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BERLINALE 2022 Panorama

Lutz Pehnert • Director of Bettina

“This film brings Bettina’s songs from the past back into the present”


- BERLINALE 2022: The German director returns to Berlin with a sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious take on an artist who never followed the rules

Lutz Pehnert  • Director of Bettina

Singer Bettina Wegner – born in Berlin in 1947 – speaks out, sharing some of her most intimate secrets and struggles, in Bettina [+see also:
film review
interview: Lutz Pehnert
film profile
, a Berlinale Panorama documentary awarded by the FIPRESCI jury (see the news). Lutz Pehnert’s movie is one that celebrates Wegner’s decades-long career, her powerful songs and, most of all, her personality, not to mention her unique sense of humour.

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Cineuropa: The lyrics of her songs are so important here. Would you mind telling us about the translations? How did you try to get them right?
Lutz Pehnert:
When translating, we entrusted the work to the translators and native speakers at Babelfisch Translations. Their concern was not to translate the lyrics literally, though, but rather to find a congenial and poetic equivalent in English. I think that especially in her love songs, you can find a deep and valid experience.

I had never heard of Bettina before. Was the point of this film to reintroduce her a little?
Bettina Wegner was one of the most important songwriters in the 1980s. She was very popular in East and West Germany, but also in Austria and Switzerland. She still has a large following, actually. However, she did her farewell tour in 2007. Since then, she has only appeared every now and then. I would say that this film has two main concerns: on one hand, the idea was to tell people about her exciting life; on the other, it was to bring her songs from the past back into the present.

She is not afraid to discuss her personal life, too, quite ironically and drily. Would you mind saying something about this interview you conducted with her?
Bettina Wegner can also be suspicious, but above all, she is a very open-hearted person. And yes, she does not mince her words and is not shy to talk about the most private things in life. Then again, we live most of our lives privately. If we didn’t talk about it, we wouldn’t have much to say! And that’s how it is with Bettina, too. She tells us how she became the person that she is now.

She doesn’t seem to enjoy talking about herself that much in some of those earlier recordings. Do you think this has changed? She seems much more comfortable in the film.
I can’t really confirm that impression. When she was younger, she was self-confident as well, and today, she is just as insecure and excited as she used to be all those years ago, when she performs in front of her audience. I find that her “current” voice has a great tenderness to it, however, especially when she sings.

When she was in her 20s, she protested against the intervention of the Warsaw Pact states in the former Czechoslovakia and got arrested. Why did you want to include these interrogations in the film?
Because it’s a unique document, a great moment of authenticity. At the time, Bettina Wegner didn’t know that her trial was being recorded. Still, you can clearly hear how such a young and “small” human being defends her beliefs in an uncompromising way and against such a powerful apparatus.

She is very funny – not all activists are, to put it bluntly. Was this something you knew already, or did you discover it now?
Yes, I already knew her before, and I got to know her cheerful and uncomplicated ways during interviews for other films. That was also a reason for making this documentary. A film like Bettina can only be made together with the protagonist.

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