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Wladimir Kaminer, Matthias Schweighöfer (photo © Black Forest Films/Stephan Rabold)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2011

In 2002, producer Christoph Hahnheiser had just moved to Berlin when two friends gave him Wladimir Kaminer's bestseller Russendisko as a way of introducing him to life in the big city.

“In the early 90s, it was a city which was probably one of the most exciting places in the world and a time when the events in Berlin played an important role, both for Germany and the world, and made the capital into an international metropolis which attracts people from all around the world,” Hahnheiser recalls. “Everything changed extremely rapidly in Berlin after the fall of the Wall and this exciting and wonderful world is described by Kaminer in RUSSENDISKO with his own particular humor.”

At the same time, he notes that it was “a challenge to transfer the 52 stories from the book into a film story that would present the magic of a modern city fairytale.”

After nine years of development and 10 screenwriters, production began in mid-March and wrapped at the end of May on an adaptation by Oliver Ziegenbalg whose previous credits include FRIENDSHIP! and 1½ RITTER.

The ‘fish out of water’ comedy follows the adventures of Wladimir and his two friends, Mischa and Andrej, three young men from Moscow who come to Berlin in a lucky wave of emigration right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They take their chance looking for a better life and encounter all of the strangeness of a new world and Berlin with the spirit of the early 90s.

“Originally, we thought it would be more of a studio-based film,” Hahnheiser explains. “But, in fact, we are mostly on location and even have Berlin-Gropiusstadt standing in for part of Moscow!”

“At the same time, Oliver’s screenplay made it clear that the film would be a modern city fairytale where Wladimir’s world is both larger than life and romanticized. We wanted to keep this particular aesthetic in both the film's camerawork and production design, and the DoP Tetsuo Nagata and production designer Christian M. Goldbeck are the right people to create that special kind of poetry on screen.”

Genre Comedy
Category Feature
Director Oliver Ziegenbalg
Screenplay Oliver Ziegenbalg
Cinematography Tetsuo Nagata
Cast Matthias Schweighöfer, Friedrich Mücke, Christian Friedel, Peri Baumeister, Susanne Bormann, Pheline Roggan, Rainer Bock, Imogen Kogge
Producers Christoph Hahnheiser, Arthur Cohn
Production Company Black Forest Films/Berlin, in co-production with SevenPictures Film
Shooting Dates March-May 2011
With backing from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, German Federal Film Fund / DFFF Deutscher Filmförderfonds, German Federal Film Board / FFA Filmförderungsanstalt, Creative Europe MEDIA

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