Focus On: Rosvita Dransfeld
The first filmmaker from Alberta to be awarded the Focus On retrospective at Hot Docs.
April 27, 2016
photo courtesy of Tamarra Canu, ID Productions
Ever since it was launched in 1993, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival has shown countless critically acclaimed, award-winning documentaries from around the world. In 2002, the festival introduced a new feature – Focus On – which showcases the films of a mid-career Canadian filmmaker who has made significant contributions to the field. This year, Focus On examines the work of Gemini Award-winning producer and director Rosvita Dransfeld, who crafts documentaries and runs her company, ID Productions, in Edmonton. “It is really a great honour. It’s an honour, in a way, from the documentary community,” says Dransfeld. The festival will screen five of Dransfeld’s films – Anti-Social Limited, Who Cares?, The Dogwalker, Broke., and Dransfeld’s very first feature documentary, Beaverman.
When discussing Dransfeld’s film Who Cares?, Hot Docs programmer Lynne Fernie referred to the filmmaker as a “master of vrit cinema.” While the statement may seem like an accolade, Dransfeld confesses that it also made her step back and rethink things. “I thought, it’s a great honour, but now I’m stuck with it. I’m labelled. Will there be anything else I will be able to do? It actually caused a crisis!” says Dransfeld with a laugh. “I went on this journey to realize, are there other things I’m good at, are there other things that excite me as much as the films I’ve done so far?”
Dransfeld plans to broaden the scope of her upcoming projects, taking a step back from the socio-politial subject matter at the heart of her films thus far and examining topics with bigger audiences. She’s certainly no stranger to making big moves – the filmmaker, who is originally from Germany, spent several years working as a television journalist for a public broadcaster in Hamburg as well as on the renowned German satire show Extra Drei. When she made the move to Edmonton 18 years ago with her husband Richard, Dransfeld was unable to find a satisfying equivalent to the national work she had been doing in Germany. So, she turned her attention to a different medium – documentaries – and never looked back.
“This is what really fascinates me,” says Dransfeld. “If you see a drama, the way it is structured and constructed, you will have an emotional experience. If a documentary is well done, you will have the same experience, but on top of it, its real, these are real people.”
While many documentary filmmakers search the world for their subjects, Dransfeld has kept her focus close to home – every one of her films has been set in Edmonton. For her, the process starts with selecting a topic and then simply finding the stage for it.”I could find the stories and the characters here as strong and as fascinating as anywhere else in Canada or in the world,” says Dransfeld.
Many of Dransfeld’s films tackle difficult subject matter, and for her, it’s subject matter well-suited to her medium of choice, and her company’s mandate to use cinema as a catalyst for change.
“Film makes you feel something, it just bypasses the brain and goes directly to your emotional centre,” says Dransfeld. “It’s really a very powerful medium.”
To learn more about the films featured at Hot Docs, see Focus On: Rosie Dransfeld.