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Pieces of a discussion

Redaktion
Redaktion

For three days in late March, the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing was the site of an intense discussion on diversity in film. We are letting different voices have their say here — briefly and concisely — in the hope that this will lead to further dialogue, including with those who could not be present.

Pieces of a discussion

We’ll start with the keynote address by Memo Jeftic.

My name is Memo Jeftic. I’m a TV journalist and producer. Memo is my nickname. My first name is really Nemanja, but when I go by it, half of the people in Germany assume I’m a woman, because traditionally only women’s names end in “a” there. “Memo” is also easier to spell, though on the phone people often ask, “Like the fish?” and I correct them by saying, “No, like the yellow sticky note.”

BR Tagung Teilhabeimfilm 25032022 Memojeftic 2

 

Nemanja. How easy it would have been to go by this name if there’d been a famous actor who shared it! Preferably one who was in a popular episode of the Tatort series. Then, whenever I’m introduced, everyone could say, “Nemanja? Cool, like the guy from Tatort.”

Memo Jeftic

But if I were talking to somebody named Werner, wouldn’t I in turn have to say something like, “Werner? Cool, like the guy with the ship?”

Werner. As a teenager, my heart leapt when I heard that Werner Herzog’s mother was from Croatia and that her maiden name was Stipetić. “Itch” as in “Jeftic” is always good. So to me, Werner Herzog was clearly a Yugo. The same goes for Kirk Douglas, whose real name was Issur Danielovitch, and who was also clearly a Yugo to me and my friends. And doesn’t Tom Hanks sound a lot more like a Tomislav Hanković?

It’s not exactly fair to judge the relationship of the German population to people of migrant heritage according to their pronunciation of and familiarity with such names. As a journalist, how often have I wished for an app that could offer the correct pronunciation of foreign names? For this conference, quite a bit.

It was very much the opposite at a party at the Berlinale in 2019 which was attended by those who decide who does and doesn’t get to make films and TV movies. There, dealing with the names was very simple. Very, very simple.

From my observation that evening that ethnic names become rarer the higher one climbs the ladder in the hierarchy of the German cinematic universe — until they disappear completely at the top — came the idea to make my documentary Kino Kanak about diversity in German film. Some of the people who are here today talked about their experiences and aspirations on camera. I have to thank you outright for your courage. Because what the documentary couldn’t depict were all those who didn’t want to go on camera — those who were afraid they’d be labeled as troublesome and not be invited back.

And this at a time when everyone in this industry, without exception, is in favor of more diversity in front of, behind, and inside the camera!

Uh-huh. Because it’s important and because it feels right. “And wasn’t there an article just recently about how series that put diversity front and center are so popular? Share it on Facebook right away!” But articles are easier to share than jobs. I’m surprised that not a single person of migrant heritage has been made the head of a German TV station or the editorial department of a film funding agency, so that they could at least say: “But! we! have! someone!” the next time someone of migrant heritage makes a fuss.

“Migrant” also sounds a little like “migraine”. This is a complicated subject, after all. Guest workers, immigrants, refugees, the question of whether Germany is a country of immigrants at all, at what point is someone German, is it all a matter of projecting the right aura, do we have a problem with an elite like in France, does it matter what the audience wants, what percentage of society constitutes the mainstream, who are the good immigrants, who are the bad ones, how does that relate to skin color, does Islam have a place in German society, why do copyright Germans know five words of Turkish at most — it’s true — and a thousand more questions can be asked if you’re looking for an answer to why diversity in German film is such a complicated subject.

Because it is so complicated, there can be no simple solutions.

That’s why I ask of you: Keep this discussion going. Show solidarity. Don’t keep waiting for permission. Stand up for each other and talk to each other. Films are expensive, and where things are expensive, they’re never fair. Yet we can try to improve things — by having new ideas, taking risks, trying out approaches, and forming alliances.

Making a fuss is something we’re already quite good at.

Memo Jeftic

Keynotes by the BFI Film Fund

 

In addition to many German guests from the industry, Mia Bays, Melanie Hoyes and Agnieszka Moody also visited the conference from London. Here you can watch their keynotes and their panel discussion in English.

Look to diverse talent and underrepresented groups to offer solutions because they have them. And then you turn the tables and look at the institutions who have to be more receptive of diversity to help them realize that when they don’t, they risk not being relevant anymore.

Agnieszka Moody, BFI
BR Tagung Teilhabeimfilm 27032022 Agnieszkamoody
BR Tagung Teilhabeimfilm 26032022 Melaniehoyes 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talent is ever­y­where, oppor­tu­nity is not.

Melanie Hoyes

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