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Thomas Kufus • Producer

“My ambition is to make important films that will leave a mark”


- German Films interviewed Thomas Kufus, producer for Berlin-based zero one film, to talk about their work to date and their upcoming projects

Thomas Kufus • Producer

Over the past 27 years, Thomas Kufus of Berlin-based zero one film has independently produced more than 120 documentaries, TV series and feature films as diverse as Lars Kraume’s Lola-winning The People Vs. Fritz Bauer, Christian Schwochow’s West, Andres Veiel’s Beuys to Aleksandr Sokurov’s highly-acclaimed Moloch, Father and Son and Francofonia.

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Together with partner Volker Heise, who joined the company in 2008 with his creative input, he has also explored new avenues of factual entertainment for television with such series as Black Forest House 1902, Adventure 1900 – Life in a Manor and Our 19-Fifties.

Furthermore, Kufus threw the gauntlet to public broadcasters when he and Volker Heise proposed the format for 24H Berlin which saw TV channels abandoning the traditional schedule structure over a whole day for a 24-hour documentary. This multimedia documentary project chronicling a day in the life of a European metropolis was shot all day and night throughout Berlin on 5 September 2008 and aired exactly a year later over 24 hours without any breaks. The format’s success encouraged Kufus and Heise to create a follow-up – this time 24H Jerusalem – which was broadcast on 12 April 2014, and then 24H Bavaria which aired on German TV screens in 2016.

“We are now planning a fourth format entitled 24H Europe – Next Generation, where the focus will be on the young people of the so-called Generation Y and will follow 24 young Europeans between 15 and 30 and explore their vision of a future Europe.”

While zero one had already made quite a name for itself in the international arthouse scene, the success of the 24H format as a unique broadcasting event thrust the Berlin-based outfit even more into the international spotlight.

“My ambition is always to make important films that will leave a mark and reach their particular audience,” Kufus declares. “Beuys is a case in point: we spent a long time working on this film so that it would turn out as we all wanted it to be, and the resulting film performed well in the cinemas.”

“I started my career in the film industry as a director and so that has led me as a producer to be actively involved in shaping the content of the films,” he explains. “In fact, my favourite activity is sitting together with the writers and directors in the editing suite and discussing whether everything is going in the right direction or should some changes be made.”

At the same time, Kufus’ documentary background has also informed his fiction output and the subjects are almost always politically charged, as shown by such past productions as Andres Veiel’s If Not Us, Who? or Lars Kraume’s afore-mentioned drama.

zero one addresses another highly topical political issue in Emily Atef‘s latest film, Do Not Worry!, and Jonathan Littell’s Wrong Elements.

Meanwhile, shooting began this autumn on Connie Walther’s experimental feature film The Rude in co-production with Cologne’s Hands on Production about violence and counter-violence focusing on the clash between vicious shelter dogs and young violent offenders.

As if Thomas Kufus didn’t have enough on his plate running his production company and keeping tabs on the various projects at different stages of development and production, he has also shown a keen interest in shaping film policy on both a national German and international level by promoting the role of feature documentaries and the importance of co-production treaties. Indeed, he served as the chairman of the German Film Academy from November 2009 until early 2015 and doesn’t regret taking on this extra commitment. “I would never ever want to become a functionary,” he admits, “but it was an important experience and taught me a lot. I regard the Academy in high esteem because it represents so many diverse interests, which means that it can sometimes be rather unpredictable, but at the same time unique as an institution in the German film landscape.”

And while zero one film has built up a family of filmmakers with whom they work on a regular basis, the company is always keeping an eye open for up-and-coming filmmaking talents to work with – such as Polish directorial duo Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski’s documentary The Prince and the Dybbuk, German director Anne Zohra Berrached’s 24 Weeks or Polish documentary filmmaker Marta Minorowicz’s Zud.

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