Pepe Danquart • Director
by Martin Blaney - German Films
16/06/2008 - "I've always been on the border, crossing between genres, and regard myself as an artist and director rather than as the documentary or feature filmmaker, or the theater man." says German director Pepe Danquart whose interest as a child for photography and painting led him to make his own Super 8 films during his teenage years.
His interest in film continued when he began studying Communication Studies at the University of Freiburg where he met Miriam Quinte and Bertram Rothemund with whom he founded the Medienwerkstatt Freiburg in 1977. In the course of 15 years the the company produced over 30 films as a filmmakers' collective, but Danquart then made a break with the workshop with the making in 1989/1990 of Daedaelus, a science fiction film with documentary elements which – for the first time – bore his name as director.
Soon after, he made the move to Berlin with the idea for a short film which was realized as Black Rider and premiered at the Berlinale in 1993. The film was then shown at countless film festivals around the world and received an Academy Award in the Live-Action Short category the following year.
He admits that everybody wanted him to try his hand at a fiction feature film after the Oscar triumph, but a meeting with Hans Robert Eisenhauer, then head of the thematic evenings for ARTE, changed all of this.
"He asked if I might like to go to Bosnia for two years to accompany Hans Koschnick in Mostar who was trying to bring a separated town together. I didn't know what I should be doing there as I didn't known the language or the story, but I traveled there to do some research and was so taken by the fates of these people. It was a gut reaction – like so many in my life – to just disappear for two years after the Oscar to make a documentary for the cinema about the war in black-and-white and on 35 mm."
Since then, Danquart has moved effortlessly between working on feature films and documentaries, always wanting to cross borders and trying his hand at different genres and forms of expression. "The last three documentaries in the sport trilogy – Home Game, Hell on Wheel, and To the Limit – are in essence the creation of a new form, conjuring up a staged documentary cinematic experience which has a clear dramaturgical structure with turning points and climaxes, and characters like in a thriller, but you are nevertheless dealing with real people. I had a completely controlled situation like working on a fiction film and that was great fun to do."
Danquart is likely to be good for more surprises in the future as well: still much the border-hopper, he is currently developing what he calls an "aerial road movie", a joint venture between Japan, Germany and France which would present "a new dimension of documentary filmmaking" and be "a film for extra-terrestrials about this world!"
Before that he is likely to start shooting on his next feature film Schattenschwester which will be produced by Berlin-based Ziegler Film. "It is a very important project for me about a borderline personality disorder. It is based on the diary of a young girl during her stay in a clinic. It is the drama of a woman who is fighting for her life, and this moved me so that I really wanted to make it into a film." "Shooting Star 2008" Hannah Herzsprung is attached to play the central lead figure. "Hannah is good at playing broken characters," he says. "The emotional shifts, the intensity of joy and hatred – these are all things she can portray."