HotDocs 2018 Interview – THE ARTIST & THE PERVERT director René Gebhardt


“Art. Love. Radical self-determination. Nazis. BDSM. Consent. THE ARTIST & THE PERVERT is a documentary about a very special couple; Georg Friedrich Haas is a world-renowned composer and his wife Mollena is a sex educator, storyteller and activist. Together, they live in a 24/7 BDSM relationship with him being the master and her being the slave that combines seemingly irreconcilable things. He is white, she is African-American. He comes from a family of Nazis, she is a descendant of slaves. Both are feminists. How does any of this come together? That is what THE ARTIST & THE PERVERT is all about. Come into the movie theater with all your questions, preconceived notions and cliché ideas. Leave the theater with tears in your eyes and one thought in your head; are you really living the life you actually want to live?


Great to have you here at HotDocs! Are you going to be attending your screenings?


Oh yes! My co-director Beatrice Behn and I will attend to all of the three screenings. The two subjects, Georg & Mollena  will attend the first two screenings as well. We are looking forward to some very vivid Q&A sessions.


Tell me more about your process of getting this documentary project together!


Our process is mostly based on a lot of luck. By chance we saw Georg & Mollenas story being featured in the New York Times. About two weeks later we met both of them and started shooting right away. The story kind of formed itself during the shooting process. And all this came together with no funding, no financial plans, nothing. We just made it work with a lot of passion. From Day one of shooting until the end of post-production we did almost everything ourselves. Only the sound design was done by someone else, who we were able to hire with money that we crowdfunded.


How long was your process from beginning to end and did you have any challenges during the filming process?


Over all the whole project took two years. The biggest problems were, of course, financial. We worked multiple other jobs and projects on the side to make enough money for the film. Another big challenge was finding a balance in filming an telling the most intimate moments of other people’s lives without it becoming voyeuristic. The great trust our subjects Georg & Mollena had

in us was very helpful and gave us confidence.


How long did post-production take and editing the final product together?


The post-production took us one year. Watching all the material, about 100 hours, took us several weeks. After the rough cut we had a test audience watch the first draft to give us some feedback on this delicate little film. Over all the longest part of the process were the hand-drawn animation sequences. They cost us quite a couple of sleepless nights.


Throughout the whole process, what kept you going while making this feature? What drove you? How much coffee are we talking about here?


The thing that kept us motivated all the time was the multi-layered story itself and our wish to tell it to as many people as possible. We had this feeling that if you didn’t tell this story, either nobody would or it would be turned into one of these awful freakshow docs. Which would have been heartbreaking. So this is what kept us going.


A very technical question, but what kind of cameras and editing equipment did you use to capture this documentary?


Our main camera was a Canon 5D Mark2, the b-roll cam and a Panasonic. That and a couple of tripods plus lavalier mics. That’s it. Minimal equipment. That’s what most people were surprised about when they saw us filming. But we did it on purpose. This way we created the least interruption which in the process led to our subjects forgetting about us which in the end allowed for very intimate and intense moments to be captured.


What excites you the most about presenting this to HotDocs audiences?


We are so curious about the reactions of a North-American audience who will probably react quite differently than the European one. Especially in regards to the topics of race which have a very different relevance in North-America. Apart from that we are very excited to show the film to an audience that truly loves documentary films.


After the movie shows at HotDocs, where is the movie going next? Are there any other festivals coming up?


We will be back in Europe and we will then go to Australia. The next gig is at Holland festival for Performing Arts, which is great because this is a very different audience.


How do you feel with the theatrical experience versus streaming debate for documentaries? Are you okay with the movie going to streaming/digital only, or do you strive for the theatrical experience?


As a documentary filmmaker I want as many people as possible to be able see my film. I want my film to reach people and move things. This puts me into a problematic position; I don’t believe that VOD is the best answer because so many films, especially smaller docs end up in a huge back catalogue where nobody finds them. We also live in a time with a very short attention span, so generally I think you have a better experience watching a film in a movie theater. For me, it is one of the last places we can go to retreat and really spend 2 hours fully concentrated and with all senses engaged in art. However, theatrical releases are rare for docs, especially smaller ones because the law of the market does not allow smaller films. So many films will have to take the VOD route nonetheless and try to make the best of it.


What is the one piece of advice you would say to anyone looking into making a documentary short or feature for the first time?


Don’t let anybody tell you what you can or cannot do. Just start doing it and then keep at it.


And finally, what is your all time favorite documentary feature film?


I would love to highlight Cho Sung-Hyung’s FULL METAL VILLAGE. It’s a documentary about Wacken, a small German village. Nobody knows this place except for a huge open air heavy metal music festival that takes place there every year. The film illustrated brilliantly the contrast of the normal village life and the insanity that ensues every year with the festival that mercilessly interrupts the idyllic tranquility of Wacken. This is one of the films that installed the wish in me to become a documentary filmmaker.


Be sure to follow the movie’s life online at!

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