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Director Daniel Borgman on His First Month in Berlinale

Robber's Dog director gives us the lowdown on his time at the film festival over September

Director Daniel Borgman on His First Month in Berlinale

Currently in residence at Berlinale, Director Daniel Borgman of Robber’s Dog gives us the low down on his first month residing at the film festival, developing his latest feature and his Kiwi perspective on the cultural delights of bohemian Berlin.

This April I was over the moon to be invited to become one of three directors in residence at Berlinale. Back in 2013 my feature film The Weight of Elephants was screened at the Berlinale Forum which led to me being eligible for the programme and subsequently chosen by the jury this year. Of course, I was not only excited to be exposed to the incredible opportunities provided here but also to be (I believe) the first ever Kiwi to join the programme!

The residency runs from the 1st September - 30th November and aims to give myself, and the two other selected directors (Fernando Eimbcke and Ella Manzheeva), the opportunity to develop our next feature film projects. This is everything from screenplays to production, financing and marketing strategies with the help of some legendary film industry professionals (and one of my personal heroes…!)


The cosy, Danish village where I’m shooting Across The Fields.


A large part of the residence is typically used to give directors the time, space and mentorship to write, but I’m tackling my residency a little differently. My next feature Across The Fields is actually script-less. It’s an art film project set in rural Denmark following the life of an intellectually disabled woman, who lives entirely dependent on her 84 year old mother. I’ve been visiting both women for short periods over the last two years and aim for the film to explore love, dependence and the mind through a mixture of documentation and devised scenes.  As I have not been writing a script, I have been splitting my time between being here in Berlin and shooting in Denmark. The shooting is really my writing process, my camera is the pen and my edits are the revisions and triggers in the story. Each time I edit I use what I have created as inspiration for scenes in the next shoot, continually building and revising until the film creates its own structure.


Pedro Costa’s masterpiece Ossos.


September saw me complete two out of my three shoots planned for the duration of the programme. Whilst editing that material into the expanding film, I’ve been using my time with dedicated mentor, world-renowned script supervisor, Franz Rodencircher to develop the ‘filmed script’. One of the great things about the residency is that they put a lot of focus on partnering you with mentors. The mentorship with Franz has been invaluable to me, helping me dig into the themes of my film and figure out a balance between tone and structure. Around the mentorship I also had the pleasure of meeting Dieter Kosslick, the Head of the Berlin Film Festival who is a wonderfully charismatic guy. I also met Pedro Costa, a master filmmaker from Portugal, who has always been one of my heroes. The chance to have a 4-day master class with him was entirely unforgettable.


Besides the fellowship, Berlin itself has been a wonderful source of creative inspiration. I have also been slowly hunting out Kiwi filmmakers in the city, it’s a second home to many creative New Zealanders, including the likes of Greg King.  The whole place is like a giant village. I live in a dive of a flat in Neukölln, it’s a bed and a desk and it gets no sunlight – it’s all very German minimalist boho - but I’m reading a lot of Hemmingway so I feel OK about it!


Some of the delicious food and traditional restaurants on offer in the city


Nuekölln is said to be the new hip place. But I have a feeling that is about to change, as the artists tend to move on as soon as the rich kids start to move in (think of London’s Shoreditch). But it’s not quite lost its’ magic yet! The quality and variety of culture, music, art and food is outstanding. I’m really into the coffee at Chapter One, a cute little place in Bergmannkiez and if you’re going to Berlin any time soon I’d definitely recommend Wesserstrasse and Pannierstrasse for getting something delicious to eat – especially if you’re a veggie.

But since I’ve been in the city my favourite place is most certainly Tempelhof Park. Now a disused airfield, still complete with a runway and empty airport buildings, there’s a truly interesting disparity between the open, flat, derelict space and the vibrancy of the people who come from all over the city to fly kites, run and have picnics.

The disused Tempeholf Airport

Genre: Storytelling