Portrait Dieu Hao Do – Film maker

Dieu Hao Dotogether with the actress Kim Kkobbi
© Tobias Koppe

Moving between cultures and languages is a vital element of artistic identity to Dieu Hao Do. For this young director, the future of German cinema lies in transnationality.

Dieu Hao Do (杜耀豪), the son of Chinese immigrants, grew up in Stadthagen, Lower Saxony. He has been studying directing at the Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf since 2011 and making films in which time and again German sensibilities come up against Asian cultures. In January 2016 his new short At the End of the World was world-premiered at the 37th Max Ophüls Prize film festival in Saarbrücken. In the pulsating jumble of Hong Kong’s street canyons, Lucianne, a South Korean tourist, and Oswald, a German daydreamer, meet and spend a brief but emotionally charged time together.

What was it like making your new film "At the End of the World" with a German dancer and a South Korean actress in Hong Kong?

I shot one of my first films, Where the Lights Shine Low (2011), with these two actors, Kim Kkobbi and Christian Novopavlovski. And they’re both in Der letzte Bus (The Last Bus, 2014), one of my latest films, as well. So the situation was not entirely new. I had only two or three pages of treatment for At the End of the World, the rest of the film was improvised during the shoot. Christian, who plays the German Oswald, I know from my days in Dresden. We have a similar sense of humour and spirit of exploration, we experienced a lot together – which is a very good basis for improvisation. I first met Kkobbi, who plays the South Korean Lucianne, in Hong Kong, where she was nominated for best supporting actress in 2010 at the International film Festival (HKIFF). Kkobbi and Christian represent specific things that interest me. They are, so to speak, an extension of myself: Kkobbi stands for the Asian and Christian for the German part of me.

In "At the End of the World", Lucianne and Oswald converse in three different languages. How important is this intercultural element to your films?

I’ve always felt a curiosity about languages and noticed that I can use them playfully. I see that in my characters, too. It is my basic desire to come to grips with both poles and put them into a form for myself. When I’m in Asia I learn more about Germany, and when in Germany I think a lot about Asia. The other cultural identity simply exerts a very strong pull on me. Many aspects of the cultures are very different, even opposite. This is an exciting starting point for making films or telling stories. And Hong Kong is to a certain extent my "home away from home": on the one hand owing to Cantonese, which is one of my two native languages, on the other hand owing to the identity of the city itself, with its mix of Western culture and Chinese influence. Hong Kong is a city that has combined these two poles very well, even while grappling with them – the way it is with me, too.

What approach are you going to take in your next films? Where do you see your place in German film?

Even if I’ve made some documentary films over the past few years, such as Bubenicek (2013) and Hua Hue 1914 (许惠 2013), for example, I want to concentrate on feature films now. I can be more creative there and tell my own stories. I never used to see myself as an auteur, I simply figured I make films. And yet it’s become very important to me now for viewers to notice what lies behind my films. For them to have a sense of who’s making the decisions regarding certain nuances in images or scenes. Stylistically, when making a film I always ask myself concretely how a story can be told. So that’s more of an auteur approach. Though I’d never talk about "intercultural cinema", more about "transnational cinema". That says more to me and also has more traction in film studies. The term transnational cinema is often used in reference to filmmakers like Fatih Akin, Ang Lee or Alejandro González Iñárritu, for example. To me it’s already in the very DNA of cinema to consider people across borders, an exploration that’s not tied to any cultural area or language. I wish the same for German film, which still has a whole lot of potential! Of course those are developments that take a little time, but something is really going to happen in this generation. For we need filmmakers to tell these stories as well as an audience to watch these films.