When: 10 April 2011, 7pm
Where: Metropolis Kino, Steindamm 52-54, 20099 Hamburg; U/S Hauptbahnhof
“The first time we came to “Wilhelmsburg, we walked around there like tourists.”
This is a very honest statement coming from the team of students responsible for the documentary Frau Anke that captures an image of Hamburg’s little island that is rarely visible. When people think about Wilhelmsburg, the last thing they think about is allotment gardens, but this is the very topic of this work. The six students from Hamburg University created the film as an assignment for a documentary seminar. They stumbled across the members of the allotment garden more or less by accident and were at once interested by this less well known facet of Wilhelmsburg. Though one of the members of the team, Miguel, lives in Wilhelmsburg, the others had no concrete ideas about what would await them.
“The ideas that came to mind when we brainstormed were: artist quarter, gentrification and social hotspot.”
However, they were ready to experience something new and were positively surprised by how green, multicultural and friendly this quarter actually was. These three characteristics describe the allotment garden perfectly. Even though one might tend to think that those gardens are typically German institution in which strict and bureaucratic rules force people to manicure their lawns with a ruler and nail scissors, it is actually a melting pot par excellence. In the documentary Frau Anke you see the life in the allotment gardens from the perspective of the club’s president, Anke Vrhovac. However, it is not only her you see, since the garden is abuzz with people of all nationalities. You see women with headscarves swinging the rakes and old men and women filling wheelbarrows with weeds and cut-off branches. The focus on Frau Anke and her family was more a coincidental product of the editing process, beforehand the team filmed 25 hours of material in total, out of which the half-hour long documentary emerged.
“We hope none of the other members of the garden community feel offended because their screen time had to be cut short, but we had to edit the film to make it more clear for the viewers.”
How do you even know what is interesting about the topic once you’ve spent all this time with the people you are filming and know so much more about them than the viewer? In this case the feedback from the course helped the team identify the flaws in their raw version.
“The reaction helped us a lot, because the students were most interested in Frau Anke’s family and their story.“
The team agrees that this seminar taught them the most in their entire university career, even though it was also a whole lot of work. After finishing the work on their documentary, the students showed it in the Abaton cinema for a single time and it was so popular that not even all the lecturers of the institute got in. Luckily, “Frau Anke”, along with two other films that were shot by students of this seminar, “Turkish Curry” and “21100 Hamburg” were accepted by the “Dokufilm Woche” so that you have the chance to see this unique insight into one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized quarters of Hamburg. The three films will be shown under the tile “Inselgeschichten” – island stories in the category “Binnennachfrage Hamburg” which presents local documentaries.
Our student film-team answers the obligatory question about their changed impression of Wilhelmsburg with a great image: “From grey to green and very faceted”. If you think about moving there, you better be quick because in five years the rents may just be Schanze-high.
The Team: Miguel Brusch, Genaro Frangioudakis, Johannes Noldt, Galina Ponomareva, Louise Schmidt
DIY Documentary Tips:
For most of us, the process in which a documentary is created remains a grave mystery. The Team of “Frau Anke” has shed a little light on the topic for aspiring DIY-documentarists:
- When looking for a theme, you don’t have to go for the most spectacular stories. Most of the time, people’s personal everyday-lives offer the most fascinating scenes.
- Time is the key. You need to be around the people you want to film all the time. They have to get used to the cameras, otherwise they will hardly act naturally. The “Frau Anke”-Team spent almost every weekend over half a year in the allotment garden and built trust with the members of the garden community.
- Make sure that you work with a decent microphone. You will be beyond furious when you find out that the most amazing shots are accompanied by a fuzzy noise.
- Don’t interfere with the personal lives of your subjects, you are merely a spectator (for those of you who always want to save the antelope from the lion in nature documentaries).
- Try and have a mixture of at least 80% elements of mere observation and only 20% of interviews.
- Everyone should have an assigned task that she feels responsible for and sticks to, in order to make the organization as simple as possible.
- Don’t worry if your actual film material deviates very strongly from you initial exposé, you never know how it will turn out before you finish the editing process. Sometimes this might mean that you have to sacrifice a scene for the benefit of the entire film. Cutting and shortening are inevitable.
Julia Tegtmeyer (Text & Interview; pictures: Original Movie screenshots)