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The making of Vision 21

Still from Vision 21. Interview with Bernhard Zimmermann on Film still showing the title. Still from Vision 21.
Vision 21  - a dramatic impression of a millennium Expo.
Barbara and Bernhard Zimmermann are to be found at every UNICA Festival. For some years they have been the librarians of BDFA, the German amateur movie makers association. One of their duties is to submit top German films to competitions around the world. They won a place in British hearts by coming to Scarborough in 1995 to make a film about the Brontes which won a Silver medal at UNICA and a Gold Seal at the IAC. At the 2002 IAC festival Bernhard's movie Vision 21 won a Gold Seal. My mini-disc recorder and I caught up with Bernhard at UNICA 2002 in Luxemburg. - Dave Watterson. Portrait of Bernhard Zimmermann.
DW: Did you go specially to make a film?

BZ: Yes, it was my intention to make a film when I went to the Expo. We planned the day accordingly so that Barbara and I would go up there and make a film. Originally we went for only one day, but because it was so crowded everywhere, it turned out that in order to get the scenes and say what I wanted to say, I had to go there again.

Barbara waiting for a train.

Still from film.

Cable cars going to exhibition.

DW: When did you decide on the fast cutting style - at the shooting or editing stage?

BZ: I would say both.

Of course I set out to make the film using such a style in a filmic way and then to effect it while editing: for example, during a long track along the walkways where you have those kinds of (cutaway) shots. Besides there were also a lot of things I didn't know about - that I didn't know were in the exhibition. So I just shot material and afterwards thought about how to use it.

Bright display.

Canopies of the exhibition hall.

DW: How long did it take you to edit the film?

BZ: That is hard to say. It was quite a time, but on the other hand not so long once the concept became clear. Once you have the idea clear, it goes fairly quickly. I have a Casablanca editor.

Apple computers in use.

Display of dolls.

Crowds in the exhibition.

Horn player at the exhibition.

DW: Music is important in your films. When did you choose the music?

BZ: That was a consideration beforehand - what kind of music to choose - would that piece of music fit? I tried to find pictures accordingly. Sometimes you have an album and you wonder if this or that track might be suitable - and sometimes you deviate from that - that happens too. The fine tuning happens during the editing process.

DW: Were you using a tripod?

BZ: No. I had to work quickly because the exhibition halls were crowded, so I had to find the pictures quickly. I had to decide on the spot, will I do this or do that. Another problem is that it was very dark in the rooms.

Tibetan prayer wheels.

Girl studying an exhibit.

Illuminated display. DW: You featured brightly lit signs - was that automatic or manual exposure?

BZ: Mostly auto and on the second visit to the Expo I looked for special things that I missed the first time.

Huge eyeball at exhibition.

Posters and displays.


DW: How many awards has it won so far?

BZ: Not that many - though it has been quite successful - there haven't been many opportunities to show it. And it is fairly new.

DW: It took British audiences some time to realise what you were showing them...

BZ: I believe you get drawn into the topic. The film begins, perhaps, loose in structure and then focuses more and more on environmentalism. I was also influenced by the themes that were covered at the Expo ...

Curtains leading to the 2000 halls.

Display featuring toddler.

Painted figures walking.


Exhibition. DW: Your films often have a strong purpose, a message.

BZ: True the messages are important. The most interesting exhibition hall was called Planet of Visions. We had to wait two to three hours to get in. But while we waited ... we got shots of people passing. That was not planned - it just happened. Then in the Japanese pavilion they had an ecological theme and the whole pavilion was built of paper.

Barbara walking through halls.

DW: Do you sometimes want to add a commentary?

BZ: That's always a question - but I decided to do it without words and try to explain things through pictures.


DW: Did you think of it as a frightening view of the future?

BZ: The future was the overall theme of the Expo. That was in the foreground and you always saw it when you come to the exhibition halls. Another theme was the various nations and how they describe themselves - that was another possibility (for a film) but I did not choose that. That could have been about a meeting point for all nations and a travel around the earth in one day perhaps.


DW: Did you and Barbara meet when making movies?

BZ: Yes in 1975 we made a super-8mm fiction film together called The Friend a story of two girls and their relationship. We have made many films together since then.

My thanks to Bernhard for the interview and the pictures taken from Vision 21 - Dave Watterson. This last picture is courtesy of UNICA News magazine.

Picture of Bernhard und Barbara Zimmerman.

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Page updated on 09 October 2011
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