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Daniel Hoesl • Director

“We want to make art and not a product”


- Cineuropa sat down with Austrian filmmaker Daniel Hoesl as he prepared to premiere his latest offering, WINWIN, at Rotterdam

Daniel Hoesl  • Director

Austrian director Daniel Hoesl is back at the International Film Festival Rotterdam for the festival’s 45th edition (27 January–7 February), after his debut, Soldier Jane [+see also:
interview: Daniel Hoesl
film profile
, netted the Hivos Tiger Award in 2013. Without deviating from the central topic of Soldier Jane, his new effort, WINWIN [+see also:
film review
interview: Daniel Hoesl
film profile
, zooms in on capital accumulation, hedge-fund managers, investment banking and billionaires. His comeback to the IFFR was programmed in the ID: The Generic Self sub-section of the Voices section, which explores “the basics of contemporary identity and its dependence on post-global space”.

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Cineuropa: There is a “conspiracy” behind your debut, Soldier Jane, as well as your latest film, WINWIN. What is the European Film Conspiracy?
Daniel Hoesl:
We are a group of friends who make films together because we believe in community, and when we work together, we do it because we want to make the art and not a product. The way we work is that everybody is paid the same – at least on the production side. I mean, firstly, we are a collective, but still everybody has his or her role. I am the director, so I decide what it is going to be, but the hierarchy is pretty level, especially when it comes to payment. We start with the casting; we cast what I call the biography or background, and the backgrounds are mingled into a narrative, which constitutes the basis for the film. Regarding WINWIN, we – as we did on Soldier Jane – firstly met people working in the field: investment bankers, billionaires, hedge-fund managers, media moguls, people working in several branches of banking. They told us their stories, and we wrote them down and started casting people. And surprisingly enough, everybody had some kind of connection to a specific field revolving around the main topic. One example was actress Stephanie Cumming, who grew up in Alberta, Canada, near Fort McMurray, known for its fracking for oil, and she knows a lot about the oil business – how people have no choice but to work in the middle of nowhere, ruining the environment through fracking. She told me plenty of stories I did not know about, and we met many people who told us stories that were not so different, which we eventually compiled and put into the film.

Your Rotterdam-awarded feature debut, Soldier Jane, tackles the theme of money, and you return to it in this film. What is your angle this time?
Generally, the topic is the price of money in our society – money is our main concern. It comes up every time I watch the news. Just recently, a study by Oxfam showed that 62 people own 50% of the world's assets. That scares me – there is this plutocracy that seems to rule our world, and we are at their mercy. Money reigns, and countries and democracies are just key accounts. These things are the driving force behind my interest in questioning the value of money. Investors are recognised as white knights and saviours, but they are frequently pirates, spared of the labour of digging for treasure. Politicians and syndicates run after them to persuade them to give them their companies and treasures, as they do not have solutions themselves. The film is inspired by one specific transaction carried out by an investor who bought the Karstadt chain of stores in Germany for just one euro. 

The billionaires and hedge-fund managers clearly did not impress you – will they recognise themselves in this satire?
We are not allowed to use real names, but I am sure they will attend the premiere in Vienna and recognise themselves and their stories, and they will like the film because they see themselves as the winners. Hardly anything harms them, and they are very smart, even without a college degree – they are much more powerful than the film is. They can get away with virtually anything – even death, though that is hyperbole in the film.

You managed to cast some interesting faces in the main roles.
First of all, I did the casting with Julia Niemann, sending out casting calls and meeting hundreds of people, talking to them, eager to know their backgrounds. After that, Julia and a friend of hers spent time at fancy bars, randomly talking to rich guys. They met this high-position real-estate manager, who is not even an actor but appears in the film. Naturally, we asked people we interviewed whether they wanted to be part of the film, and sometimes they agreed. US film and television actor Jeff Ricketts is, for example, a friend of Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg’s, the lead in Soldier Jane, who happens to live in Vienna. And Christoph Dostal, who is also from Vienna, started his acting career in Austria, then moved to Germany to become a television actor. He starred in an American independent production, and I considered him the perfect match for the role. 

WINWIN has not even begun its run on the festival circuit, but you are already preparing for your third feature, which was actually picked for the official selection at CineMart.
Yes, correct. Vikings centres on a very rich investor, again, living the perfect live with his family, and he has a penchant for hunting, but not wild game. I would describe it as a family-home sniper film, and Ulrich Seidl is producing it. 

It seems you are on fire, creatively speaking. Have you got anything else in the pipeline?
Actually, I am working on two other films, co-writing one with Julia Niemann, entitled Money’s Passion, about the crucifixion of money, while the other is based on a novel that a friend of mine, Magda Woitzuck, wrote, which I will eventually turn into a film. It follows a woman who kills her violent husband and gets away with it.

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