Volker Koepp

Volker Koepp

Darsteller, Regie, Drehbuch, Kamera, Produzent, Produktionsleitung
*22.06.1944 Stettin (heute Polen)

Biography

Volker Koepp, born, June 22, 1944, in Stettin, finished high school in 1962 and graduated from an apprenticeship as a machinist with a skilled worker diploma. He subsequently studied at Technische Universität Dresden's department of fluid mechanics from 1963 to 1965. One year later, he started to study at Deutsche Hochschule für Filmkunst Potsdam-Babelsberg (today: Hochschule für Film "Konrad Wolf") and graduated in 1969 with the documentary film "Sommergäste bei Majakowski" (already finished in 1967) and the documentary film "Wir haben schon eine ganze Stadt gebaut" about a brigade of construction workers on a major construction site.

After finishing an episode of the collective production "Der Oktober kam..." that was headed by Karl Gass in 1970, Koepp focused entirely on documentary films. Still in the same year, he got a permanent position as a director at DEFA studio for documentary films where he worked in the group "dokument" in East Berlin. During this time, Koepp developed his precise "behind the scenes" perspective and his talent to win the trust of the people he portrayed in his films – without ever abusing this trust.

Koepp's films are informed by three main topics: together with the writers Wera and Claus Küchenmeister, he made a series of film essays about people who have in common their connection to the working-class movement and to antifascism: "Teddy" (1973) about the youth of KPD leader Thälmann, "Slatan Dudow" (1974) about the marxist filmmaker, "Er könnte ja heute nicht schweigen" (1975) about the poet Erich Weinert, and "Ich erinnere mich noch" (1977) about the antifascist Walter Hähnel.

Simultaneously, Koepp started an ambitious long-term project in 1974: Together with his cinematographer Christian Lehmann, he followed the development of several young female workers in the hosiery factory "Ernst Lück" in Wittstock – and distilled exemplary conflicts and problems of everyday life in the GDR from it. After four single short documentary films, including "Mädchen in Wittstock" that won the Interfilm award at the 1975 Berlinale, Koepp finished this cycle in 1984 for the time being with the long, summarizing documentary film "Leben in Wittstock".

In 1976, Koepp and Lehmann started a series of "landscape films" in collaboration with the writer Gotthold Gloger. Already with the first film of the series, "Das weite Feld" (1976), Koepp avoided to obstruct his access to the filmed persons and landscapes with an in advance developed screen play. Furthermore, he refused any explanatory commentary. One distinguishing quality of his films is the fact that Koepp despite his extreme constraint never withdrew into a distance without prospects. "The author's attitude and his standpoint have to be in the material itself", Koepp described his artistic approach.

For his documentary film "Feuerland", Koepp worked for the first time with cinematographer Thomas Plenert – the starting point of collaboration that lasts until today: Since then, Plenert has filmed nearly all of Koepp's film and has effectively emphasized Koepp"s narrative style with his camera work. In 1988/89, Koepp finished "Märkische Ziegel", a report about a brickyard in Zehnedick where workers still did nearly the same hard physical labour as their predecessors did 100 years ago. Vast parts of the film were banned in the GDR. Two years later – after the German reunification – Koepp made the film "Märkische Gesellschaft mbH" at the same place that had fundamentally changed in the meantime: The hard labour had been replaced by paralyzing unemployment.

During the following years, Koepp stayed true to his controversial topics: After the end of the Cold War, he finished "Die Wismut", a film that sheds an unadorned view on uranium mining in the Ore Mountains and on the merciless wear and tear of man and nature. The film won the award of German film critics in 1993. Furthermore, Koepp kept a focus on Wittstock: "Neues aus Wittstock" (1990 to 1992) was filmed under aggravated conditions. The company did not allow the team to film inside the factory, and the women who still worked there were unwilling to be interviewed for the film. Finally, "Wittstock, Wittstock" (1997) that won the award of German film critics in 1998 presented the women who although they had lost their familiar social connections had not become totally pessimistic but assessed the new situation with a healthy dose of skepticism and criticism.

Koepp then tapped into a new landscape with "Kalte Heimat" ("Cold Homeland"), a film that tells from the everyday life of a Russian German family that had relocated from Kazakhstan to East Prussia. In compliance with Koepp's artistic standpoint, he went without the translation of the answers that were mainly given in Russian language – a radical decision that nevertheless worked because the sensitivities of the people were strongly conveyed by the images. "Herr Zwilling und Frau Zuckermann" (1998), a moving portrait of the two last surviving jews in Czernowitz, won the German film award as "Best documentary film" in 1999 and also won the main award at the well-known Nyon documentary film festival in 1999.

With "Die Gilge" (1999) und "Kurische Nehrung" (2000), Koepp returned once more to East Prussia. In "Uckermark" (2001), he again investigated the change of conditions after the German reunification in a Brandenburg area. "Dieses Jahr in Czernowitz" ("This Year in in Czernowitz", 2004), a sequel to "Herr Zwilling und Frau Zuckermann", documented his second visit to the Ukrainian city when Koepp was accompanied by former emigrants.

In his following films, Koepp further dealt with remote but historical important sections of the country and the repercussions social and political changes had and have on its inhabitants: "Pommerland" (2005), for instance, presented the picturesque Polish region Pomerania as an area that most of the young people have left and that has an unemployment rate of up to 75 percent. "Holunderblüte" ("Elder Blossom", 2007) is a portray of a group of children from the region of Kaliningrad who have not lost their optimism despite the extremely difficult conditions under which they grow up. "Holunderblüte" won the Grand Prize at the festival "Cinéma du Réel" in Paris and was named Best Documentary at the Preis der deutschen Filmkritik.

Koepp next made the TV documentary "Memelland" (2008) and contributed to the omnibus documentary project "24 h Berlin - Ein Tag im Leben" (2009, TV). Following the theatrical release "Berlin-Stettin" (2009), he directed the segment "Im Wind" for the TV documentary "20 x Brandenburg" (2010) and portrayed the eponymous Baltic region in "Livland" (2012, TV).

2013 saw the premiere of Koepp's documentary "In Sarmatien", in which he focuses on the vast Eastern-European landscape that was known as Sarmatien in ancient times. In 2014, the now 70-years-old Koepp received the lifetime achievement award at the International Film Festival Amiens. The same year, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

His next feature, the documentary "Landstück" ("Piece of Land"), premiered at the 2016 Berlin IFF.

Filmography

2015/2016 Landstück
Director, Screenplay, Producer
 
2013 In Sarmatien
Director, Screenplay
 
2011/2012 Livland
Director, Screenplay, Producer
 
2009 Berlin-Stettin
Director, Screenplay
 
2008/2009 24 h Berlin - Ein Tag im Leben
Director
 
2008 Gitti
Unit production manager
 
2007/2008 Memelland
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Interviews
 
2006/2007 Holunderblüte
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Producer
 
2006/2007 Söhne
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Interviews
 
2005 Schattenland - Reise nach Masuren
Director, Screenplay, Producer
 
2004/2005 Pommerland
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Interviews
 
2003/2004 Dieses Jahr in Czernowitz
Director, Screenplay
 
2001/2002 Uckermark
Director, Screenplay
 
2000/2001 Kurische Nehrung
Director, Screenplay
 
1998/1999 Herr Zwilling und Frau Zuckermann
Director, Screenplay
 
1998/1999 Der letzte Dokumentarfilm
Participation
 
1998 Die Gilge
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary, Interviews
 
1998 Frankfurt oder Frankfurt. Zwei Städte, zwei Autoren, ein Land
Director, Screenplay
 
1997 Playboys
Cast
 
1997 Das 7. Jahr - Ansichten zur Lage der Nation
Director
 
1996/1997 Wittstock, Wittstock
Director, Screenplay
 
1996 Die Sache mit der Realität. Eine Collage über den Dokumentarfilm.
Participation
 
1995/1996 Fremde Ufer
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary, Interviews
 
1994/1995 Kalte Heimat
Director, Screenplay, Interviews
 
1993/1994 Oben - Unten
Cast
 
1993 Die Wismut
Director, Screenplay, Commentary, Interviews
 
1993 Ein Landfilm
Director, Screenplay
 
1993 Das Rad
Director, Screenplay
 
1992/1993 Der DEFA-Komplex: 2. Von den Helden der herrschenden Klasse
Participation
 
1991/1992 Sammelsurium. Ein ostelbischer Kulturfilm
Director, Screenplay
 
1991 In Grüneberg
Director, Screenplay
 
1991 In Karlshorst
Director, Screenplay
 
1990/1991 Märkische Gesellschaft mbH
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1990-1992 Neues in Wittstock
Director, Screenplay
 
1990 Märkische Heide, Märkischer Sand
Director, Screenplay
 
1989/1990 Arkona, Rethra, Vineta. Eine Reise zu versunkenen Orten
Director, Screenplay, Commentary, Interviews
 
1988/1989 Märkische Ziegel
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1987/1988 Feuerland
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1986 Die F96
Director, Screenplay
 
1986 An der Unstrut
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1985 Afghanistan 1362 - Erinnerungen an eine Reise
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1984 Leben in Wittstock
Participation, Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1983 Alle Tiere sind schön da
Director, Screenplay
 
1982 DEFA KINOBOX [Jg. 1982 / Nr. 14]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1982 DEFA KINOBOX [Jg. 1982 / Nr. 14]
Director, Screenplay
 
1982 In Rheinsberg
Director, Screenplay
 
1981 Leben und Weben
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1980 Haus und Hof
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1979 Tag für Tag
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1978 Am Fluß
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1978 Wittstock III
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1977 Ich erinnere mich noch
Director, Screenplay
 
1977 Hütes-Film
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1976 Das weite Feld
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1976 Wieder in Wittstock
Voice, Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1975 Er könnte ja heute nicht schweigen
Director, Screenplay
 
1974/1975 Mädchen in Wittstock
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1974/1975 Aus meiner Kindheit
Scenario
 
1974 Slatan Dudow. Ein Filmessay über einen marxistischen Künstler
Screenplay
 
1973 Teddy
Director, Screenplay
 
1973 Gustav J.
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1972/1973 Musik in Scheiben
Commentary
 
1972 Grüße aus Sarmatien für den Dichter Johannes Bobrowski
Director, Screenplay
 
1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 10]
Director
 
1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 08]
Director
 
1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 06]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 05]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 04]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971/1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 03]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971/1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 02]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971/1972 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1972 / Folge 01]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1971 / Folge 12]
Director, Screenplay
 
1971 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1971 / Folge 11]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1971 / Folge 10]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971 Schuldner
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971 Treffpunkt Kino [Jg. 1971 / Folge 12]
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1971 Frankfurter Tor
Director, Screenplay
 
1970 Junge Leute
Director, Screenplay, Commentary
 
1970 Der Oktober kam ...
Director
 
1970 Die Rolle des Meisters im System der sozialistischen Betriebswirtschaft
Director, Screenplay
 
1968 Wir haben schon eine ganze Stadt gebaut
Director
 
1967 Sommergäste bei Majakowski
Director, Director of photography