Interview with Filmmaker Cornelia Volk (ANIMALS AT THE BORDERS)

ANIMALS AT THE BORDERS was the winner of BEST FILM at the October 2021 ENVIROMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Well, my nature documentaries have been focusing on transboundary conservation areas (or so-called Peace Parks) for more than 15 years now. The idea of Peace Parks was born in Southern Africa after the fall of the Iron Curtain, with the aim to bring together countries through the topic of the common natural heritage. Countries that had been at war before, on different sides during the Cold War. For 30 years now, scientists, environmentalists, communities have been working hard to strengthen and reconnect habitats and migration routes. We observed these processes for many years. And now, we see a turnback of this opening all over the world. We see walls and fences pop up everywhere for different reasons.

So, for me it was a kind of must and a natural consequence of my previous works to have a closer look at the impact all the new obstacles have on vulnerable wildlife populations.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

For a nature documentary it was an incredible short time, to be honest. With the whole editorial and production staff of the TV station MDR that produced the film, we started in February of the year – and aired it late October.
But I had the advantage to know one of the scientists who appeared in the Croatia/Slovenia story – Gjorge Ivanov – for more than 10 years, from a previous documentary about the Balkan lynx in 2011.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Two words??? Puh…:
Borders? No!

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Of course, lack of time is the biggest obstacle for nature documentaries in general, but for this in particular. If you have just 5 days in the remote area of the Sonora desert in Mexico, just 5 days in Bulgaria and not much more in Croatia/Slovenia, you have to be a bit inventive. You can’t count on outstanding animal footage. You have to count on the human protagonists who carry the story, which is theirs in the end. I think we were very lucky with our protagonists – and I am very grateful for that!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was really moved, that the people were surprised and also touched by the topic. Stimulated to think about it. I am glad, that we obviously not only found a language for us here in Europe, but something rather universal, which is not so easy, I think.

In all the audience remarks together, I found my intention, my mission very much seen and mirrored. Wow. Really a special experience!

I was also glad about the fantastic remarks about the camera work, the editing, also about the narration that was probably not understood literally but appreciated sound-wise… Yes, I had some wonderful colleagues around me to make this film!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Well, somehow, slipped into filmmaking during my studies of German literature and political science, I had some learning-by-doing-years, and in a moment, I couldn’t keep my hands off documentary filmmaking.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Wow, what a question … Mmhhh. Maybe “Léolo” (long time ago …). Or “Carol” (more recently)

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Showing films on festivals is the best for us filmmakers. It is the only way for us filmmakers to see, if our work catches the interest or not. And it is always a great experience to answer childrens’ questions, to hear questions that are going much farther than the topic of the film, to discuss with the audience, I just love it. Of course, we all missed the “live” experience in these two COVID years. But you and so many festival makers did such a great job to organize hybrid festivals, to provide special content like podcasts, interviews, the audience comments! Really fantastic.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I would say: pasta. In all variations. I could definitely eat pasta every day …

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I am working on several projects at the moment. All of them are in a development stadium, so difficult to talk about …

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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