German filmmaker Claudia Vogt has learned that intuition is tantamount to a film’s success. Trust your gut, she says, and a project will flourish. Her latest film, titled Golden Hour, subtly and sensitively explores the refugee crisis as it affects Germany; she offers viewers a chance to more closely understand the way Germany’s children see a politically and socially charged situation. When asked about the inspiration behind Golden Hour, Vogt said that Germany’s political conversation surrounding Syrian and Iraqi refugees deserved an artistic perspective, and a more intimate one—she “decided to go to a place where children from different cultural, ethnic and social origin come in contact [with each other] every day; at a school.” Her intuition led her correctly, and soon Golden Hour had the full support of the school community, as well as Vogt’s own filmmaking sphere. The result is, as you will soon see during the festival, a delicate and endearing (but still politically resonant) look into the lives of Germany’s most vulnerable, and arguably most insightful, people—it’s children.
This nuance is perhaps a skill Vogt absorbed while watching the films of Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky, both of whom she cites as major inspirations. She felt a great connection to “their films’ specific imagery and [style of] storytelling, especially how much they knew about the human soul.” Attention to the more transient and ephemeral aspects of human life—it’s soulfulness—is certainly present in Golden Hour. We observe an elementary-school janitor make his rounds from empty classroom to empty classroom, sunlight streaming in through the windows, as he follows the traces left by youngsters full of promise, hope, and imagination. The delightfully candid voices of children narrate his journey, speaking about the goings on of their day at school but also of the adversity they face after migration.
Vogt’s skill and the strength of her film’s theme allowed her access to funding through the Berlin Project Fund for Cultural Education, a regional support fund for the arts. She says that Germany’s awareness surrounding gender inequality in the film industry has grown, and that funding is a key element in the country’s efforts towards equal opportunity, but that there is always more work to be done. “Of course,” she says, “we need more women in the film industry. Quite clearly, we as female filmmakers still have a lot to do to bring about change and to assert ourselves.” After watching Golden Hour, it is clear that the assertions of Germany’s female filmmakers are exceptionally worthy of the public’s attention. Vogt’s artistry as a filmmaker, combined with her aforementioned intuition, certainly solidifies the need for female perspectives, if that need wasn’t already obvious.
Another German filmmaker whose newest film will be screening at this year’s festival is Claudia Euen—her documentary, In the Shade of the Apple Tree, similarly explores the soulfulness of human life, with equal success. “In the Shade of the Apple Tree is a very personal film,” Euen says. “It was a long process of research, over many years, into my own family history. I decided to make a film to tell the sweet story of my grandparents. To me, they were an extraordinary couple. The starting point of my research was when my own relationship ended; I asked myself with even more intensity, how did they do it? How could their love survive over all those years?” In the Shade follows Ilse and Wolfgang Gutsche, who have been married for 65 incredible years; together, they have faced four social orders, the raising of children, growing old, and all manner of life’s ups and downs. Their love and respect for each other are palpable through the screen. This is certainly due, at least in part, to Euen’s familial connection with Ilse and Wolfgang (she is their granddaughter, after all). But the power of this story also lies in its slow, steady progression; the care and contentment that Ilse and Wolfgang feel as a couple is mirrored by the camera’s repose. A love’s strength lies in its moments of stillness and quietude, so In the Shade would suggest. In Euen’s words, “the film feels very slow because everything moves slowly in their life. The camera is fixed, and life develops before [its lens].”
Euen made her documentary with a very small crew, and shouldered much of the production work in addition to her role as director. Thankfully, she was able to secure funding from Germany’s government resources—otherwise, we might have never had the opportunity to meet Ilse and Wolfgang. However, Euen states that her success with government funding is not the experience of all female filmmakers. “In Germany, half of all students in film schools are female, but when you look at [the allocation of] funding and awards, there are far more men than women,” she says. “The chief of the MDM (Filmfund in central Germany) said once, that only 25 percent of project applications are from women. Another big problem is that most juries who decide [where the money goes] contain more men than women. This is a big subject of discussion.” Institutional barriers preventing women’s voices from being widely heard are internationally felt, it seems. As, unfortunately, one might expect.
But hope and consolation are not hard to find, especially with superb cinema such as Golden Hour and In the Shade of the Apple Tree available to enjoy. How lucky are we, to have the work of emerging artists such as Vogt and Euen on Vancouver screens? Not only will their films be screening at this year’s festival, but both filmmakers will be in attendance during the International Women in Film Festival’s bloc of artist talks, taking place on Friday, March 9th. When asked how they feel about travelling to Vancouver and participating in the festival, both stated their enthusiastic excitement. Vogt said that she “is greatly looking forward to attending the festival, meeting other filmmakers, and talking about our films. I am excited and feel honoured. I am sure this journey will be a great experience.” Similarly, Euen expressed enthusiasm for the work of other filmmakers, stating that she is “really looking forward to coming to Canada—to seeing the country, presenting my film to an international audience, and to meeting and talking with people about film and future projects.” I can’t wait to hear more from Vogt and Euen during their time at VIWIFF—cinematic insight will abound!
The Golden Hour is screening at 9 PM on Friday, March 9th in the Symbols and Survival shorts block of international gems. Get tickets now!
The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6 – 11th, 2018 at the Vancity Theatres. Don’t miss a diverse selection of local and international short and feature films as well as the workshops, artist talks, parties, panels, & more! Click here for more info on the festival.
Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.