One of the great things about this year’s festival was the wide-open foyer in the middle of CinemaxX outfitted with simple white couches and tables, a meeting/resting place for director/film people and viewers, allowing them to interact. I sat next to the lovely, alert, 20-something woman from Heidelberg, Rike Holtz.
NT: What characteristics were you looking for in choosing your young star, nine-year-old Jonas Mahlendorf, who plays the main character, Lui?
RH: I did a workshop at a school, searching for the child who wanted to be the leader of the group, one who was competing with the others. Jonas looks soft, maybe even too pretty, but he is driven and a natural leader. All the children who portrayed the characters in the film came from this school. The children inspired me. I adapted the (scripted) characters to their personalities. It’s all about playing /imagination. (Rike says this while intently watching a three-year-old girl pushing against a coffee table with her back.) Look at the tension she is creating! Sometmes the child has a little bit of sand and it is a “cookie” for them. If you find tasks for them, they will give you so many gifts.
NT: How did you experience working with child actors?
RH: I learned very much! In so many instances I did him (Jonas/Lui) really wrong. I tended to destroy his natural energy with my “stand here” and “do this.” He really wanted to do everything right. Sometimes I forgot he was a child. Fro example, I told him to go out the door to the right and he repeatedly would go left. Later I discovered this really upset him, when his mother told me he cried about it to her that evening.
After the first screening I gave everyone a DVD copy. The next day Jonas had seen it six times! It was incredible how hard he worked, like a professional actor.
NT: Alongside all your planned things, what happened for which you had not planned?
RH: Of course there was a lot. If really bad if you think you are only shooting a script. That is just notes for the film. If nothing happens outside the script, it will be unfortunate. One must then be really well prepared to be able to handle the unexpected.
For example in Lui, when Lui is sad that his hat is damaged, in the script his sister tells him some jokes. But as they were not hers, the little actress did not know how to say them. Trying to solve the problem with her I remembered she was always singing a song with “He..He..” So I said, “This time you sing your song and we will surprise Jonas!” and it really went well instead of the joke. It was a gift she gave me.
NT: What are you working on now?
RH: I have a documentary in post production, the working title is Cholita Libre, about indigenous women in Bolivia whose hobby is wrestling, which they do in their peasant skirts—a strong documentary on how you can achieve everything you want in life, but perhaps not in the way you envisioned it. It will be finished this November.
NT: We look forward to seeing Rike Holt’s Cholita Libre at the FilmFest Hamburg 2009.