senses of cinema

A Shared Space at Eye Level: An Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Philip Scheffner
Brigitta Wagner

There is something prescient about the films of Philip Scheffner. While news teams chase down the stories of the moment and documentary opportunists vie to be the first at the hot-topic buffet, Scheffner is the guy who walks in the opposite direction and stands quietly below the basket or beside the goal not knowing but perhaps sensing that the ball will come to him. When it does, he scores a film (or two) that nobody could have anticipated. And just when it matters most. The Halfmoon Files (2007) revisits forgotten POW audio recordings that attest to a complexly multiethnic dimension of World War I Germany. The Day of the Sparrow (2010) examines the curious intersection of ornithology and war, particularly Germany’s role in Afghanistan. Revision (2012) probes the mysterious death of two Roma men along the German-Polish border in 1992, a time of upheaval and xenophobia in the newly unified Germany. Scheffner digs out and methodically uncovers bits of the German past and present that are unsavoury yet essential to a nuanced understanding of German society and its 21st-century web of transnational connections and global responsibilities. And he stands at these excavation sites, not with the impatience of someone who is trying to make waves, but with the tenacity of a researcher, of someone who is in it for the long haul and whose arguments emerge not only within, but also between, films... (full article)