the similarities in people rather than exposing the differences."

"Interview Project isn't about countries, it's about people and their stories," said Austin Lynch, "No matter what country they come from, no matter what their background is, what we're setting out to do is to meet people and hear their stories."

Author: Gavin Blackburn
Editor: Kate Bowen

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