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Mockup

Before we went to the stage we set up a mockup of the train compartment in order to adjust camera angles. Of course we had to apply some changes to the original compartment, but I think one doesn’t notice.

This setup is a crucial point for a low budget production. Every mistake has significant effects to the film.

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PRODUCTION STATUS

Talk to Me – The Series

Thanks to the support of many, including the Indiegogo – donations, the financing of the series is almost closed. Due to the current situation we have therefore decided to start the production with the preparation work, the editing of the dialogue sequences and the research for the historic aspects. We plan to shoot the missing sequences in the autumn, by which the Corona Lockdown should be overcome. We are optimistic to have a closed financing by then.

Documentary film

The postproduction works for the documentary film will be finished by end of May. The film will be released with the German title “Der Schönste Tag” (The most beautiful day). We are still negotiating with distributors, but the timing for the release is a mess due to COVID-19. Right now all film premiers are delayed, most festivals are canceled or postponed. We will schedule our premiere carefully.

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Gerhard Botz

We congratulate Gerhard Botz to his 79th birthday!

Born on this day in 1941 he is one of the most recent Austrian historians. In our documentary he has a very important part talking about narratives and the political dimension of history. He spans a big arc to the presence. What can we learn from history?

What means “fake” news? Why is the Islamic State destroying 5000 years old sites? And what has that all to do with Holocaust?

It’s worth listening to him!

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My shoes are broken

This is my diary’s entry from February 1st 2019 – exactely one year ago. We where traveling to Terezin, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Mauthausen and Dachau to shoot additional footage.

European landscapes and in between concentration camps that have been made into memorials. Visitors lost in small groups over the endless yard of the Dachau concentration camp. Affected students whispering piously, teachers lectureing with soft voices.

Thousands of kilometres, pictures, words, so many memorials and museums. The ice flower at the window of a barrack in Mauthausen. I think of Aba Lewit. Whoever survived the Holocaust was lucky. Luck. Pure luck. Coincidence.

We are pressing our footsteps into the untouched, hard snow of the concentration camp in Landsberg am Lech. My winter shoes are broken. The rubber dissolves from the leather, small black pieces crumble, putting their own trail in the snow. Herbert Schrott’s father froze here in the winter of 1944/45. A few weeks later the camp was freed by the US Army.

The head of the Landsberg am Lech memorial tells me that the camp was always as clearly visible from the road like it still is today. The upperclass from Landsberg was invited to concerts in the camp. The ladies came in summer dresses wearing large hats. Everybody knew it. The Volk has democratically elected Hitler into power. The united German Reich has decided to extinguish over 6 Millions Jews.

I am filming the view of the camp, paning from the street to the semicircular concrete barracks, over which the snow has settled like a cloth. They look like the dwellings in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. A trilogy by the way, which is interspersed with Nazi symbolism. Confusing. I feel sick.

We’re heading south, crossing the alps to Carinthia. Another dark chapter in Austria’s WWII history: Frenetical racism, nationalism and hatred, greed.

And my shoes are broken.

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Years Hidden

Lucia Heilmann is talking about her grandfather being deported from their shared apartment in Vienna. Soon after, she has to leave school and be on the run together with her mother. A Viennese craftsman succeeds in keeping the two hidden in his workshop and crates, thus protecting them from being deported to a concentration camp. Her grandson attracts attention with his tattoos and hairstyle. As if by a pull, he becomes enthralled by the narrative, and his reactions become more and more immediate and personal.

Some years ago, after Lucia participated in stage appearance of eye witnesses in Vienna, she found a swastika painted on her door and received an antisemitic and neonazistic letter.
The Austrian police told her that they can‘t do anything, because writing a letter is not a crime.

Lucia is a very active contemporary witness. Her story reminds us on how cruel the Nazi regime was and it teaches us, how fragile democracy is.

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Katja & Vesna Sturm-Schnabl

The very fact that Katya’s granddaughter Vesna has a Creole mother creates its own atmosphere. Katja Sturm-Schnabl comes from a large farming family in Carinthia, which belongs to the Slovenian ethnic group. Through the eyes of a child she experiences the deportation and death of her sister. Her return from the camp is not easy, the Slovenian survivors are not welcome and are being harassed. She talks about her arduous journey into the Austrian society, how she was confronted with racism and hostility at the Academy of Science and how she finally took therapy, which she was only able to start in the 1990s. Vesna leads this conversation very actively, at times she becomes very passionate and seeks the connection to her current life.
Historical focus: Slovenes, Yugoslavia, linguistic minorities. Labor camp, Umvolkung, Carinthia, Gottscheer, return, minority discrimination, until Ortstafelstreit.

Katja’s granddaughter Vesna
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Backgrounds

Putting a train compartment into a studio sounds easier than it is.

The Austrian Railway Company OEBB supported our project from the very beginning. Shooting the backgrounds was a special challenge. After some discussions about it the OEBB offered us to use diesel locomotive.

For several reasons we choosed to drive from Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria, to Graz, Styria. The OEBB removed on door of the locomotive. Our friends from Neuner SFX helped us rigging 3 ARRI Alexa cameras with ident lenses, and DOP Carlo Hofmann was able to record two an a half hours of background movement!

A very special thank to Dr. Traude Kogoi and Walter Neumann from the OEBB who made this possible.

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Anneliese & Helena Reischl

A 12 year old and a 92 year old – the pairing with the biggest age difference. Ms. Reisch comes from a small Czech town near the Waldviertel border and belonged to a German language group. At the end of the war she flees to Salzburg together with her father where she still lives today. Linguistic affiliation shapes their lives and this conversation makes it very clear how hard it may be for the audience to reflect this time towards the end of their lives. The 12 year old is our youngest conversation partner, her direct and unbiased approach to ask questions is almost refreshing, especially how she succeeds in never doubting the love of her great-grandmother.

Historical focus: South Bohemia, Upper Austria, Salzburg, language border, linguistic affiliation, Sudeten Germans, Czech Republic

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Who we are

Born in Vienna Katharina’s first passion was the cello, before she became an actress. She was trained in Austria and LA, performed in countless films and theatre productions. Her career brought her also to the »SALZBURGER FESTSPIELE« as well as to the stunning performances of Jaqueline Kornmüller’s »GANYMED« in the Museum for Arts in Vienna or »IN THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY«, staged in the Austrian Parliament. Katharina already participated in political discussions when she was a student, and she committed herself to social, ecological and health issues.

For several years she moderates several commemoration events in Austria, such as the Holocaust Memorial Day or the “FEST DER FREUDE”, the annual celebration of the liberation from Nazi Germany on May 8th 1945. In 2007 she founded the “Backyard – Manufaktur für Film” production company together with her husband Fabian.

Fabian studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and started his career as a cinematographer for TV and motion pictures, before he began to write screenplays and to direct films that focus on actual social topics and political developments. In addition to several screenplays he wrote a couple of articles for newspapers, as well as two novels and a travel narration. A special focus of Fabians work lies on trauma & generations.

Our small production company is based in a backyard close to Vienna’s most famous Naschmarkt. We produced the documentary »Greece in Bloom« at the peak of the Greek debt crisis in 2012. Only two month after the tragedy of Lampedusa on Oct. 3rd 2013, when 366 people drowned a few meters off the European borders, we started to shoot the documentary »Lampedusa – No Island«. Two years later we made a film about Vienna’s »Integrationshaus«, an institution which was founded in the middle 1990’s and which is specialised on the integration and treatment of traumatized unaccompanied minor war refugees. Meanwhile Katharina is the chairwoman of the board of this institution.

We have one adult daughter and two cats.

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Light of Hope

A year ago, on November 8th 2019, we joined the “Light of Hope” – event. Remembering the November Pogroms of 1938 a big crowd of people marched from Vienna’s Heldenplatz (Heroes Square), where Hitler was frenetically welcomed in March ’38, to the Judenplatz (Jewes Square), where the big memorial reminds us to this darkest period of Austrian history.

Most of the Viennese people were convinced german-nationalists and hunted the Jews, deported them, destroyed or stole their property. Many participated in leading functions in the Holocaust-death-factories of the Nazis.

During the night form 8th to 9th November 1938 the manhunt reached it’s peak. After that most of the Viennese Jews, nearly 200.000 people before 1938, disappeared – most of them to the concentration camps Auschwitz, Theresienstadt or Mauthausen.

This night is also know as the “Reichskristallnacht”, which is a highly cynic word. It suggests that all Jews were rich and that the pogrom took just action against their goods – the word “crystal” shall symbolise richness.

This narrative tries to play down the brutal murder. It is one of many words from the Nazi’s narrative which are still in use in the common Austrian language.

We desperately wish that the “Light of Hope” is a sign for a change of the 100 year old tradition of blind extremism end nationalism which roots go far beyond 1938.

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