Q&A: Oldenburg Fest juror Deborah Kara Unger

Festival kicks off Sept. 15

After touching down at the Toronto Film Festival for the premiere of Emilio Estevez' "The Way," indie film darling Deborah Kara Unger jumped on a plane to Northern Germany to head the jury for the 17th Oldenburg Film Festival. THR German Bureau Chief Scott Roxborough caught up with Unger en route to the country's leading independent film festival to talk festival hierarchy, the film business after the financial collapse and what exactly makes a film independent.

The Hollywood Reporter:
How does it feel to be flying from Toronto, one of the biggest most glamorous film festivals in the world, to little Oldenburg?

Deborah Kara Unger:
It's like pointillism – every color is important to me. I don't have a hierarchical view of the festivals. I was out to support (environmentalist) David Suzuki in Toronto and he said 'we share the air." All the festivals share the air.

THR: What did you know about Oldenburg when they asked you to be jury president?

Unger: To be honest, nothing. But I had a lot of friends who knew it and they said 'oh that's the German Sundance.' And I know Sundance and love it. So it very exciting to me to be going to this version of Sundance. But I'm trying to rip up all my preconceptions and start tabular Rasa.

THR: Oldenburg prides itself on being an indie film festival. How do you define 'indie film'?

Unger: That's a good question. The first thing that comes to mind is that ever film is an indie film. "Avatar" is an independent vision. I understand the business side of things. And it is important it is that the crew and the actors have the support they need, which has become almost impossible after the crash two years ago. But I think the playing field is leveling out. People are really looking at content. At the art of good storytelling. A $100 million budget doesn't mean it's a good movie and $20,000 budget doesn't mean its bad.

One of the upsides of how we are developing (after the crash) is that a bunch of silly movies won't be working anymore. The machine can't BS the public as easily as it could a decade ago. I'm not sad about that. That's good for writers and directors and crew.

THR: As jury head, you'll be awarding the German Indie Film Prize. What's your impression of the current state of German cinema?

Unger: First, I have to say I'm an unapologetic, whorish fan of "Das Boot." I've seen it a million times. I've seen a lot of other, more recent German films but I don't want to mention any other ones because I don't want to give the impression that I favor one style or kind of film over another. I'm just hoping that the storytellers in Oldenburg are brave enough to be authentic. Brave enough to sit on their own asses and say: this is what I think, this is how I see it, this is what I feel and this is what I want to say.

The 17th International Oldenburg Film Festival runs Sept. 15-19.