Antifa is a way of life, a belief, and to criminalize it is itself criminal, according to Julia von Heinz.
The German director’s “And Tomorrow the Entire World,” which premiered in competition in Venice and screens this month at El Goona Film Festival in Egypt, wowed critics with a very personal story about young left-wing activists fighting what they see as a fascist threat to their country.
“Antifa is not a group with a membership card,” von Heinz told Variety. “Antifa is an opinion and something you live. Antifa means I’m antifascist. Who would not agree on that?”
Right-wing politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have criticized the so-called Antifa movement, which has no centralized organization, with U.S. President Donald Trump going so far as saying the U.S. will be designating it as a “terrorist organization.”
“If I ask Trump if he is against fascism, he would say yes, he is against fascism,” von Heinz pointed out. “So how can you criminalize Antifa? I think that’s criminal of him.”
A former Antifa activist herself, von Heinz describes “And Tomorrow the Entire World” as her most personal film. She and husband and co-writer John Quester met each other while in an Antifa group in the 1990s, when they were the same age as the protagonists in the film.
“I waited 20 years to make this movie. I always knew this would be, for me, my most important film. So it was a relief to finally be able to make it,” she said.
The film was originally set in the 1990s but the story was moved to the present in view of Germany’s changing political climate, which has seen the increasing rise of far-right politics.
“It didn’t make any sense to set this in the ’90s, we had to react to society and the rising fascism that we are experiencing here and now,” she said.
While making the film on a very low budget proved difficult, von Heinz said the experience also gave the film a unique quality.
“It was a major challenge. We had very little money, we couldn’t even pay extras,” she noted, adding that instead people were recruited off the street in exchange for a “plate of noodles.”
The cast and crew could have earned more money on other projects but decided instead to work on her film for “low-budget wages,” she added. “This brought a very special energy to the film. It was a total challenge, but it brought me the right people.”
Von Heinz’s next project is “Iron Box,” a Polish-German-U.S. co-production based on Lily Brett’s bestselling novel “Too Many Men,” about a New York businesswoman who decides to take her aging father back to his native Poland, where she hopes to explore her Jewish roots. While he hates the idea of going there, the trip becomes a life-changing experience for him and his daughter.