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Hands Off Mississippi (Haende weg von Mississippi)

Hands Off Mississippi
Detlev Buck (center) on the set of “Hands Off Mississippi” (photo © Boje Buck Produktion)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 04/2006

W.C. Fields famously once said "Never work with children and animals", but that didn't deter Detlev Buck from trying his hand at a "children's western" with an adaptation of the novel Haende weg von Mississippi by Germany's answer to J.K. Rowling, Cornelia Funke.

As producer Claus Boje stresses, the decision to make a children's film was "not based on any strategic consideration just because family films are doing so well at the moment. It is rather the case that one is interested in a story, the characters and the atmosphere. It is a challenge to do something new where one is looking at the world from a different perspective, from a child's point of view. That's why one does it."

Adapted for the screen by Maggie Peren and Stefan Schaller, Haende weg von Mississippi tells the story of young Emma (played by Zoe Mannhardt) who comes to her grandmother Dolly's (Katharina Thalbach) for the summer holidays and learns to her horror that a dastardly neighbor – known by Emma and the local children as "the Alligator" – is planning to send his late uncle's horse Mississippi to the knacker's yard. Emma manages with the help of her grandmother and the local vet to buy Mississippi from the "Alligator". But then he is suddenly interested in reversing the sale when it turns out that the horse clearly plays an important role in the late uncle's will...

The film was shot completely on location north of Berlin around the Schaalsee in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern during this summer's heat wave in July and August. "Working with children was quite a new experience," Boje admits. "It is psychologically a different kind of work. The thing was that we were working with both children and animals – with horses, pigs, ducks and they are definitely not like trained actors!"

The production also marked the first collaboration with the young DoP Jana Marsik whose work on shorts and documentaries had come to the attention of the producer and director. "Straightaway, she had the right approach to the subject," Boje recalls. "She understood that it is a film about the summer holidays and the fact that they should never end. She managed to translate this flair of adventure and freedom into images."

Meanwhile, the cooperation with the local authorities and the people in the region ran so smoothly that Boje Buck would not hesitate to return to Roegnitz and the Schaalsee in the future. The local press even announced that the production company would open a branch office there. "We will definitely see if we can find something where we can come back next year," Boje says.

Category Feature
Year of Production 2006
Director Detlev Buck
Screenplay Maggie Peren, Stefan Schaller
Cinematography Jana Marsik
Dirk Grau
Lothar Holler
Cast Zoe Mannhardt, Katharina Thalbach, Christoph Maria Herbst, Hans Löw, Milan Peschel, Alexander Seidel, Konstantin Kaucher, Margit Carstensen
Producer Claus Boje
Production Company Boje Buck Produktion/Berlin, in co-production with ZDF
Format 35 mm, color
Shooting Dates Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, July - August 2006
Sound Technology Dolby Digital
Festivals Giffoni 2007, Kolkata 2008, Havana 2008, Sprockets Toronto 2009
Awards German Film Award 2007 (Best Childrens' Film), Bavarian Film Award 2007 (Best Childrens' & Family Film)
With backing from German Federal Film Board / FFA Filmförderungsanstalt, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, MOIN Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, BKM, Kulturelle Filmfoerderung Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
German Distributor Delphi Filmverleih/Berlin

Boje Buck Produktion GmbH
Claus Boje, Detlev W. Buck, Sonja Schmitt
Kurfuerstendamm 226
10717 Berlin/Germany
phone +49-30-8 85 91 30
fax +49-30-88 59 74 15

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