Berlin & Beyond Film Festival
“I fell in love with what I do.”

Frederick Lau in front of the Casto Theatre in San Francico, which is the site of the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival.
Frederick Lau in front of the Casto Theatre in San Francico, which is the site of the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. | Photo: Barak Shrama

Between the Golden Globes and the Berlinale, there is another important date for the best German-language films in San Francisco. The 22nd Berlin & Beyond Film Festival by the Goethe-Institut awarded Frederick Lau the Spotlight Award for acting. In an interview, he tells us what it was like to play the close pair of brothers in My Brother Simple together with David Kross. 

How old were you when you had your first acting role?

I started at ten and that was more by accident. I never wanted to become an actor. I just sort of slipped into it. I was very active in sports and a master in judo and wanted to clip a story about me from the newspaper. But there was nothing in there... But on the page where it should have been, I read, “We are looking for an athletic boy, 9-10 years old....” Very naively, I went there and got the role. Later, my then agent came up to me and asked if I enjoyed acting and if I would like to continue. I said yes, because I really do enjoy it. Over time, it has grown into a kind of love: I fell in love with what I do.

“You have to dare to make mistakes”

You’re very successful as an actor and have won several awards. The German Film Award for Victoria. The unique thing about the film Victoria is that it doesn’t have a single cut. How is something like that shot?

You rehearse an awful lot. We rehearsed for about a month and practiced walking all these pathways. But most importantly, our director always told us that you have to dare to make mistakes. The film wasn’t meant to be perfect. And, of course, everyone was afraid of being the one to mess up the whole project. But then, we all got totally into our roles and had fun. In retrospect, I didn’t know even exactly what had happened; you literally got sucked in. It wasn’t until the premiere at the Berlinale that we saw for the first time what we did exactly, including our cameraman, who was awarded the Silver Bear. He comes from Denmark and never quite understood what was being said during the shoot.

Hand in hand through Berlin

We’re showing the movie My Brother Simple at the festival here in San Francisco. The movie was selected by our youth jury, consisting of six teenagers from Mexico, Canada and the USA, and it won the first prize. The movie is about disability: not an easy topic. How did you prepare for it?

We visited sheltered workshops, for example, and special residential communities and prepared ourselves intensely. It was also important that David Kross and I weren’t afraid to touch one another because we have a very close relationship as brothers in the movie. So to prepare ourselves, we walked hand in hand through Berlin a couple times to see the reactions and how we’d feel about them. It’s mainly about confidence, dealing with something new without fears, being curious. I think we ended up doing well.

You also travelled to China for the Goethe-Institut with My Brother Simple. How was the film received there?

Very well. It was great to see that the film also works in other countries.

What are your plans now?
I don’t know how much I can give away, but I’ll be involved in a big US production soon. We’ll be travelling to Iceland for it…

Have you been to San Francisco before and what do you want to see here?

It’s my first time. I’m not your typical tourist with a list of sights to see. I love to run around and discover things and feel cities.
The interview was held by Sigrid Savelsberg, the director of the Goethe-Institut in San Francisco.