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VIFF 2016 Interview: GHOSTLAND director Simon Stadler

Ghostland - At #VIFF16
by Jason Whyte

(The following is an abridged version of an interview that I did with Simon Stadler when the film played at the 2016 SxSW Film Festival.)

"GHOSTLAND accompanies a group of Ju/Hoansi bushmen out of the Kalahari to the modern Namibia and Europe. A journey to the world of the 'ghosts' with tables turned: the Ju/Hoansi are no longer the research specimen but the researcher, not the beggar but the teacher. The film is a view on contradiction, a mirror in which we have to face ourselves, that exposes our civilized world as well as our modern rites; an exchange of roles viewed through the eyes of the oldest existing culture on our planet." Director Simon Stadler on GHOSTLAND: THE VIEW OF THE JU/HOANSI which screens at the 2016 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Talk to me a bit about how you got your start in the industry and your previous work!

I am Anthropologist. I studied in South America and Frankfurt, Germany. I financed my studies with work for film productions in Frankfurt as a Unit Manager. After finishing my thesis about the Kogi Tribe in Northern Columbia, I opened Cameleon Film in 1997 to have a platform to express my point of view of the world and to show people the different kinds of realities in the 21st century.

I did a Documentary about crack addicted kids in 2000 called DEVIL CRACK COCAINE and a film about Tango in Buenos Aires entitled CON EL TANGO EN EL CORAZON in 2006 as producer and photographer and as a director a documentary about migrated women in Frankfurt in 2009, called HOME ROOMS.

How did GHOSTLAND come together for you?

A friend of a colleague works for an Organisation in Namibia that supports the traditional tribes of Namibia. They organized a journey for the Ju/Hoansi through their home country. We decided very spontaneously to accompany that trip, which was an unaccustomed experience for the group of formerly hunters and gatherers with the modern world outside the Kalahari.

Additionally, a German foundation invites four of the Ju/Hoansi six months later to Europe for a workshop; that was an unexpected chance for our project to get deeper in the view of them,and a look on ourselves through the eyes of the Ju/'Hoansi.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

At first glance, the experience with different kinds of human beings all around the world and their life circumstances. In the case of GHOSTLAND, once we knew that amazing people and spent so much time with them we were obliged to show everybody the rich reality and values of the Ju/Hoansi and how these are reflected in their perception of our world. Although it was an immense work to do all the translations to select the best pictures and comments after that, it was a satisfying challenge to get our recordings combined. Now, after months and days and nights of discussing, trying and rejecting the result is the essence of their experiences. Now we are only exhausted from three years of too much working, too much smoking, too much coffee and a big lack of sleep.

Sounds very intense! What was your biggest challenge and the most rewarding aspect of it all?

When we were travelling with the Ju/Hoansi to a Himba Village I recognized that it was the first time that these Tribes meet each other and they interact together. It was was an impressing moment to share this first contact. The biggest challenge was to get that close to them to capture their emotions and statements and at the same time to assist them in these unfamiliar situations. A lot of times it was a tough decision between empathy and shooting a film.

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you use to shoot and so forth?

I am the director and the cinematographer! Sometimes it was very difficult to ask the people about their view and filming simultaneously. For this reason we decide to film with Panasonic HVX 201 because with this small camera it was possible to manage the circumstances. For electricity, we had to charge every seven to eight days and we had to go 120 km for the next possibility. From the beginning the concept of GHOSTLAND was to show a neutral and observing perspective. To come that close without disturbing the atmosphere we had to be a small, flexible team. That was the advantage, but at the same time it caused a lot of work for only three people.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

It would be so nice to present GHOSTLAND in the Kalahari, to show the Ju/Hoansi the final result of our work with technical circumstances like in a big theater like in Europe or North America. Because that is not possible, we will fly in April to Namibia with a bed sheet, an electric generator, our laptop and a video projector to show the film to our protagonists.

What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?

Show respect!

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

Don't make it for the money; only passion for films can make you happy in this job.

And finally, what is your all time favorite movie?


Be sure to follow the progress of GHOSTLAND by visiting, on Facebook and on Twitter at @ghostlandmovie!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 29th to October 14th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the VIFF app for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 10/02/16 01:10:13
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