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To go to the moon

Happy Landings!
After nearly two weeks of travelling and working together daily, it was time for Davorin to return to NZ. On the train back to Munich for his long-haul flight home, and for my free accommodation and phone, we shot pieces to camera on the train, as we’d done on the way to Berlin. Miraculously again we had a compartment to ourselves and very little extraneous noise, and this time I was much more relaxed and natural. We were both much happier with the result than we’d been 8 days earlier!

My plan was to stay on a few weeks, and to track down more people I wanted to interview for the film. We’d always known that while this short 2009 trip would provide good footage, we’d need to return to Germany in 2010 to complete the film, in particular the major interviews – which might stretch over all Germany and possibly into France or other parts of Europe. Another part of the plan was to make contact with the various German doco people I’d met in NZ once they were back in Germany, to explore possibilities for producers and funding…

An unexpectedly bonus was when the wonderful Dr Grit Lemke (of Dok Leipzig, and guest at DocNZ 09) told me of her experiences in the October 1989 meetings in Leipzig, where people put their lives at risk to protest – and agreed to tell her story on camera too.

The time in Munich was expected to be a useful energy recovery break, along with research and contact-making. But it became clear rapidly that none of my many close friends there from the 1990s would be content with one reunion meeting only… But I did not expect meeting up with them to yield a number of personal stories I’d not heard before – ones highly appropriate for our film!

Davorin had left me his little home handycam, so that I could do sample “test” interviews with people, to get an idea of how they might appear on screen. I was surprised (and encouraged) to find that everyone I “tested” in this way turned out to be really good on camera – with the few who were hesitant and a little uneasy speaking in English unstoppable when encouraged to speak in their first language! I also learnt the inestimable value of having an efficient and confident translator (Jessica Kellner – brilliant!) when talking with someone not fluent in English.

But the key contact I wanted for the film was of course Martin, my Kiwi friend resident in Germany since 1987. But when you’ve not been in touch for over a decade, and his losing touch woith all his Kiwi friends was the result of a difficult episode, you really have no idea of what reception you might receive! And he’d not answered any of my emails from NZ… And I was terrified he’d think I was only making contact again because I wanted him for my film… How could he not?

The first half-hour of our first meeting – dinner at his house – was naturally a little stiff… But then I was genuinely greatly pleased to find that he’d recently got back into making music again (his original purpose in going to Berlin 22 years earlier), writing new songs and recording CDs. By the end of that night I’d built up the nerve to ask him if he’d be interested in writing music for our film. He seemed keen. By the end of my third visit, a month later, we’d listened to a lot of music together and drunk some damn fine whiskey – and he told me he’d be keen to tell me on camera his stories of his brushes with the Stasi, the East German secret police, while having a somewhat illicit “relationship” with an East Berlin woman before the Wall’s collapse.

I knew I already had enough confirmed material to make a good film, but I also knew that Martin’s contribution could lift it into something special. And to have reconnected in a genuine way, to have reforged a friendship in the process as well is bloody brilliant!

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