It takes some courage these days to come up with the plan to open up a cinema in Berlin. First there came the multiplexes, then there came the Internet and although I lost track of the number of Berlin cinemas that had to close down in the last twenty years, it’s fair to say that most small cinema owners are struggling nowadays – especially in a town where you can get everything, all the time, all at once. Wolf owner and founder Verena von Stackelberg is an activist, and this year’s theme of 48 Stunden Neukölln couldn’t be more fitting for her ambitious endeavour: courage. Last night, I took a stroll through the improvised interiors of her soon-to-be cinema in the heart of trendy Neukölln and met Verena for a little pre-opening talk.
Wolf has been in the making for the last two-and-a-half years and while I enter the building at the corner of Weser and Wildenbruchstraße, Verena tells me that this place used to be a brothel with the wonderful Neukölln-pre-gentrification name “Zigarre II”. There are holes in the white stucco ceiling and you can see the wooden sub-structure and some straw peeking out, since there used to be a lower ceiling which, like all the inventory, was taken out. Now we are standing in the gutted opening hall that strangely looks like many bars in the neighbourhood: bare walls, an improvised desk made of old doors and the charms of the unfinished welcome me.
“Now’s the time to think cinema differently”, Verena tells me. “The changes that both cinemas and film have undergone in recent times, not least due to the digitalization of the medium, can be seen as a chance, and not only as a disadvantage for us.” She adds: “I am not trying to reinvent the wheel, but in times of crisis and when many cinemas are half empty, it’s a trend to reduce the number of seats to create an atmosphere of intimacy and community again”. Wolf, which opens to the public in 2015, will therefore have two cinema halls with a relatively small number of 50 seats. Asked about her motivation behind a project that might seem idiosyncratic to some, Verena says she wants to give young people a reason to watch films together in a cinema instead of at home and by themselves: “With Wolf I want to create a social space. It is supposed to be a space to hang out, meet friends and get in touch with other people who can inspire you”. She sees Wolf as a place of “give and take”, as an interface of young film enthusiasts, directors, cinephiles and just the curious, a second home, she calls it.
Apart from the regular film programme that will include art films, as well as shorts and experimental programmes, Wolf will therefore also be a project space for filmmakers. “I see Wolf more as a film centre than a pure cinema,”,Verena says, “in the future, if all goes well, there will be workshops and maybe even a little work space where moving images are created. It would be my dream to be able to provide equipment for filmmakers to edit their footage here .” Thinking about the possible future of cinema, Verena quotes director Josephine Decker who talked about seeing herself surrounded by images which would then not only be projected on the screen, but might also be on the walls, the floor or even projected onto the ceiling. The borders of film installation, video art and cinematic projection have become permeable in the last decades, and Verena tries to include as many formats and films as possible, especially those for which it is hard to find a German distributor and therefore are off the radar of the regular film circuit.
As we walk through the rooms and Verena tells me what she imagines the cinema to look like when it opens, she admits that none of her plans for Wolf are cast in stone and that 48 Stunden Neukölln is a test run for the future of her project space. Since over the weekend people will be walking through rather than staying, she has programmed only one feature film for Saturday night: Daisies by the recently deceased pioneer of Czechoslovak avant-garde cinema, Věra Chytilová. This film which doesn’t follow a narrative plot line and feels like a fun punk feminist experiment on speed circles around the friendship of two young women and ends in a food orgy. Verena calls Daisies “snotty and highly un-pc” and therefore chose it as an example of “courage”. Apart from Daisies, Marcin Malaszczak, director of Sieniawka, will present his stunning experimental short Orbitalna which premiered at this year’s Forum Expanded. It can be seen on Friday in a two-hour loop and then Saturday from noon to 9 pm. There will be a Super-8 workshop, a surprise shorts programme and – what a great idea – a “bring your own Super-8” session on Sunday, where everyone can bring their old film cans, have them cleaned and projected at Wolf.
It’s 1 am and a wolf painted on a glass window is looking at me. A friend gave it to Verena and when I look into the eyes of that beast, it strikes me that Wolf is quite possibly the perfect name for this project; at the moment it seems like Verena is the lone wolf, wild and courageous. And yet the expression is misleading and wrong (wolves are pack animals) and if all goes well, the reward will be a group of wild animals howling together – for the next 48 hours and then again for good in 2015. So follow your instinct, taste blood and have a first look this weekend!
Edited by Jörg von Stein
Wolf, Weserstrasse 59/ Wildenbruchstrasse 6, 1205 Berlin-Neukölln
Find the full programme of Wolf during 48 Stunden Neukölln on their website: http://wolfberlin.org/
For regular updates you can follow Wolf on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wolfkino?fref=ts
Find all of what’s happening during 48 Stunden Neukölln on their official website under: http://www.48-stunden-neukoelln.de/en
Film screenings at Wolf (free of charge):
Saturday, June 28, 8 pm (Czech original with English subtitles): Daisies (Sedmikrásky) by Věra Chytilová, Czechoslovakia 1966, 74 min*
Friday, June 27, 8-10 pm (loop) and Saturday noon-9 pm (loop): Orbitalna by Marcin Malaszczak, Poland/ Germany 2014, 25 min (no dialogue)
* The label/ distributor Bildstörung released a digitally remastered version of Věra Chytilová’s masterpiece on DVD and BluRay (limited edition) under the German release title Tausendschönchen. The DVD includes an audio-commentary, a documentary and a 24-page booklet, sound is either German or Czech with optional German subtitles.