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Christian Schwochow • Director

Creating images and telling stories

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- German director Christian Schwochow looks back at his career

Christian Schwochow • Director

The seed for Christian Schwochow’s future career as a filmmaker was perhaps unknowingly sown when his German teacher in the 9th grade had the class make a version of 21 Jump Street and he assumed the role of director.

However, due to the way film schools were structured at the time, Christian couldn’t apply to a film academy straight after leaving school. “Instead, I first went to work for radio and wrote comedy scripts and texts for news bulletins. Then there was my year doing alternative civilian service before I took up a short internship and then an editorial traineeship at the TV magazine program Polylux,” Christian says. When he applied to film school and was accepted at the BadenWürttemberg Film Academy at the age of 24, he wasn’t fazed by the prospect of actually directing films. “The detour through TV journalism was a great experience for me – I was one of the youngest TV reporters working in Germany – and I was able to make so many programs during my time at the TV station that I didn’t have any worries about producing in my first two years at film school.”

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“I had a lot of luck with my graduation film November Child,” he recalls. Producer Nico Hofmann showed the local public broadcaster SWR an exposé which Christian had written with his mother Heide, and commissioning editor Stefanie Groß immediately signalled her interest in coming onboard the project. “Although we had relatively little money for the shoot, everything just came together. There was a good omen: the film won lots of prizes and also worked in the cinema where it was seen by over 190,000 cinemagoers.”

After such a successful collaboration with Groß and producer Jochen Laube, Christian was happy to follow the adage of ’never change a winning team’ for his second feature film Cracks in the Shell [+see also:
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, which premiered in the Official Competition of the 2011 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

“I’ve been particularly impressed at the very intensive reactions to Cracks in the Shell by audiences abroad,” he says. “The film seems to be showing somewhere every week since the premiere last summer.”

His third feature project – an adaptation of Julia Franck’s novel Lagerfeuer which is set to go into production this autumn – has been largely written by hi mother Heide Schwochow. Asked if there is a common link between his three films – November Child, Cracks in the Shell and Lagerfeuer – Christian suggests that they are “all stories about searching, loss and re-discovery of one’s identity. And there is always a young woman in the lead role who is very clearly at the center. The search for an emotional basis in life is something common to all three films even if they are located in different kinds of worlds.”

Schwochow finds it hard to answer the question of whether he might have role models among his filmmaking colleagues. “What I can say is that my friend Andreas Dresen is for me the most important filmmaker in Germany because he has, I think, found a way of being both radical and commercial in the way he tells his stories; his films really touch me because he is a great humanist. I am one of those people who look for a feeling of warmth in films and he is one of the directors who offers this”.

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