Global Home: Eva Stotz Interview

October 1st, 2012

Eva Stotz, a vibrant documentary filmmaker from Berlin, was kind enough to have a chat with Rhythm Circus about her new film Global Home in anticipation for its international premier at London’s Raindance film festival on Friday October 5th. A diary of her experience with ‘Couch Surfing’ – an online hospitality network which introduces those with the common desire to explore the globe – we travel with the curious filmmaker as she samples the rhythms of different cultures through a handful of welcoming hosts.

We nestle into a coffee shop just off Piccadilly Circus on a chilly autumnal afternoon and Eva is confused by Rhythm Circus’ choice of beverage. “What did you order?” she asks with an inquisitive smile. “A white coffee,” we modestly reply. “I’ve never heard of that,” she says, her smile slightly intensifying in anticipation of what this drink might be. Global home affirms that there will always be things to learn from new and diverse people no matter how much you have travelled the world. It is an enthusiastic nudge to get us thinking about other cultures, their day-to-day lives, their journeys to work, their walks in the park, the drinks they order in coffee shops.

One of the core beliefs of Couch Surfing is that there are like-minded people throughout the globe willing to share their culture and will host you for free. Matamal from Timbuktu in Mali, the first of the five protagonists that we meet in the film, speaks of the nomad way of living into which he was born and how it has shaped his worldview in respect to the generosity of strangers. Having lived as part of a community on a street of door-less tents in the desert, he highlights the importance of meeting new people, having guests, and helping others simply because “it will be good that it will be you who gives this person what he needs.” It is through this kindness that Eva was able to experience the day-to-day lives of Matamal, Casey from San Francisco, Michiko from Tokyo, Alice from the West Bank and Clara from Istanbul before opening her own doors to travellers in Berlin. Masterfully shot, with an infectious rhythm and inquisitive nature, Global Home is a refreshingly affirming approach to the digital world and globalisation.

Rhythm Circus: Experiencing the world is clearly something that is very important to you. What advice would you give to aspiring travelers?

Eva Stotz: To trust your instincts and follow them as much as you can. They will guide you to some sort of source… there’s a good chance the road will bring you people and encounters that carry a big gift for you.

RC: It certainly seems that this was the case for you. You encountered some beautiful things on your travels as is revealed in the film. It is masterfully shot and there is a great deal of poetry in the images, complimenting the themes you are dealing with. Tell me a little about how the film was shot and what essence of these people’s lives you wanted to capture as a filmmaker…

ES: GLOBAL HOME is the first feature length documentary that I shot entirely myself and I wanted to move in a small team. Only myself and my sound engineer actually ‘couch surfed’ the places of our protagonists, so we had an opportunity to develop intimate, friendly relationships with each of them. I would witness their personal lives as much as they allowed me to, only then would I start to shoot. Some of the poetry in the images just magically happened whilst others like the steady-cam walk in the Sahara sand, or the run in Tokyo’s subway were hard work. One thing I certainly wanted to emphasize in GLOBAL HOME was the beauty, yet the fragility of our planet. I am full of respect for my protagonist Alice in the Westbank. She takes full responsibility for all traces she leaves on this earth. This showed me in a radical way that it truly lies in each of our hands, how much of this beauty will be left two generations ahead.

RC: The film begins with a digital globe being whimsically spun on a computer screen, an image with which people of today are familiar thanks to computer programs like Google Earth. Do you worry that those who have been born into the age of the internet are in danger of losing physical touch with the people and the world around them?

ES: Networks such as Couch Surfing give hope, indeed. There are 4.8 million registered couch surfers and it continues to grow.  Just to know that there is such a huge number of people out there, that obviously love other cultures and mentalities, that are trustworthy and extremely generous, still strikes me. To discover this way of travelling and this non-money-based interaction was a real revelation for me. Sadly enough, coming from a rich western society and I wasn’t familiar with the concept of giving without instantly getting back. I think I re-learned some basic rules of community. A certain feeling for unity is in all of us, somewhere, hidden. The open door of a stranger can reveal a deep gratitude for the first-time couch surfer. Funnily enough, from the moment I crossed the doorstep into the home of my first host in Istanbul, it felt like the most normal thing in life. Coming back to your question, I think there is a big chance for communities to thrive in the digital age. Finding likeminded people has become so easy. At the same time I acknowledge a big threat for communities. As long as the experiences stay in the digital world, the disconnection will certainly grow. One has to leave the computer behind, and start communicating without a digital tool. Only personal experiences are strong enough to overcome stereotypes and develop a kind of a global awareness.  Sometimes I think we are still so far from this point. But there are also moments where I feel a massive community power awakened. I’ll keep an eye on it and do my part to keep it growing.

RC: Travel documentaries and television programs such as the BBC’s The Human Planet often present the world as sensational and vastly different to middle class Western culture, whereas your film is keen to reveal the more quotidian and mundane behaviors of people from different cultures. Why did you decide to make the film in this way?

ES: The premise of GLOBAL HOME is to share this trip, to inspire others, and provoke some interesting feelings and questions in the viewer. I like it when films function like a mirror that reflects the life of the viewer. Therefore I’ve chosen to portray mundane behaviors that everyone can connect to. We basically all do the same things – with slight differences of course – and there’s a big potential to learn from each other. Travelling has always been my most favorite ‘life school’. To focus on this diversity can be pretty sensational.

RC: I particularly liked how you used rhythm, music and dance to bring the story together…

ES: Experiencing the diverse rhythms and speeds of places is one of my favorite things in travelling. Time is a surprisingly flexible factor – it passes at different speeds. I film moments where the ‘flow’ of a place becomes visible. The real discovery of the underlying rhythms happened in the post production, starting with the musical talent of editor Vincent Schmitt, continuing to the sound designer Niklas Kammertoens whose soundscapes where then thoughtfully created, and finally passing onto the composers Jürgen Grözinger and Joa Glasstetter who wrote the brilliant percussion and vibraphone score. My intention was to use the existing rhythm of a scene and develop the music from it. Jürgen Grözinger integrated specific cultural drum rhythms in the score. The decision to end the film with a big global dance happened in the editing room. On my trips I always turned the camera on when people where dancing. I find dance a significant and beautiful body expression –we all do it, yet so differently.

RC: Finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future?

ES: My next film will be set in the Arab world. I have always felt a strong connection to this area of the world, particularly since the political systems started to crumble even more. I wish to gain a firsthand understanding of this historical shift, and especially to get to know the perspective of Arab women better. Rigid systems that got shaken, what is growing in the new cracks?

Find out more about Global Home at the OFFICIAL WEBSITE, and find out how to get tickets to the International Premiere at the RAINDANCE FESTIVAL WEBSITE.

Words>Andy Wilson


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