The filmmaker's distinctive look

16: 9 – Four TVs in the Fern: Filmmaking Reports
Forfatter: Elke Werry
Forlag: Mühlbeyer Filmbuchverlag (Tyskland)
REGI: Filmmaker Elke Werry has traveled to distant corners and realized documentary film projects for over thirty years.


Elke Werry's book, with the movie format title 16: 9 – Four TVs in the Fern: Filmmaking Reports ("Out in the World of Television: Reports on Film Production"), is easy to read and straight forward in style. We meet Werry in person as narrator and female documentary filmmaker with bones in the nose – tough and daring. She takes challenges on the straight arm. The book talks about the desire to discover foreign cultures and to thrill the audience with what is still undiscovered in the world.

Driven by curiosity and eagerness for more than thirty years, Werry has traveled and realized documentary film projects on all continents except Australia. She has produced documentaries for major German and international TV channels, including Arte, NDR, 3-Sat and Telepool. The film format 16: 9 is Werry's distinctive view of the world, hence the book's title. 16: 9 is an internationally valid wide format that provides an intense viewing experience, she claims.

The interest in adventure and all that was foreign was present at Elke Werry as early as childhood. She loved hearing stories from unknown lands and exotic cultures. As a little girl, she hid in people's private bathroom cabinets to find out what kind of cream they lubricated their hands with, what they used to cut nails, how their perfumes smelled, and what kind of pills they took. Later, it was primarily the interest of strangers, their habits, way of life, customs and traditions that fueled Werry's exploration drive.

Werry wants to arouse enthusiasm for what is different.

Werry (born 1957 in Ludwigshafen, living in Heidelberg) studied art history and German history in the city of Heidelberg in southern Germany. During her studies, she was bitten by the documentary film virus and preferred to start as a film producer instead of working as an art historian at a museum. Werry became assistant to journalist and television producer Hans – Jürgen Weineck. Here she did most of the learning from the bottom up: washing, assisting, writing texts, organizing, conducting research. Finally, she was allowed to handle the camera and film herself. The movie adventure begins with learning å se, says Werry.


The book presents an exotic selection of places where Werry has filmed – mostly far out of the ordinary. The reader becomes familiar with the stories behind the protagonists in the documentaries: We experience smells, shamans, foreign landscapes, primeval horses in Mongolia and challenging living conditions for nomads. For Werry, meeting people who are different from us in Europe and the West is paramount. She also praises the community and unity of her own film team, especially during challenging film production processes and climatically difficult production conditions. Werry is a screenwriter, film producer and camera woman. In the production process, she relies on professional camera professionals, sound engineers, mowers and musicians; These are also close friends who support the project in thick and thin. In difficult turning situations, she must be able to trust that the partners are creative, empathetic and patient.

When Werry started filming thirty years ago, the TV medium was dominated by state ownership – private and commercial TV channels / actors were not available. No one cared about viewership. Therefore, the text also appears as a nostalgic book that tells of a time that no longer exists. Werry writes: “What I see has to be judged, filtered, sorted – and then ultimately transformed for the audience. There is talk of setting reality on sharply and to give it a proper frame. It is not enough to have a location that is 'interesting, beautiful, extreme or boring'. It also doesn't help to 'knit', or add one episode or associate cut to another, as if knitting socks: What is needed is a story, a red thread and good heroes. ”

At the same time, the film work consists of a lot of waiting: for project financing, turning permission, better weather or perfect lighting conditions. Wait for events and people that Werry will film with, or wait for upcoming payouts that will allow you to cut or film further. Few people know how hard it is to get a movie done; you may get sick or totally worn out by a production trip. Documentary films can only be planned to a certain point, then you have to have the courage to "let the story live on its own". There is no prescription for a good documentary, Werry points out.

Close Encounters

Including the prologue, the book is combined into twelve chapters. Werry takes us to China, North Korea, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Greenland, Ghana, Ethiopia, Libya and Zanzibar (Tanzania). Certainly, she recalls: “I have portrayed rice farmers in the Philippines, herders in the Pamir Mountains, boat captains in Laos and banana farmers in Ecuador. While working on the films, I became more familiar with the different religions; I have documented Muslims in Tunisia, Samarkand and Tanzania, mystics in Central Asia, even 'occupied' in Nepal. ”

The movie adventure begins with learning to watch, writes Wer r y.

In 1987, in connection with one of her first film projects for her own production company (Werry GbRdro), she went to Beijing and Shanghai. "At that time, China was still a pretty exotic destination from which there were hardly any pictures," she recalls. A few years later, she founded Along Mekong Productions, along with three colleagues from Heidelberg. The company still exists. In fact, Werry's company was first out with a four-part series about the mighty Mekong River; a journey that portrays the river from its source in Tibet to the river's final outlet in Vietnam. The three-hour river portrait was a co-production with SWR (Südwestrundfunk), BR (Bayrischer Rundfunk) and WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk). Later, the series was shown on Australian and Japanese television. Werry followed up with a number of documentaries for SWR, including the series Countries – People – Adventures and Treasures of the World – Heritage of Humanity (2005)

Every Werry

In the book we get to know a number of colorful people that Werry has met in connection with his countless projects in distant skies. We also become familiar with drivers, tribal chiefs, interpreters and bureaucrats, and different countries' authorities and different political conditions / history.

It is important for Werry to establish closeness to people she will document: “I don't want to be too much in the hotel room, I would rather be present with people in their natural surroundings – eating, sleeping and working with them where they live and stay. themselves. Being close to people means living with them and eating the same food they eat, even when it involves eating boiled sheep's eyes or deep-fried locusts. What really interests me is having close contact with the world that is foreign to us westerners. It is impossible to achieve this as a tourist. ”

Werry has recently completed a film project for the Arte series The big dream shopping houses og Bazaars of the world, where she highlights the Art Nouveau mall Galeries Lafayette in Paris and the major bazaars / markets in Tehran and Jerusalem. She is currently preparing a three-part film series about the Cistercians (a Roman Catholic monastic order founded in 1098). The documentary series will be shown on German television in the winter of 2018/19.

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