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BERLINALE 2021 Panorama

Anne Zohra Berrached • Director of Copilot

“For me, it's a film about love”


- BERLINALE 2021: We talked to the German director about her film, which tells the story of one of the terrorists involved in 9/11

Anne Zohra Berrached  • Director of Copilot
(© Ben Wieg)

In her drama, Copilot [+see also:
film review
interview: Anne Zohra Berrached
film profile
, German director Anne Zohra Berrached focuses on the perspective of a young woman desperately in love with a man, who more and more detracts from her. The drama, which recreates the possible background story of one of the pilots trained to execute the terror attack of 9/11, premiered at this year's Berlinale in the Panorama section. We talked to the director who told us about her motivation for working on that story and the way she works with her actors. 

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Cineuropa: Why was it important for you to tell this story?
Anne Zohra Berrached:
I found an article about the wife of a terrorist and then read various things about it. This woman who falls in love with a man, and eventually no longer recognises him, fascinated me. I wanted to make a film about this woman who is in a love conflict. All my films are about women involved in big conflicts and trying to get out of them. For me, it's a film about love. About a main character who has to deal with something she doesn't want to admit.

How did you do your research for the film?
I did a lot of research on the female partners of assassins of all kinds. What interested me most is that most of them say they didn't realise the danger. Or even that they didn't want to recognise the changes in these people, in order to preserve their own relationship. My main character also wants to continue with her relationship.

How did you find the two main actors?
It was important for me that I would work with amateurs again, or actors who have little experience.  It's a film with a very big theme that we all know, so it doesn't need actors to sell it.

We held a big casting session and quickly found Canan Kir for the role of Aslin. She has a bit of acting experience. Roger Azar as her partner was more difficult. It had to be a Lebanese who came from a wealthy family and was not yet too used to the German customs. Therefore, we searched in Lebanon itself. He then learned German in Germany. He had to be able to improvise for the role and therefore had to know the language.

How would you respond to the comment that one could see a certain trivialisation of the story in your film?
I wouldn't call it trivialisation. But the fact is that we find Saeed very sympathetic, even though he is quite a bad person. But we like him because the film is told from the perspective of the main character. We see him as she sees him. The film is never about him, it's always a view of him from her side, and it had to be a positive one. I wanted to put the viewer in the same situation as the main character, where what happens hurts us as much as it hurts her, it's outsized and incomprehensible. The viewer should experience this conflict.

Guilt is an important theme of the film. How do you see it, should one feel guilty for the missteps of others?
I can't answer that question, and that's what the film is about. You ask yourself, how much did she notice, and what did she consciously or unconsciously not want to notice? There are such situations in life that are also oversized and we from the outside think we might know how to react, but it's just not that simple.

What was the aesthetic concept for the film?
It was very clear that everything would be told from her perspective. That's the way it is with all my films, I tell the story from the point of view of the main character. So there is no moment, no scene without her. The main character takes you along on the journey, the viewer should experience everything with her. That's why I chose the handheld camera, which allows you to dance along with the actors on set like a third actor. The cameraman had to be able to spontaneously move along. The camera has a documentary function, it's never upstream, we only see what the main character sees.

You had two foreign shoots in Lebanon and the USA. How did you prepare for them? What special aspects had to be taken into account?
In Lebanon, we had already rehearsed and cast all the characters in detail. I stayed in the country for a while and traveled back and forth for two years. I wanted to understand the environment from which the character came.

With Miami, that aspect was less important. We were only there once. For my main character, it was foreign there, too, and so it felt right to show that. Miami was like a dream for her, here there was hope that everything would be okay again.

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