One-on-one with Filmmaker Lukas Berger - "Being on a journey with my camera is crucial [...]"
Lukas Berger worked on photography and film projects in Ethiopia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Burkina Faso, Russia and many European countries. His first film “Circus Debere Berhan” (2015) had the world premiere in 20th Milano Film Festival and was screened at more than 30 film festivals, winning 2 international awards. He directed 'Circus Movements' (2019) that premiered at the 57th Ann Arbor Film Festival in USA and was selected for the 68th Melbourne Film Festival, 16th Vienna Shorts and 23rd PÖFF Shorts. In China he filmed his new movie 'Wuqiao Circus' (2020) during the Chinese New Year.
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
Berger: "The film 'Wuqiao Circus' was the result of a long process researching about the circus culture in China. On my way to find Wuqiao and its amazing presence I went to Beijing, Shanghai and a few small Chinese towns to meet circus artists. Being on a journey with my camera is crucial to find out what I want to tell with my film and when I feel the most connected to my protagonists and surroundings. The stories that I find, balance in between personal moments and a fragmented observation of real life existence. My previous film 'Circus Movements', that I did together with Mário Gajo de Carvalho and 'Circus Debere Berhan' from Ethiopia has a similar mood, but where as in this film music plays an accompanying key role of the narration, 'Wuqiao Circus' creates a story about love and loneliness through narrative segments within."
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
Berger: "The key challenges were to figure out the best way to approach the very wide topic of Circus in China. Due to the reason that it consists of many companies, artists, successes, presentations and struggles it was one of our main focuses to narrow down ideas in the beginning. When I knew where the main shooting would happen our visions changed and we needed to be in close contact to local people to ensure a way how to structure the film while shooting and create narrative possibilities for the editing process."
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
Berger: "I am proud of the parts in the film when the camera enters the private space of the protagonists and makes the viewer be a guest of the circus artists. For example the moment when the woman sits in her room eating an apple while watching a Chinese soap opera. Or the moment, when the old master rests in his little circus house. And of course the two ladies dancing to the love song."
Trailer: Wuqiao Circus (2020)
iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
Berger: "I started with photography. Since a very young age I have been loving to travel and seeing as many places as possible around the world. Photography gave me the chance to document my encounters and adventures. Not much later I realized that recording moving images gives me joy and adds a lot to my creative process. During working on photography projects I met filmmakers, from both documentary and fiction, which slowly made me begin to create my own little filmic cosmoses."
iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
Berger: "I am working on a film that connects the life of humans, that are involved in performing art. They don't know each other, but their profession and desires connect the meaning of their creation. I am currently exploring the analog medium and hope to work on 16mm in the future. It is important for me to take notice of present social and political situations, which in the moment makes it inevitable to include the reality of social distancing and lockdowns around the globe."
iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?
Berger: "Film Festivals are very important, because they are the ones who screen the film and combine the director's eye with the soul of the viewers. Moreover they start discussions, collaborations and friendships within the circle of filmmakers. The programs represent the diversity of taste and acknowledgment; the variety of cultural diversity."
iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
Berger: "Keep calm and appreciate the advantages film festivals offer."
iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?
Berger: "The international circuit of documentary filmmakers produces many interesting films and I am positive this will continue for a long time ahead of us."
iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
Berger: "Djibril Mambety. I admire him for the passion he had to work on the growth and creativity of the cinema on his continent. His films are full of funny little stories, references and charming ideas. It is the way he tells stories, which feel very close to reality, but then surprise with lots of fantasy."
iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
Berger: "'Silences of the Palace' by Moufida Tlatli. I admired the film for all the emotions that I felt watching it. From joy to love. From sadness to despair. The cinematography has its own handwriting and the characters are portrayed precisely."
Thank you Lukas for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on 18 February 2021