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Directed by: Marco Gadge
Synopsis: At the end of World War II, Red Army soldiers bent on brutal revenge for past atrocities attack a German city. Compassion comes from an unlikely source. Based on a true story.
How did the story of Greta Meininger come into your hands and what inspired you to turn it into a film?
About five years ago, I was watching one of those usual interview programs that shed light on special moments in the interviewee's life. Suddenly, this old lady was sitting there. The questions were very general at first but then the situation changed. The old lady suddenly reported calmly about the events in the cellar and the rape. The interviewer was quite irritated because he had probably not expected this turn of events. You could see the old lady getting stronger and stronger. Everything was coming to this point. When the old woman then reported her reaction to the soldiers, there was unbelieving silence. The interviewer simply could not understand such a decision. How could such a little girl have so much dignity and greatness? Everyone was deeply impressed. So was I. Years later, I suddenly began to think of this old lady and her power. She had shown more size and strength than many politicians of today. So, I started looking for this old lady. I asked all the TV channels, but I just couldn't find the actual interview. So, I decided to reenact the interview section with an actress.
This is a short film with the feel of a big budget feature. How did you manage that?
In Germany, there is a different situation when it comes to raising money for a film than in the USA. Unfortunately, we didn't get any money from the government for our film and so the idea seemed to be dead. But we didn't want to admit defeat so easily. My friends Francis Fulton-Smith, Mike Brandin and I decided to put our saved money into this little story. We couldn't pay the actors nor the team members. But everyone was ready to fight with us for this film. In the end, we had a budget of 25,000€ and the story of this old lady could see the light of day.
How did you find a suitable location for a war story?
It was a coincidence and Google Maps that helped us to find a location. I knew there were still some abandoned industrial sites in our neighboring town. And on the overgrown banks of the river Saale, I found the right property. I climbed over the fence, got an electric shock and made quick contact with a security guard. We became friends. He was the one who brought us together with the owner of the property.
What challenges did you have to overcome for a film set in World War II?
How can we present the destruction and chaos of war without the financial means? After a long research and discussions with the set designer Maria Nickol, the costume designer Nadine Kremeier and the VFX supervisor Vincent Reinhardt, we agreed to do a mix of techniques. We used CGI to enhance the real sets in certain shots and we created a full CGI shot of the bombed city Berlin to draw the audience into the story. Creating real Russian soldiers was a big task for me. They should have authentic, honest faces. Uneducated film faces. Everyone should look unique. I had an idea and called my brothers and their friends. Quite normal people. Craftsmen, office workers and musicians. That was the solution.
Take us through your casting process.
As I said, we didn't have much money. So, the cast decisions should have been different. I decided to try my luck and sent the script to Elisabeth Orth, the Grande Dame of the Vienna Burgtheater. Contrary to expectations, she agreed. She just loved the story so much. I wanted absolute authenticity for the Russian soldiers and officers. Nothing in this film would be worse Russian officer with German accent. Of course, it is not easy to get a foreign-language cast in Germany. But miraculously, I found Vladislav Grakovskiy, the perfect actor for the role for the Russian officer. His inaccessible manner and his dignity fit perfectly to the figure.
Have we forgotten the horror and lessons learned from World War II?
The past has shown that mankind does not want to remember. How else can it be explained that after so many wars, there are always people willing to go the same way of doom? Mankind should learn from its mistakes. How do you make sure our children and grandchildren do not make the same mistakes? The solution is a constant standing up. The documentary "Das radikal Böse" by Stefan Ruzowitzky, who impressed me deeply, shows this very nicely. In a group of people where no one dares to tell the truth about injustice, where people share opinions that are obviously wrong, it only takes one person to infect others with justice. This one person who goes ahead and paves the way for us to think clearly. Just one person.