Irene von Alberti: I do not understand the uproar about the quota
At this year’s Filmest Munich, producer and director Irene von Alberti presented her latest film THE LONG SUMMER OF THEORY, a wild mixture of documentary, feature and experimental film exploring contemporary sociopolitical discourses that could very well be part of a new wave of German cinema. EWA-blogger Sophie Charlotte Rieger met Irene von Alberti at the Filmfest and talked about the movie as well as the topic of women in the movie industry.
How was the premiere at Filmfest München?
Irene of Alberti: It was great. I wanted the experiment to go on. So we invited everyone to a “discursive premiere”. We had set up a small panel and led interesting discussions which lasted even longer than the film itself.
Which of the many ideas and elements of your film came to you first?
Two years ago, when the AfD won an increasing support amongst the people, an awkward feeling overcame me. I thought: Where do I stand and what can I do here? I then read different things and at the same time considered whether the question itself might perhaps be more interesting than the answer. And then I fell upon the book of Philipp Felsch, "The Long Summer of Theory".
Why did you not film a classic documentary?
Because I am kind of suspicious of documentaries. I always think that in the end you are staging so much into the film anyway. And I’d rather be completely open about it. I’d rather show how someone approaches the making of a film, and stage it.
Is the film in the film - the film your character Nola directs - the film you are directing?
Yes exactly. And we also deliberately did not use two different cameras, but let the feature film camera film everything. Also, we illuminated the places as you would do for a standard interview situation. But then I realized: we can only introduce a maximum of 5 minutes per interviews into the film. So we came up with the idea that people should be able to watch all the interviews on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChOSZJTRlVGUt9xpIqPV9Lw). They are all uploaded and very interesting to watch in full length. Our aim is to create a bit of activity.
Were the dialogues between the characters written beforehand?
I’ve written quite a few of the dialogues and scenes, but we went on filming beyond the script. I couldn’t use these parts though, because it no longer fit in with the concept.
How much of the original stories from your actresses did you use in the fictional part of the plot?
Many of the short scenes are stories taken from Katja Weilandt’s and Martina Schöne-Radunski’s lives. For example, Martina has designed and sewn the acne-leggings, and made photos of them, as an art project. I found this super-cinematic and wanted to use it in the plot.
But you did not want to limit yourself to the subject of women / feminism alone?
Yes, that seemed to narrow down the possibilities for me and would not have fit the other two figures. This would have been a film about Katja Weilandt. I chose to give Katja an extra topic: « work ». This is how we came up with the topic of “state-feminism”, and the idea that incentives are given from the state encouraging women generally to rather focus on care work, while only a few well-paid women can go on parental leave and continue with their jobs afterwards. That way social layers drift apart and separate.
Is your movie your answer to the question the women ask in the film: What shall we do?
Yes, it is. I wanted to do something, but what? So I made the movie. But for me, this project isn’t over. I want the film to trigger something and I want people to talk. Because this has worked quite well so far, we have developed the following plan: If the film is released in the cinema, we always want to get one of the real interview partners or the performers to discuss the film with the audience. The special thing about the film is that it goes on in real life.
Can films be political? Or is a political film still art?
For me, "The Long Summer of Theory" is primarily an experimental feature film, and through this it has become a form of art. If you take the current definition of a political film, mine isn’t in any way a political film, which would want to portray on a big screen the incredibly political stories in three major acts, in a feature format. We wanted to totally distance ourselves from this, and I do not want to direct that kind of film. I thought, if I have the chance to get money from the BKM [federal commission for culture and media] and not from a TV broadcaster, and therefore don’t have anyone interfering in the script, so if I really have all this freedom, then I can try something completely bold out for once.
The film gives much input and is at the same time humble, not instructive. For me this felt like a « feminine » approach. Do you think women make different films from men? From a thematical point of view?
Yes, I think women make different films. I can tell with a hit rate of 90% if a particular scene was directed by a woman or a man. I believe there are a few elements you can look out for, regarding the staging or how the roles are written, what they say and so on.
Can I ask you to make a statement about the quota of female directors?
I’m a fan of the quota. I do not understand the uproar about the topic. You see these facts and figures that simply can not be justified in any way. These numbers are utterly disappointing. And one must fight them with another number, namely the quota
How would you classify your film in the current German film landscape?
Someone has classified « The Long Summer of Theory » together with « Selfcriticism of a bourgeois dog » by Julian Rademacher, « I do not want to be artificially upset » by Max Linz and « lack of orientation is not a crime » by Tatyana Turanskyj. If I were a publisher, I would bring all four films together, because this may be the beginning of a new genre, just like you used to put films in the « Berlin School » category.
What do you want for the film world, from a feminist point of view?
That would be the quota. But also in terms of budgets. Maybe you could get quite quickly to the director’s quota, but not necessarily with the budgets.
von Alberti’s picture © C.Stivali