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The making of Rather Different Year

I wanted to live and I wanted to make my film.
Meet ... Bernhard & Karin Hausberger
whose film
Ein etwas anderes Jahr - A Rather Different Year
won the Daily Mail Trophy, Best Documentary and an International Standard Award at BIAFF 2007
The film is an autobiographical documentary about the year Bernhard was diagnosed with lung cancer. We see medical consultations, scans, chemotherapy and even the operation in which part of one lung was removed. It was made with the help of many colleagues from VCZ - Video Club Zillertal in Austria.

It is an emotional roller-coaster. Karin's fears reflect those we all feel. Bernhard's boundless optimism is inspiring. His madcap humour adds touches of surprising comedy. Glimpses of otherwise normal family and home events take on heightened importance. The same determination that makes him Europe's best documentary film maker brings him through the rigours of treatment.

A Rather Different Year is uncompromising, moving and reveals emotional moments that would normally be very private. Yet finally it is uplifting because the operation and treatments are successful. It shows a proud man looking death in the eye and refusing to give in. It shows a devoted wife struggling to find ways to help and support him. It proves that courage and confidence can be rewarded.

Karin and Bernhard Hausberger receive their prizes from Val Ellis.

Karin & Bernhard Hausberger receive the
Daily Mail Trophy from IAC President
Val Ellis at BIAFF 2007

Bernhard, finish everything, because in about six weeks everything will be finished.

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. It was a really different year… and it began on January 9th, 2005 - no, it didn't begin that day. That was the day I became a "non-smoker", on my 50th birthday. I was so proud to quit smoking.

I felt well, everything was OK, but a few months later I began to feel tired ... and, by now you know the story.

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.
Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. On the 17th of May my "rather different year" really began. It was a shock to get the diagnosis "LUNG CANCER". I'll never forget my pain, my sadness at the thought of leaving my wife, Karin, and leaving all my film friends all over the world.

My doctor said: "Bernhard, finish everything, because in about six weeks everything will be finished!"

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.
But after two days everything went in another direction, because I informed all my friends via e-mail that I would have to depart this world and I begged everyone to take care of Karin in future. But then an avalanche came, not of snow, but of replies and reactions - and this was incredibly, intensely powerful. So my fight began...

But how did I start to make a video about my LuTu (the nick-name I gave to my lung tumor)...?

When the "videot" Bernhard began to watch the "cancer" Bernhard, everything became easy

Well, many friends asked for more details about my "LuTu", and so I started to describe everything, first with words, later with digital stills. Then my friend Gerhard Wolfram made a joke and told me not to shoot everything on video, because the doctors wouldn't like such things!

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. Ernst Auhuber (also a winner of a special award at BIAFF 2007) had retired and promised to help me with the film.

What a marvellous idea, really, because it was a chance for me to deliver a message to all my pupils - the message was: "STOP SMOKING!"

I never thought of making this film to win medals, enter festivals, show to the public or even show on TV. But then everything changed.

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.
Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. When the "videot" Bernhard Hausberger began to watch the "cancer" Bernhard Hausberger, everything became easy. It was interesting, it was fascinating, and - of course - it was painful, for me, Karin and for all my family. But I had a lot of humour, and I made many jokes to help Mum, Dad, my sons Markus and Peter, my Karin and my friends. I think it was much easier for me than for all the others. Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.
Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. First we shot some scenes at home, but then I had to have permission from the university clinic of Innsbruck, and that was really easy. Dr. Klaus Lottersberger, PR-manager, knew me because of my past successes, and Dr.Thomas Schmid, my surgeon was fascinated by my approach to "destroying my lung cancer". So, after a few weeks I got the official permission, and from that time on I could shoot whatever I wanted at the hospital, except other people. That restriction wasn't a problem. Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.

Jokes were important, jokes can save your life.

So the fight against my "LuTu" began. It was interesting, fascinating and - brutal ... No, it wasn't. I just lived my cancer, and the more I "lived" it, the more I destroyed it.

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. 12 chemos, that was a really hard time and I lost my hair. Perhaps these moments were the most difficult times for me, because they brought home to me that I could lose my life. Previously I didn't realise that, nor did Karin.

Jokes were important, jokes can save your life. British people live to a ripe old age because of their special kind of dry humour, I know.

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.
Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. So, my surgeon said: "I don't believe that you'll be operable, but, if you are, you will be able to do everything as before, but piano... (the Italian word for softly)."
"Piano?", I answered, "and what about playing the piano?"
"That's really no problem," was the answer, "of course you'd be able to play it!"
"Fine," I said, "because I couldn't play the piano before ... !"
Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.
Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. After my 12 chemos I had no hair left, I was bald. Friends sympathised. I even got photos from England - just have a look at Jan and Dave Watterson - marvellous.

My operation should have been at the beginning of September, no chance! There was the Unica festival in Blankenberge, Belgium, where Karin and I won a silver medal with our film "The Battle of Oranges", which was a big success (for Liechtenstein).

Jan and Dave Watterson with fake bald heads.
Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. Two days later I had to be at the university clinic in Innsbruck, and on the 21st of September Thomas Schmid took out my left lung.

After that I had 8 more chemos until the end of November 2005 and they nearly killed me.

I had osteoporosis, gout, my teeth were coming out and I had had enough. Another incredibly hard time for me began, but I wanted to live and I wanted to make my film.

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.

The "LuTu-Hausberger" was a stranger

At first I didn't know how to start. Erich Riess (the "Ebensee-Bear") and Gerhard Wolfram said that I wouldn't be able to make a film about my cancer - too difficult! I think they thought I'd produce a film full of nothing but tears and pain ... No, I wanted to make a film for young people and a film for other ill people encouraging them to have humour and optimism in similar cases.

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'. It took a long time to start editing the film, but when I did so at the beginning of February 2006 I felt that it came to me very easily. The "LuTu-Hausberger" was a stranger and I was just making a film about that, nothing more. Day after day went by, scene after scene went into the story board. At the same time I was the organiser of the Tyrolean film-and-video championship, I had so much to do that I never had time to think about my cancer.

At the beginning of March my film was "finished" - one hour long - much too long, even for the private version, so I began to kill scenes. And? I finished the film, myself! I did it, and I was still alive which made me very proud!

Still from 'A Rather Different Year'.

The film was first shown on the 8th of March, to whom? To the doctors of the university clinic in Innsbruck. And? They were knocked out, stunned. Doctors usually distance themselves from patients, but now they were very close to me. There was no problem about showing the film in public. Everybody was satisfied.

The VCZ-club-championship was on the 25th of March. The next step, the Tyrolean championship on the 22nd of April. Both premieres were incredible, Karin and I were the winners. They were very emotional events certainly - but in the positive way.

It is not the prizes and the medals that are important

But at the end of May the Austrian championship came, and, what can I tell you? It was a disgrace. The audience liked the film, but three judges began to play a strange game with me ... the film was too emotional, they were not able to talk about it, not able to do this and that - they wanted to have one more night to think it over. On the next day ... the film was not well crafted enough, not good enough - Karin and I won a silver medal - wow!

And we got the feeling that we had done something wrong, because in Austria it seems you are not allowed to make a film about such a taboo. Karin and I were very disappointed, we needed a few weeks to put it behind us. (I'll never forget it - for sure!)

But then other festivals came - international festivals - and we won and won, first the Festival of Nations in Ebensee and the gold medal at Unica in South Korea, but have a look at the results below...

This last competition was fantastic. It was great to be with all my friends from the UK, because we really felt that they liked Karin and me, and that they liked our film. It was so different from Austria.

To win at BIAFF 2007 was a great moment for Karin and me - we'll never forget. Just one final anecdote: the bus-driver, who brought us to High Rocks in Tunbridge Wells, got a tip for driving us there - 10 pounds. He gave the money to me, so that I could have a beer, because he saw our film and he was totally impressed. Thank you all!

Until the cancer I was a teacher and at the moment I'm in schools again, because I am showing my film to pupils in Austria, Switzerland and Germany - I deliver the message: "Stop smoking!", and I'm quite successful. Even the Austrian TV station, ORF, invited me into the studio and also the German TV RTL and PRO 7 broadcast reports on our film and my way to survive. Our film will even be seen by audiences in Poland, Russia, Latvia and in some more countries.

It is not the prizes and the medals that are important and will be remembered, it is the thought of positive things, of humour and optimism, and of life, because I'll never forget one sentence - and this sentence is now dedicated to you:

"Don't forget - there isn't only a life after death, there's also a life before death, so don't forget to live!"
Life doesn't end with the diagnosis of (lung) cancer, it begins!

- Karin and Bernhard Hausberger - Videoclub Zillertal - Austria (www.vcz.at)

Bernhard spent the time after his treatment making films, visiting festivals around Europe and giving anti-smoking talks to schools. In April 2009 a cold turned into pneumonia. In intensive care he kept sending emails and greetings. On 11th April he passed away. His club website carried the poem:

The final battle is now ended.
A good life, and four bonus years are over.
Lord, take me into Thy kingdom.
The last clapperboard has shut.

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Page updated on 09 October 2011
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