A Sunday in the Country: Liepe

On the 7th day the goddess of film looked back on what she created over the last days. She saw some wonderful people, she heard from them ideas and plans for something called “Future”, and she saw exciting things they created for a room they called “cinema”. So, she was satisfied and thought she should do something great. She created food, invented the schnaps and added some cute animals (a cat) to cuddle. Last but not least, she called this part of the world “Liepe” and this very special day “SUNDAY”.

Florian Weghorn

The third edition of the Sunday in the Country in 2016, supported by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, took place in a picturesque village called Liepe in the Havelland region. Known to as one of the darkest areas in Germany, rather than being grim, it’s actually floodlit by the starry sky’s luminescence. A curious soul trying to look for it on Google maps would be doomed to failure and inevitably sent to its bigger namesake on the other side of Berlin. EFA’s annual meetings of young European filmmakers earned their name by making countrysides and secluded locations their essential ingredients. Lack of cell phone reception, limited access to technology, shared common spaces and openness to collective experience are the necessary elements of every Sunday in the Country with EFA. As Nikola Joetze – the event's co-ordinator since 2003 - explains:

Such conditions are necessary to facilitate the exchange of energy, creativity, experience. They also help participants to recharge the batteries. Every time we are about to begin I’m worried: Is it going to work out this time? This crazy gathering of different people? If you organise a regular party - a DJ, some food and alcohol already constitute half of what you need. There are buttons that you can push. You can't design such conditions to facilitate friendship or create a family-like atmosphere. But it works over and over again, since our participants share space, time and knowledge with people who have been through similar things. There's a language that they share.

The schedule for the weekend is kept loose but within particular constraints. Some groups like to sleep longer, tell stories and dance by the bonfire till the early morning, others tend to dissolve into group screenings, analyzing each other's work. Every Sunday in the Country has its unique rhythm, although it follows a few principles that are mostly kept secret, so they can surprise the participants and shape initial interactions. Nikola lets us have a sneak-peak into one of those:

It starts with a toast. We try to distract them and take it as far as possible from the self-presentation. Everyone brings alcohol from their own country or the one that somehow connects with their lives. So, they have drinks, make toasts and tell stories of these particular alcohols. There’s one toast a person. First those alcohols are introduced and then we put them in the bar for everyone to use.

Life is like a box of chocolates and you all were a very tasty selection! Thank you for a wonderful time with so many touching and memorable toasts! Thank you for connecting unique and exciting people, creating the perfect setting for deep conversations and funny moments that led to new friendships! (or a new family). EFA, you are awesome! Keep rolling!
Love, Steffi / The Trouble Notes

Another organising factor, and one that is not being kept as a secret, is the presence of the mentors. In spite of the authority invested in the idea of the mentoring itself, our respected guests come to the country as more experienced colleagues who join the participants during their daily activities, talks and festivities. It's all about finding encouragement, opening yourself up for other points of view, sharing your work with someone you respect. In Liepe, there was EFA director Marion Döring offering insights into the industry and festival circuit, Berlinale Talents' manager Florian Weghorn and director Volker Schlöndorff leading the line-up:

Nikola Joetze: Volker Schlöndorff came on Saturday and we went for a walk together, because we wanted to avoid a noble table discussion. We had a toast with him and he told us about actors. Speaking with his whole body, he gave a speech of appreciation for the actor - a difficult and unvalued role. I filled the glass with mineral water at some point and you could hear its echo. Everyone was silent, as if a guru was speaking. There was nothing you could add. It was a “Dead Poets Society” moment.

Dear people, dear friends,

As a French girl, coming from the East Side of the country – Alsace - I discovered Volker Schlöndorff in the early years of high school. It was so huge to watch THE TIN DRUM – the first “monument” that gave me the feeling of the “History” and “Destiny”, something bigger than me. So, I moved to Germany (Berlin) to become a student in political science exactly one day after the events of 11 September 2001.

Finally, after covering a long way, I became a filmmaker because of my relation to Germany. It was just a great conversation to have during this weekend in the country in Brandenburg with Volker Schlöndorff and other guys that were invited. I just want to say thank you. I’m honoured and feel strong emotions.

Aline Fischer

The participants are chosen in a twofold manner. Some are proposed by the national film institutes and partners with whom our excursions are being organized, some the EFA team just bumps into on the way, feeling that they would add something unique to the group. There’s always an inspiring diversity among participants coming from all corners of Europe – youngest were in their early twenties, oldest in mid-forties, they’re often directors, but also actors, producers or cinematographers, dealing both with documentary and fiction, making shorts and full-features.

This year the group consisted of 12 participants:

  • Aline Fischer, France
  • Bernadette Knoller, Germany
  • Conor Barry, Ireland
  • Hamy Ramezan, Finland
  • Joanna Szymańska, Poland
  • Leonie Krippendorff, Germany
  • Margarita Melià Rigo, Spain
  • Nerma Mehadzic, Croatia
  • Ondrej Hudecek, Czech Republic
  • Patrick Vollrath, Austria
  • Rudolph Herzog, Germany
  • Vytautas Puidokas, Lithuania

They all had an opportunity to share their work with each other, discuss it, analyse and exchange impressions. However, the environment that the Sunday in the Country provides is not school-like, the purpose of that exchange is not evaluation but mutual help. For Nikola, this is one of the weekend’s highlights and as loose as the program itself often becomes, it always finds its way in:

I always make people show their work even if they don’t want to. This is the way of introducing themselves, coping with the group that is open and willing to listen. It’s usually good for them. There’s a different level of connection and speaking to each other after seeing those films. On the first night, people who seem more alike stick together, on the second, they usually hang out more with people that they connected with through their works. They have a very special connection, a type of intimacy that is developed through similar experiences. Something that we, as organisers, will never have with them.

Having so much talent in one room, good and enjoyable people, Volker Schlöndorff crying and some awesome alcohol included, what could possibly go wrong? Thank you for making this happen! Always in my heart!


And if anyone wondered, on the actual Sunday, concluding this edition of the Sunday in the Country, participants hit the waterfront and took a boat trip with live-music, delivered by the invited band – The Trouble Notes. On the boat meant for approx. 120 passengers, our 12 participants, mentors and the band drifted into the sunset, with people on the river banks snapping photos and dancing to the music. Therefore, our filmmakers became subjects for other people’s lenses, actors of sorts, in an embodied punchline to Volker’s story.

Somewhere here [Sunday in the Country memory book] I read about “humiliation” followed by the enigmatic list of wonderful films… I don’t know what they meant by this during the Polish summer of 2014… but I felt totally humiliated myself last night by not being able to pass on some of my own experiences to this group of avidly listening youngsters.

How to find words to speak about working with actors!?! The intimate, heartbreaking and fate breeding experience … 55 years of making and dreaming and hustling and “orgasming” while waiting, processing, shooting, editing, spotting music. What a unique trade and craft is ours, all the wonderful people and how we meet each other. A line in my new film RETURN TO MONTAUK says: “You don’t only dream in your books / aka films / you dream in your life!”. Well yes, I do, and I did during this weekend. Thank you all. Thanks EFA, thanks Marion for dragging me here – and away from here.

Volker Schlöndorff

Life should consist mostly of weekends like this. Thank you people. And animals.