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OLIVER GOETZL --- interview for “LOST KING OF BIOKO”

by Emmanuel Itier

 

Can you let us know what inspired you to direct this film?

- I always search for film topics that either contain a rare charismatic animal species which ideally has never been filmed before or about a location which is iconic or unknown for most viewers. When my friend Justin Jay, whom I met at two film festivals in the US in 2013, approached me with the idea it definitely was a no brainer! Wild drills have never been filmed before for a natural history program and also the Island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea has never seen wildlife filmmakers before. So it was the ideal fit! (Justin worked in a science project about leatherback sea turtles for several years on Bioko before and was the one who „discovered“ the drills with his still and video camera). 

 

What themes, subject matters were you interested with exploring with this projects?

- I don’t understand the question, I’m sorry… .  

But I try to answer: As a biologist (diploma zoologist, paleontologist) I’m of course very much interested in wild animals and want to learn more about them - and of course I hope that with our projects people will be fascinated by those animals and would care to save them and their threatened habitats, which is - as we all know (or should know) - saving ourselves!

 

What type of challenges did you face making this film?

- There have been plenty of challenges: Drills are extremely shy, as they are hunted for bushmeat! 

So we never ever could film a single one without being 100% camouflaged. That means we needed to work in blinds/hides 10 or more hours a day in super humid conditions. Sometimes we fainted in there because of lack of oxygen. That also meant that we only could film at places where we hoped that drills would come to, e.g. fig trees etc. - but sometimes we sat there several weeks without any useful footage. 

- The logistics for our 3times 4months each trips has been challenging, because we worked at an extremely remote place. So we had one person only in charge for resupplies - he would travel between our camp and the capital Malabo on a regular basis and with the help of 6+ porters from the very last village he brought food for us and fuel for the generator every 2 weeks.

- And of course the diseases have been a problem especially for me: Nobody got Malaria as we all took the prophylaxis every day, but I got a life threatening Leptospirosis - a bacterial infection - which caused a kidney damage and a blown up liver - so after 4 days (mis)treatment against Malaria in a hospital in Malabo, I had to been flown out to Germany and the doctors in Hamburg in the tropical medical institute saved my live. After 5 weeks I’ve been back to camp on Bioko and got the next disease: Loa-loa, a 22cm long worm which wanders through your organs and eyes and causes traveling swellings all over your body. After my return of that last trip I spent again weeks in hospital to get rid of those bugs… . 

 

 

What did you learn about yourself making this film and how did it transform you?

- I’ve learned that a perfect team is crucial if you want to survive under these conditions on such remote places. Luckily I had such a fantastic crew!!! I’ve learned that my youth is over (I’m 52 years old) and I need to rest more often than my younger American colleagues and I’ve learned that despite of all the dangers, obstacles, efforts and challenges I can’t wait to return to such places!!!

 

How important are films festivals and what are your hope during this strange times of covid 19?

I’m a big fan of film festivals: First of all normally you as a filmmaker can directly meet with the audience and if you watch your film together with them you learn a lot how to improve or you can check if e.g. your jokes have worked. That’s very important for me - and of course you meet colleagues from all over the world and can exchange experiences - and I always enjoy to meet all those passionate film festival organizers and volunteers! TV ratings don’t really say anything about the quality of your film if a popular other show or a sports event is running on another channel. So having a film judged by experts or the audience is great! 

Now we have virtual festivals in these crazy times - which is fine as we all need to avoid mass gatherings: We need to patient, we need to wear face masks and we need to have a decent distance of at least 1,5 m to survive this pandemic as humans and also as a solidaric society, which cares for the old and vulnerable. Therefore I can just applause to NatureTrack film festival to be so very reasonable to have decided that next festival will be in 2022, only. I will happily be there to attend the great festival, finally!!!

 

 

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Chatelin Bruno
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