Interview with Filmmaker Martin Koddenberg (MORE LIFE – Decoding the Secret of Aging)

“MORE LIFE – Decoding the Secret of Aging” was the winner of BEST FILM at the May 2022 SCIENCE & NATURE Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

The topic first sparked my interest when I was invited to a pitch. I quickly read up on the current state of longevity research and found myself going ever deeper into the rabbit hole: I was hooked. I came across what is called „The Hallmarks of Aging“ – a graphic in form of a big wheel with many different factors believed to impact on the ageing process within our bodies. Each one of them is worth a film. In the end I had to evaluate what was really essential to tell the big longevity story, while connecting all the dots I thought were important.

I began to realize: we are at a crucial point in longevity science. People like Steve Horvath can give us a glimpse of what else might be possible. How we might be able to alter life itself very soon.

It has also been a personal journey for me as a filmmaker. Shortly after completing this project I became a father. Could there be a better time to think about what it means to live? About the promise of „More Life“?

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

We started pitching the idea in early 2020, right before the Corona pandemic threw our project completely off the rails.

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

Surprisingly real.

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

This film was produced during a global pandemic. Since I had always taken the view that the story of Longevity is a truly global story, it didn’t make sense to compromise on the number of filming locations.

So, whenever there was an opportunity to go on our filming trip I immediately sprang into action. I started lining up appointments and planning the best routes around the globe, only to discover again and again that there was another virus outbreak in one of the destinations and we had to postpone our travels yet again. When the US closed its borders to Europeans things looked especially bleak. In the end I was getting accustomed to the idea that the virus might have killed this project altogether. After all, there was also no point in finding loopholes. How can one be making a film about prolonging life, while simultaneously being a potential spreader of a deadly virus while hopping from one country to the next?

Suddenly numbers were going down again yet governments seemed very slow to react. During the US election I became increasingly aware that many foreign journalists found ways to work around the travel ban for Europeans. I was listening to a podcast when I discovered the secret route that ended up making our trip possible as well. Before entering the US one had to spend 14 days in a country that still had an open border with BOTH the U.S. AND the EU. Such a country happened to be Costa Rica – where we were planning on filming anyway. So all we had to do was sit tight (with a cocktail in our hands) and wait for the 14 days to pass before continuing our journey. A small price to pay after months of uncertainty that almost tipped over the project.

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

I feel honored to receive such great feedback. I do agree that this film tells you a lot of surprising facts you might not have heard about, yet longevity science is the big buzz of the day. The ‘Amazons and Googles’ are betting big money on it and the field is full of „rockstar scientists“ some of them making outlandish claims, some of them have seriously amazing results to show.

Personally, I do believe that the 2020s will be the decade of bio-technology. A significant breakthrough in longevity science doesn’t seem likely: it seems imminent. When dealing with this, one quickly arrives at a number of fundamental questions. How will the planet cope with ever more humans that destroy it? How will our societies cope with ever more elderly people? Will our life cycles adjust, will we have kids at age 70, will we work until we are 100? And then, of course, are we allowed to tamper with nature in this way, changing our own destiny as humankind? Does it even make sense?

These are truly interesting avenues to explore. While for this film we are sticking with the science, the film aims to push you towards this conversation. I am glad to see the film achieved this goal.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

Making films is an act of rebellion. When I was growing up my parents were very mindful of my consumption of television. I remember the limit being one hour. If the kids program happened to be 90 minutes, I was forced to make tough decisions on what to let go. Instead I had to dream up what I was missing out on. Years later it made me chose a job where I can not only watch flickering images all day long, but also produce ever more of them.

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

I would like to think “The Fifth Element”. It is a film that has aged surprisingly well and still blows my mind because it is just so inventive!

However, going by pure numbers, the honest answer to this would probably be one of my own films. I enjoy taking care of every last detail of a film, whenever that is possible. I therefore watch my own films time and again, before I send them off. I am not sure if this is healthy at all.

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

I do not know the answer to this.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It has been a great experience – even though I still wonder why small filmmakers are usually charged to submit their work. That way some festivals make money off the filmmakers instead off their audience. Something about that feels deeply unjust.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Rheinischer Sauerbraten. It reminds me of home. There is a restaurant in Kreuzberg, in Berlin, that serves it. If you go there in the morning you will see old ladies sitting in front of the entrance, peeling the potatoes, one by one. It’s great! Seriously: do go there.

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

I am currently involved in a number of science and history projects. There is both a full costume drama as well as a science programme on the immediate horizon.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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