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Gernot Roll, Mario Barth, Oliver Berben (photo © 2008 Constantin Film Verleih)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 04/2008

More than ten years ago, German stand-up comedian Mario Barth and colleague Dieter Tappert promised each other that when they hit the big time, they would write a screenplay for a feature film to star in – and whoever was the first one to get an offer would bring the other onboard the project.

In the meantime, Barth and Tappert have both become established figures in the German comedy scene, Barth winning the German Comedy Award on three occasions and being the author of the bestselling book Deutsch-Frau/Frau-Deutsch.

As producer Oliver Berben recalls, plans for the duo’s feature film debut began in earnest two years ago when development of a screenplay began with Constantin Film in Munich.

“The two had been thinking of a story for their first film for some time and we worked very closely together, with influence on my part as far as the film side was concerned and from their side for the comedy elements. Even before they began writing the screenplay, Mario had always wanted Michael Gwisdek to play his father and then we came upon Anja Kling for the girlfriend. The idea of guest roles for Juergen Vogel and Uwe Ochsenknecht also came during the development.”

Barth plays the shop assistant Paul in a pet shop in Berlin, who has dreams of becoming a successful comedian. However, nothing seems to go right until he starts making jokes about his best mate Hotte (Tappert) and girlfriend Susi (Kling). The audience goes wild with excitement, but Hotte and Susi are far from pleased. Paul has to decide – between friendship or career.

Berben stresses that Maennersache (“A Man’s World”) “isn’t a standup comedy show, but rather a film with its own plot. Our aim and desire is to give the audience what they know from Mario and Dieter, but not just that – we want to give them a little more to make that difference!”

He admits that humor is a genre which traditionally finds it hard to travel: “Apart from Jewish humor, this genre is very much a national concern with its own stars in the comedy and stand-up fields. With Mario, for example, he is clearly aiming at a German audience by drawing from his observations from his day-to-day life and what he sees around him.”

“But that doesn’t mean that this humor can’t appeal to other people internationally. The story here in Maennersache isn’t a purely German topic as the logline – ‘two men and a woman, she’s the problem’ – shows. On the one hand, you have the humor dealing with the differences between men and women and then there is a form of self-deprecating humor that is able to laugh about oneself. That’s something that one doesn’t see that often in Germany.”

With two greenhorns in front of the camera, Berben made sure that he had someone experienced behind the camera – and who better than director/DoP Gernot Roll, whose career has managed to combine work on such varying productions as Heimat, Robber Hotzenplotz and Ballermann 8.

“It was my wish from the outset that we had a director with extensive experience both of film und comedy, who was also someone prepared to work with a person like Mario who knows exactly what he wants, but is not necessarily conversant with the technical side,” Berben says, explaining the decision of picking Roll as a co-director for Barth.

Genre Comedy
Category Feature
Year of Production 2008
Directors Gernot Roll, Mario Barth
Screenplay Mario Barth, Dieter Tappert
Cinematography Gernot Roll
Carsten Eder
Florian Lutz
Cast Mario Barth, Dieter Tappert, Michael Gwisdek, Anja Kling
Producers Oliver Berben, Martin Moszkowicz
Production Company Constantin Film Produktion
Shooting Dates Berlin, June - August 2008
Sound Technology Dolby Digital
With backing from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, German Federal Film Fund / DFFF Deutscher Filmförderfonds
German Distributor Constantin Film Verleih

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80802 Munich/Germany
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fax +49-89-44 44 60 666