AN INTERVIEW WITH CLARISSA THIEME ABOUT ‚CAN’T YOU SEE THEM?-REPEAT.‘

Let us introduce you to the German director Clarissa Thieme, who participated in this year’s Berlinale Shorts competition.

An artist and filmmaker born in Oldenburg, Germany in 1976, she studied media art at the Berlin University of the Arts and then took a master’s in cultural studies and aesthetic practice at the University of Hildesheim. Her work in film and photography, as well as in performance and text, combines documentary and fictional forms and focuses in diverse contexts on processes of memory, the politics of identity and strategies of translation.

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Clarissa Thieme

Sarajevo during the siege in 1992: A group of armed men walks along the banks of the river Miljacka. One man is led away, and the group crosses the river. The neighbouring Grbavica district is about to be taken by the Serbs. The footage was shot by a man from an apartment in an adjacent skyscraper without knowing who the armed men were. Are they Serbs, Bosniaks? His camera wobbles, searches, pursues and retreats. The artist Clarissa Thieme finds the man who shot the film and has him once again recount how it happened. Using a motion tracking program, she performs a metadata analysis of the original clip and calculates the camera’s position and movement. She feeds this data into a motion control system that projects light onto a screen. Light that moves, changes direction, trembles. From the interplay between narration, documentary material and light projected onto a screen, a resonance corpus is created: a body full of fear and anxiety, a body injured in war. A body that now can be experienced. Memory becomes tangible and visible. The trauma ascends from the skyscraper onto the screen and reaches the audience.

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Can’t you see them? – Repeat. by Clarissa Thieme

What is your ambition in the film?

That you connect in a non intellectual, emotional way with an experience that I hope is not yours. My film circles around the anxiety, restlessness and helplessness of someone finding himself in a situation of war. Nedim Alikadic shot a video clip in Sarajevo, May 2, 1992 during the Bosnian war. His hectic camera tries to capture men in a distance not knowing if they are allies or a threat or what the situation he witnesses is about. His video is universal. There are too many. Most likely someone right now is shooting another one. I tried translating this traumatic moment already knowing I would fail. Using motion tracking I transferred the camera movement from Sarajevo 1992 to a light projecting motion control system looping the exact camera movement, trembling, stuttering – embodying a trauma that keeps on running whether we are staying with it or turning away. I would like you to stay.

What do you like about the short form?

I believe each film has its specific form. And as an artist or a filmmaker it’s your job to find that specific form. I have a playful fascination for genre but certain time slots an industry agreed on make no sense to me artistically. Saying that I am naturally in love with all forms beyond the norm of feature films. The long long movies that expand your filmic experience and of course the shorts too where you still can find a lot of courage to experiment. Shorts can be a carte blanche well used and I am always happy to watch that. But in the best of all cases it is like poetry, each one a precise language on its own speaking to you directly.

What are your future plans?

I am developing a feature film, STIMMEN (VOICES) about an idyllic resort at the sea hunted by the voices of its past when it was a refugee shelter (produced by Caroline Kirberg with pong film).
I just came back from Chemnitz for my project WEITER WAR NICHTS IST NICHTS (engl!) in collaboration with performing artist Tanja Krone. Tanja and me are one generation her coming from East Germany and me from West. The project resulting into different artistic formats raises our question what actually happened around 1989 with the fall of the wall until nowadays and how we tell each other our past(s) and present(s).
Last but not least there will be two new projects bringing me back to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the documentary WHAT REMAINS / REVISTED and a new project in collaboration with the Library Hamdija Kresevljakovic Video Arhiv where I already developed my current film CAN‘T YOU SEE THEM? – REPEAT.

24 films from 17 countries have competed for the Golden and Silver Bear, the Audi Short Film Award, endowed with 20,000 euros, and a nomination as “Berlin Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards 2019”.

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