Villa Aurora Grant Recipients | 2006

Jan, Feb, Mar

Hannes Stöhr | Filmmaker

Hannes Stöhr
Hannes Stöhr


Thoughtfully entertaining rather than sermonizing - that's the goal of director Hannes Stoehr, whoses latest feature Berlin Calling had its world premiere on the Piazza Grande at the Locarno International Film Festival in August 2008. "I see myself as more of a clown than a priest," says Hannes. "I love solid storytelling which is based on research. Reality is complex, the main thing is to find the right angle for your story. And the right tone: I prefer tragicomedies." Hannes was born in Stuttgart and grew up in Hechingen in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Before and after civil service, he did extended backpacking tours through Central and South America. He then studied Law, but his involvement in various art projects making films made him decide to “turn my hobby into a profession.” In 1994, he moved to Berlin. Hannes became part of an underground-style filmmaking movement in the reunified capital, “which was really anarchic, low budget and of course without any shooting permits. Everything was possible then because there was such a great energy in the air.” These Super 8 films were then shown at basement bars and can now also be viewed on Hannes’ own YouTube channel. “In fact, looking back, I think that this atmosphere at the beginning of the 90s in Berlin was very important to me,” he suggests. “It wasn’t just Germans, because you seemed to have the whole world coming here to find answers. That energy is something you find in my films.” His application to Berlin’s German Film & Television Academy (dffb) was accepted in 1995 where he studied until 1999, making such films as the documentaries, Lieber Cuba Libre, Gosh – Live in Paris, and a 15-minute short version of his 2001 feature debut Berlin is in Germany. Hannes admits that there may at times have been an ideological clash between him and dffb director Reinhard Hauff over his work, but he has nothing but respect for the veteran filmmaker’s humanism. “I learned a lot from Reinhard Hauff, although or maybe because he comes from a different generation.” Moreover, several of his fellow students from film school days have worked with him on subsequent projects such as DoPs Andreas Doub and Florian Hoffmeister, editor Anne Fabini and producer Karsten Aurich.

Berlin is in Germany stirred things up winning the Panorama Audience Award at the 2001 Berlinale, the German Film Critics Prize for Best Film 2002 and many others, including four international first film awards.

This feature debut played in the here and now of 2001 Berlin whereas subsequent films about the recent German past, such as Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye, Lenin! or Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, were set during the GDR or in the autumn of ’89.

“I saw myself more in the present,” Hannes explains. “The important thing for me here was that a wall comes down and, from one day to the next, a human experiment begins which had never taken place before. A country is divided and is then brought back together.”

“With my first film I fortunately had the chance to travel around the world and see what is important for a German film,” Hannes continues. “My generation of filmmakers is quite privileged because after the Second World War people had had enough of the Germans, something which I can understand fully. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the interest in German culture has come back strongly. People see that something is happening and the clichéd images of the Second World War are being changed. One can see more nuances there now.”

Hannes loves traveling and speaks English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. “I enjoy attending film festivals and being present for the releases of my films in other countries. I always try to tell my stories in a universal way. So, it is important to know the cinema styles of other countries.”

His feature One Day in Europe – which had its premiere in the Official Competition of the Berlinale in 2005 – he describes as his response to “a historical European moment coming from this chance of the fall of the Wall” with interwoven stories set in Berlin, Moscow, Istanbul and Santiago de Compostela. The overall theme of the film was languages in Europe.

And looking back now, Hannes says that he can see his three feature films as forming a trilogy: “Berlin is in Germany shows Berlin viewed from the alien perspective, One Day in Europe shows Berlin in the European context, and Berlin Calling is now the view from within.”

As Hannes points out, it is not by coincidence that his three features to date all have English titles: “The titles may be English but the films have a very German content or at least a German point of view. The films are very local, but at the same time very universal. It worked out: Berlin is in Germany and One Day in Europe were released in the cinemas in France, Spain, Turkey, Poland, Russia, the UK and Japan, and elsewhere. “Also, English titles are an advantage in a Google world,” Hannes quips.

Berlin Calling portrays the world of an electronic music composer, a tragicomedy in the Berlin of today, starring Paul Kalkbrenner, Rita Lengyel, Corinna Harfouch and Araba Walton. “Our main role and musician, Paul Kalkbrenner, is an internationally known electronic music artist, so we have a worldwide audience on all continents around the globe. We are trying to also reach our global community by net guerilla activities through Facebook and YouTube. The Internet gives you a great opportunity to promote your film without having so much money,” Hannes adds. “We live in a time where global storytelling is possible. This is a great opportunity.”