Locarno Film Festival 2019
Elsa Kremser & Levin Peter
AUSTRIA / GERMANY
Laika, a stray dog, was the first living being to be sent into space and thus to a certain death. A legend says that she returned to Earth as a ghost and still roams the streets of Moscow alongside her free-drifting descendants.
Hi Elsa & Levin, thanks for talking to TNC, how are you doing?
Fine and we’re really excited to celebrate our SPACE DOGS world premiere on Friday.
What does it mean to you to be at Locarno Film Festival with Space Dogs?
After four years of work, full of encounters with stray dogs, dusty Russian Archives and several nerve-racking situations during the production, we are really proud to present our film at the wonderful “Filmmakers of the Present” Competition in Locarno. We are really proud to be part of it. For sure Locarno is the most radical festival among the majors, so we think SPACE DOGS really has a great setting there.
Does being in the Concorse Cineasti Del Presente add any additional pressure on you?
Actually, we just feel glad about being part of it, as it is one of our favourite festival sections out there.
Do you ever get nervous sharing your films with festival audiences?
Of course, we’re very excited to catch the reactions of the audience during the screening. But in fact, for us, this is the moment to let the film go – to finally give it out of our control. In the case of SPACE DOGS, we will definitely confront the audience with controversial and sometimes brutal scenes. The effect of those scenes screened in a large cinema, cannot be tested mentally before.
What is it about documentary as a genre that really interested you as a filmmaker?
Definitely the shooting itself. You always stay alert, the film might change itself from the inside at during shooting, but also during the editing. This is something we really enjoy about making documentaries. We think that a good documentary at a certain point grows beyond the directors' ideas, so to speak, that it becomes independent from the initial idea.
Can you tell me a little bit about Space Dogs, what can we expect?
The Italian film critic Eugenio Renzi wrote a beautiful essay about SPACE DOGS, where he says, that the dogs force the film to be as unpredictable as a wild animal. And we agree, you can expect something wild and cosmic.
What was it about Laika’s story and history that inspired to want to make this film?
It was during the research, were we first learned that Laika had been a street dog. Hundreds of dogs were taken from the street and trained. Laika had lived on the street for two years. Could it be that her descendants still roam the streets today? What happened to the creature, now beyond animate space, at the moment when its body was burnt up and scattered into nothingness? Scientists explained to us that the particles do indeed sink slowly to Earth. This can take up to sixty or even a hundred years. In this moment the illuminating idea of Laika‘s spirit on the streets of Moscow came to us.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Space Dogs to the screen?
The biggest challenge over the four years was to keep the conviction that you can make a staggering 90-minute long film, in which dogs are the main characters.
"What SPACE DOGS always was for us, is the confrontation with what a street dog really is."
How important is creative collaboration when making a film like this?
No doubt about that. We just have to thank all our amazing collaborators… of course the shooting team who spend months with us on the night streets of Moscow, running behind our pack of dogs. But of course, also all the other phases of the production, have been characterised by highly creative cooperation with our team members.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
One could point it like that.
What was the first film you worked on?
The two of us met in the second year of our film studies. Actually not only the two of us but also the DOP Yunus Roy Imer, one of the editors Stephan Bechinger and the composer John Gürtler. Our first collaboration was the documentary SONOR in 2010. It was shot on 16mm in black/white and edited analogue on a Steenbeck.
Has your approach to your films changed much since your debut?
SPACE DOGS is Elsa’s directing debut, so everything was new in that case. For Levin, it's the first work within a "directorial duo", so it's all turned upside down for both of us.
Do you have any advice or tips for any emerging filmmakers?
We now discussed for 15 minutes what advice or tips we would have… but the only honest answer, even though it might sound frustrating, is that we don’t have one.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Space Dog?
A true encounter with another species. So to speak an "anti-animal-movie". What SPACE DOGS always was for us, is the confrontation with what a street dog really is. Unpredictable and actually a wild animal.