David Bernet • Director
by Birgit Heidsiek
- Cineuropa got the chance to chat to German filmmaker David Bernet at the IDFA in the Netherlands, where he explained more about his new documentary feature, Democracy
At the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), German director David Bernet will present his feature-length documentary Democracy, which gives an intense insight into the political processes in Brussels and the negotiations on a European data protection act. Tendered by EU Commissioner Viviane Reding in 2012, the European Parliament appointed the German Green Party MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht as rapporteur for the data protection act. On the basis of about 4,000 amendments by various lobbyists, he filed a draft law that is being negotiated by the European Commission, Council and Parliament at the moment.
Cineuropa: What attracted you to making a movie about data protection in the pre-Snowden era?
David Bernet: I had the idea of making a film about the legislation process on the EU level ten years ago and started with my research in Brussels in 2009. When I talked to various EU representatives, they advised me to make a movie about the modern EU and focus on the theme of the digital society. At that time, the publicist of Commissioner Viviane Reding was the first person who said data protection would be the issue of the future.
Do you think that we are being controlled by Google & co?
Many of the so-called “digital natives” are not aware of this at all. They give out their data and feel smart by doing it without realising that they are already rotting in a matrix whose interface is their own computer, smartphone or tablet.If politics doesn’t intervene, this will have huge consequences for civil society. Therefore, data protection is a key issue. With this argument I convinced my producers as well as the broadcasters and film funds that came on board. We were able to start this adventurous project with quite a large budget.
How much time did you spend in Brussels?
Quite a lot because the film follows the legislation process on different levels, so I needed to know exactly what is going to happen when and where. This monitoring took much more time than the shoot. I was in Brussels permanently with my thoughts. Temporarily, I rented an apartment directly behind the Parliament because I assumed that there might be a compromise reached during the Irish EU Council Presidency in the summer of 2013.
In Democracy, Snowden marks a dramatic turning point. Was that similar in reality?
Political processes are complex and not so easily influenced by a single event. But Snowden created an awareness of this issue that didn’t yet exist. It was an epochal change for civil society. Snowden gave this subject a strong boost and influenced the process when the European Parliament got stuck and came to a dead end. Some states made efforts so that the data protection law would fail.
Did you directly witness that?
We watched the delegates, often for hours, in their meetings and filmed them from all different perspectives. This is the political platform where the issues of the future of the EU are negotiated.
Why do you show the EU as a grey kind of world?
It was important for me to break with the classic EU iconography in this film. In the news, there are always the same images of flagpoles, glass facades and limousines arriving in Brussels, which provoke negative stimuli. We chose a different aesthetic and shot in cinemascope. During the editing process, I worked in monochrome because the blues, greys and ochre tones felt kind of distracting to me. This was also the right solution for the film.