INDEPENDENCE – The Film
Worldpremiere on 24 January 2023 at the 44th Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis
Winner of the Max Ophüls Preis – Film Critics’ Award: BEST DOCUMENTARY
Winner of the Max Ophüls Preis: BEST MUSIC IN A DOCUMENTARY FILM
Nominated for BEST DOCUMENTARY and BEST CAMERA at the New Berlin Film Awards at the ACHTUNG-BERLIN Filmfestival 2023
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In cooperation with
The Oldenburg State Theater
The State Theater Nuremberg
The Ballhaus Ost Berlin
The Edith-Russ-House for Media Art
Part of the cross-plattform project FIGHT (FOR) INDEPENDENCE
Berlin Premie at the ACHTUNG-BERLIN Filmfestival 2023
Pre-Premiere on Thursday, 13 April 2023 at 20:15 hrs at Kino Babylon, Berlin Mitte, with English Subtitles.
Premiere on Sunday, 16 April 2023 at 18:30 hrs at CityKino Wedding , with German subtitles.
The Afro-German actor Helen Wendt takes the audience on a journey along her family history between the GDR, Mozambique and West Berlin, while exploring how her identity and personal independence is embedded in the social context of Germany. In a hybrid approach, the film simultaneously follows members of independence movements in Mozambique, South Sudan, Great Britain, Catalonia and Bavaria, asking what it means for people to fight for their freedom. What does independence truly mean and how do colonialism and racism, the causes of many independence movements, define the world to this day?
While learning more about Helen’s past through encounters with her mother in Berlin and her father and half-sister in Maputo, the camera embeds within angry protests, portraits emotional reports of politicians, freedom fighters, refugees and ordinary citizens, glides through meditative imagery of coastlines and mountains and unites the polyphonic narratives at Black Lives Matter protests in Berlin.
“Independence” takes a multilayered approach, placing individual and political experience on equal footing, combined with sequences of a choreographic installation in which Helen performs – the latter being part of the cross-platform, documentary art project “Fight (for) Independence”.
Filming began in early 2019 in civil war-torn South Sudan, the youngest state in the world, which gained independence from the rest of Sudan after a long armed struggle. It continued at the formerly planned date of Brexit in March 2019, amidst the political turmoil in the United Kingdom and from there headed on to the federal state of Bavaria, where a party is also seeking separation from the nation state of Germany. The cinematic-journalistic performance “Independence for All” was presented on stage in Nuremberg and Berlin in the summer of 2019.
In the 2019/20 season, the research and filming continued with Catalonia’s attempts to break away from the nation state, which served as the basis for the choreographic installation “Independence in Space” that was developed together with the Catalan dancer Montserrat Gardó Castillo, and which lead on to Mozambique’s historic struggle for independence from colonial powers.
Originally, the multimedia performance “Independence for You” was planned on stage for the Banden! Theatre Festival at the Oldenburg State Theater. As no rehearsals could take place due to Covid-19, the Costa Compagnie continued developing and filming in 2021 and proceeded with the (post-)production of the film “Independence” in 2021/2022. A presentation of the process including panel discussions took place online in July 2020. The Banden! Theatre Festival was followed up online in 2021, also with an online discussion of the Oldenburg research participants. The film will now premiere in January 2023.
Jury statement Film Critics’ Prize – BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM: When a documentary film sets itself the task of filling an abstract concept with life, it is an almost insoluble challenge. A young Afro-German woman from Berlin goes in search of her roots. In the process, not only is the chequered relationship between the GDR and Mozambique made clear, but above all the question of identity, belonging and independence is raised. Based on this personal story, the successful essay film traces other independence movements, lets people from South Sudan have their say, from Catalonia, Great Britain and also from Bavaria. The struggle for independence, be it Brexit or the national Bavarian party, is neither judged nor ridiculed, but taken seriously. By playing out independence on three levels, the personal, the political and the symbolic on the theatre stage, the film develops a tremendous pull and thus appears unstrained and immediate. Only when the question of belonging is clarified can one be truly independent. (LINK)
Jury statement BEST MUSIC IN A DOCUMENTARY FILM: The award for Best Music in a Documentary Film goes to a film that has convinced and inspired us in its entirety. The music and sound level make an extraordinary contribution to the poetry and radiance of this all-round strong work, which fills an inherently abstract subject with life and emotion: Director and writer Felix Meyer-Christian and composer Marcus Thomas bring us close to the psychological and physical force of questions of identity and independence in INDEPENDENCE.
Elements of theatre performance, installation, field recording, music and sound design are impressively interwoven here and together form an archaic body of sound, which through its dramaturgical use – in conjunction with the image – contributes significantly to the identity of the film.
The multi-layered emotionally moving sound design, which cleverly combines music and sound design in its sound quality, becomes the protagonist, reflects the inner search for identity and convinced us as a jury. (LINK)
Review in the daily Berlin based newspaper TAGESSPIEGEL:
By Kaspar Heinrich, 29 January 2023
(…) Questions about one’s own identity and origins drove several films of this year, both fictional and documentary. Felix Meyer-Christian’s contribution “Independence” stood out, winning the Film Critics’ Prize. The documentary takes the biography of the German-Mozambican actress Helen Wendt as an opportunity to shed light on political independence movements – both successful and failed.
Two English couples explain why they experience Brexit as a liberation, a Catalan woman reports on the independence referendum of 2017. It goes to the world’s youngest state, South Sudan, where autonomy has not led to peace. And to southern Germany, where the leader of the Bavarian Party explains the merits of patriotism over nationalism.
This parforceride could easily have failed, but the careful selection of places and interviewees, as well as Helen Wendt’s clever off-screen thoughts and questions, create a mosaic that is both multi-layered and illuminating, an entertaining cinematic essay. (…) (LINK)
With great thanks to all interview partners!
Writer and Director: Felix Meyer-Christian With the participation of: Helen Wendt, Ilona Wendt & Interviewpartners Dance & Choreography: Montserrat Gardó Castillo, Katharina Shakina, Jascha Viehstaedt, Helen Wendt Directors of Photography: Philine Von Düszeln, Thomas Oswald Additional Footage: Felix Meyer-Christian, Andy Wain, Miguel Murrieta Vásquez Editor: Stéphanie Morin Voice Over Testimony: Helen Wendt Music: Marcus Thomas Virtual Reality, Video Installation & Website: Erik Kundt Color Correction: Nour Yazbeck at Planemo Films Stage, Costumes: Lydia Sonderegger Dramaturgy Advisor: Hauke Heumann Outside Eye: Zahava Rodrigo Editing Advisor: Niels Pagh Andersen, Joelle Alexis Collaboration Research – Germany: Hauke Heumann, Lisa Mies, David Pallant, Maria Walser Spain: Agnes Kammerer, Jens Ochlast England: Sascha Kölzow, Raphael Rubino Collaboration and Translation in Mozambique: Timoteo Maposse Collaboration and Translation in South Sudan: Samir Bol, Ismail Omar Production Management: Franziska Merlo Dramaturgy and Coordination State Theatres Oldenburg und Nuremberg: Marc-Oliver Krampe, Sascha Kölzow Orchestra recordings Oldenburg: Jan Bergström (Oboe/ Englischhorn), Michael Hagemeister (Kontrabass), Agnes Izdebska (Violine), Jens Pfaff (Fagott) Assistant Oldenburg: Aisha Abo-Mostafa Assistant Nürnberg: Michael Königstein
Credit Photos: Thomas Oswald, Felix Meyer-Christian
Funded by the Doppelpass Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation
A production of Costa Compagnie in cooperation with the Oldenburg State Theater and the State Theater Nuremberg, as well as the Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art.