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Director Jan Hinrik Drevs, DoP Peter Przybylski (photo © Wueste Film/Georges Pauly)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2007

Prepare to have your heartstrings well and truly tugged, if not mightily stretched, by Hundeleben, the latest production from the Hamburg hot shop that is Wueste Film.

Mosk is a violent and unpredictable offender who, against his will, finds himself enrolled in a program for training guide dogs for the blind. A man of few words and much use of his fists, Mosk would rather be weight-training for the prison championship, but the new prison governor, Gloria Cornelius, is determined to make a success of her new re-socialization scheme.

Under threat of being disqualified from competing, Mosk accepts the job and quickly discovers that the methods he uses on himself and his fellow inmates, as well as those outside prison, do not work on a puppy.

Only when the dog, which Mosk still refuses to name, falls seriously ill does he discover his feelings for the animal. From then on, an intense friendship develops between him and the newly named Grappa. But the training is the easy part in comparison to what follows: Mosk has to give up the dog and hand it over to its new owner, Famke. The pain of separation proves too much and Mosk commits an act of desperation.

For producer Stefan Schubert, “good stories are usually simple. But what really impressed us about Drevs’ script was the mixture of strong emotion and exact detail. Because he knows his way around prisons” (a reference to Drevs’ work as a documentarist and not any past misdemeanors!). “Mosk’s growth is genuine and thus moving.”

“This is essentially a true story,” says Schubert’s partner, Ralph Schwingel, “this re-socialization through dog training actually exists in the United States. Our research in various German prisons showed a similar program would be possible, even desirable, here.”

Drevs met the real Mosk, Danny Capaldo, in 2001 while directing a documentary for ARD. “So much love he and the others share with the dogs is something I’ve never seen before,” he says. “The dogs love exactly what inmates hate – routine and rules – and for the inmates they’re an emotional lifesaver.”

But as Hundeleben shows, parting can be more, much more, than sweet sorrow, and “this duality between suppressed and expressed emotion is what,” Drevs adds, “I want to bring to the screen as powerfully as possible.”

Genre Melodrama
Category Feature
Year of Production 2007
Director Jan Hinrik Drevs
Screenplay Jan Hinrik Drevs
Cinematography Peter Przybylski
Nikolai Hartmann
Anke Vorwick
Cast Thomas Sarbacher, Clelia Sarto, Hark Bohm, Ingo Naujoks, Kida Khodr Ramadan, Thorsten Merten
Producers Ralph Schwingel, Stefan Schubert
Production Company Wüste Film/Hamburg, in co-production with NDR/Hamburg
Format 16 mm
Shooting Dates Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein, October - November 2006
With backing from MOIN Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, MSH Schleswig-Holstein, Kuratorium junger deutscher Film

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20357 Hamburg/Germany
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