‘Totem’ helmer poles apart

Krummacher says German funding limits creativity

Germany, with its plethora of funding sources, is often the envy of foreign filmmakers.

But for Jessica Krummacher, director of “Totem,” which plays in Venice Critics’ Week Thursday, the country’s subsidy system can sometimes be more restrictive than supportive.

Krummacher decided not to tap subsidies for her hard-hitting drama, about a young nanny (Marina Frenk) tormented by a dysfunctional German family.

The director says it’s difficult to work creatively in the public-funding system, which is largely supported by television.

“Although it is labeled as support for the next generation, I have found it inflexible and driven by economic interests,” she said.

TV partners support pics that fit their programming slots and “aren’t especially open to other kinds of films, whereas I believe most viewers are,” Krummacher added.

“Totem” is a grad school project from Krummacher and partner Timo Mueller’s time at the U. of Television and Film in Munich (HFF).

She and Mueller produced the film via their Berlin-based Klappboxfilme along with Philipp Budweg of Munich-based Schlicht and Ergreifend Film and Martin Blankemeyer’s Cologne-based Arepo Media.

Using the HFF’s equipment and facilities kept the budget to a minimum.

The film has yet to find a distrib and sales company.

“Totem” was partially inspired by the true story of a Romanian au pair who committed suicide after being abused by a German host family.

Planning beyond Venice, Krummacher aims to make big arthouse pics as well as documentariess.

She is working on “Mordogan,” a feature set in Turkey, and the doc “My Father’s Best Friend,” about the career of a Berlin attorney whose clients include a former West German terrorist recently accused of the 1977 murder of a chief federal prosecutor.

Although “Totem” is the lone sole Teutonic feature screening in Venice this year, there are 14 German films and co-productions, including docs, shorts and works in progress, also unspooling.

They include Tomas Alfredson’s Competition title “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” co-produced by Kinowelt (now Studiocanal Germany); David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” co-produced by Marco Mehlitz’s Berlin-based Lago Film and shot mostly in Germany; and Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” which was co-produced by Constantin Film.

Also competing for the Golden Lion are Marjane Satrapi’s “Chicken With Plums,” produced by the Manipulators, a joint venture between Celluloid Dreams and Studio Babelsberg, and Eran Kolirin’s Israeli drama “The Exchange,” co-produced by Cologne-based Pandora Film.

Screening out of competition, Russian documaker Victor Kossakovsky’s “Vivan las antipodas!” was developed and produced by Heino Deckert’s Leipzig-based ma.ja.de. Pic compares and contrasts four pairs of locations that lie at opposite ends of the globe from one another: Entre Rios in Argentina, Shanghai in China, Lake Baikal in Russia and Patagonia in Chile.

Papal reverence and global prostitution are on offer in the Horizons sidebar with Michael Glawogger’s Austrian-German doc “Whores’ Glory,” which examines prostitution in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico; and Romuald Karmaker’s “The Flock of the Lord,” which looks at the impact of Pope John Paul II’s death in the 2005 and the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI on Catholics in Rome and Bavaria.

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