photos: Andrea Hansen.
Hidden amongst other notes hanging from a lamppost, not far from my apartment in Friedrichshain, something caught my eye.
Berlin – the city whose residents communicate via notes:
Apartment-hunters, declarations of love, Weltschmerz, lost teddy bears, the announcement of a party, sometimes also the announcement of a natural home birth and accompanied by a request not to call the police due to the resulting noise. There is nothing that cannot be said in Berlin using this form of communication.
The note that caught my eye was asking for help on an indie movie set.
I felt sick and slightly hungover, and so promptly decided to write them an email, hoping to replace my uncomfortable physical state with a pleasant sort of distraction. Three days later, I found myself in a shabby backyard of a former GDR office near Frankfurter Allee and met Mariana Ivana, the director.
Mariana was sitting on the stone steps in front of the former office, which had since been converted into the principal hub of her film production company. She was wearing hot pants, a black top, and smoking a cigarette.
At first glance, it was clear to me that she was one of those people who are cool in the original sense; meaning totally relaxed with who she was and not even aware of her overwhelming coolness, and, more importantly, didn’t care who would think what about her.
Mariana got me a beer and started talking about the movie.
The movie should reflect the nights in Berlin in which the protagonists lose themselves, hopelessly, whilst trying to find themselves. A feeling I knew quite well. I now believe that getting lost is an indispensable part of the search. Berlin is an ideal place to lose yourself, amongst others who also explore the dark, but shiny side of their lives.
I listened to Mariana talk about the characters as if they were good friends of hers.
As a young filmmaker, she had managed to attract well-established actors for her debut movie.
And I was also quickly convinced that I wanted to help her with this project.
In the meantime, the sun was burning down on us, the beer was empty, and we arranged to meet for the evening.
Around 9 p.m., I arrived in Travestrasse to meet inside her then-boyfriend’s bar. It was cramped and smoky, and there was an atmosphere that gave me the sort of vibe that there didn’t seem to be such a thing as the concept of time.
Mariana was sitting at a corner table with some others and, over a glass of vodka, she told me how she ended up in Berlin years earlier. With Canadian and Croatian roots, she is one of the typical rootless artists of this world. As Alfred de Musset once said, “Great artists have no fatherland.”
I told her in return about my confusing background, my many moves, and we talked about the fact that Berlin seems to be a magnet for those who couldn’t fit in elsewhere – a topic that plays a major role in her movie. We talked about meaning and futility, about the fortune of misfortune, and about the injustice of happiness. About how the extraordinary let themselves be cornered again and again by the ordinary, and about how good it feels to live in a city where the extraordinary are the majority.
This was the first of many conversations with Mariana about the stage of life and its actors.
In the following weeks, I developed PR concepts, checked out possible locations, collected people in Neukölln who were crazy about dancing, and sent them to Griessmühle because we were still missing extras. Time passed and the movie was taking form.
It’s hard to say when exactly Mariana and I became friends. Probably right from the start. We helped each other with nightly moves, strolled over to one of the many flea markets on Sundays, and celebrated our lives.
For the brainstorming sessions, sometimes actors, sometimes photographers were involved, and sometimes it was just the two of us. Too much alcohol was our fuel, which led to terrible hangovers and, supposedly, good ideas.
So, thanks to an inconspicuous note on a lantern, I met one of the most unusual women around me. Mariana Ivana is an artist through and through. You can tell from her highly irritated look whenever anyone talks about their much-hated office job, bragging about how much overtime they have worked for something that means nothing to them – even worse – something they despise. Her total lack of understanding for those who declare the accumulation of material things to be the goal of life instead of, like her, living for art and investing all available time and money in it. Money used only to be able to invest it in a project that is close to your heart and then pay the bills with the rest. The “normals” are the crazy ones to Mariana.
She does not consciously represent this attitude due to a certain morality or politics; no, she really does not understand the meaning of a superficial existence and finds this kind of meaning in life quite strange.
A life that has meaning doesn’t ask for it. And Mariana’s meaning is to make movies.
Artists are observers and collectors. They observe and collect impressions, feelings, and scenes from the world they experience. And then, they make use of this collection and translate it into music, words, and paintings. A melody can tell a story, a painting can trigger deep feelings, and a written sentence can be the photograph of a thought.
As a filmmaker, Mariana combines many of these different artistic skills and creates a total and complete work of art.
If you pause the movie Chasing Paper Birds, each scene could be a beautiful snapshot. If you listen with closed eyes, you find yourself in the music and the voices of a Berlin club.
Of course, I’ve read the script many times; I was sure it would be a good movie. But the result far exceeded my expectations.
Am I biased? Of course! But I’m also genuinely enthusiastic: the typical feeling you get when you think you’ve discovered something before others discover it.
The film “Chasing Paper Birds” can be seen in selected cinemas in Autumn 2021.
Text: Marie F. Trankovits