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Jakarta Post

Pepe Danquart - OLD PUNK STILL GOING STRONG

  • Hans David Tampubolon

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 12, 2016   /  12:23 pm
Pepe Danquart - OLD PUNK STILL GOING STRONG Pepe Danquart (Courtesy of Goethe Institut/Nadja Klier) (Courtesy of Goethe Institut/Nadja Klier)

Pepe Danquart (Courtesy of Goethe Institut/Nadja Klier)

Academy Award-winning film director Pepe Danquart describes himself as a punk whose flame of rebellion has not waned with age.

Born in Singen, Germany, on March 1, 1955 '€” just 10 years after the end of the World War II '€” film director Pepe Danquart is part of a German generation whose parents and elders kept a veil over the nation'€™s recent dark past.

Danquart said that during his youth, he often heard stories about the Holocaust, but when he and his peers questioned the older generation, they were met with silence and evasion.

'€œMy parents did not talk about the war. That was the thing. That made me rebellious,'€ Danquart told The Jakarta Post during a recent visit to Jakarta.

Danquart and his friends then started to probe and dig deeper into their country'€™s past and history. They started to hold discussions to ascertain what had happened and what the previous generation had done during the war.

The discussions ignited political awakening inside Danquart, who decided to study films and communication at the University of Freiburg.

'€œWhen I was a child, I was very bad with mathematics, but I was very good at art. I could draw. It all started with photography,'€ he recalled.

'€œWhen I get to know that my talent was more on the visual side, I decided to study film. It was a form of political involvement in the fight to change the continuity of German history.'€

Danquart said the more he and his friends learned about what Germany had done during the war, the more difficult it was for them to accept the reality of the atrocities that had taken place under the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler.

Unlike their parents, they were unwilling to brush the past under the carpet. Instead, it drove them to contribute even more to the political debate in order to prevent similar atrocities reoccurring in the future.

'€œWhen I saw films about [the war and the holocaust] for the first time when I was growing up, images of concentration camps, that really moved me,'€ Danquart said.

He and his fellow filmmakers established a collective. Influenced by the new punk music and antiestablishment culture emerging from the UK, the collective started to produce films that were very opinionated and had a strong agenda to propagate new kinds of ideas, such as the need for those in power to start thinking about the environment, widening the political debate in Germany during the 1970s and 1980s.

Danquart said what he and his left-wing collective had done decades ago had contributed significantly to the political liberation of Germany.

In the late 1980s, he left the collective and went to Berlin. Here, Danquart shot his first fiction short, Schwarzfahrer (Fare-Dodger).

The film, which was recently screened by the Goethe Institute in Jakarta, tells the story of a black man who, while minding his own business on a bus, is subject to a tirade of racist abuse and derision from an old woman. The film met critical success, and received an Academy Award for best short in 1990.

Another notable film from Danquart is Lauf Junge Lauf (Run Boy Run), which tells the story of a Jewish boy trying to survive the holocaust by going undercover as a Polish Catholic to evade SS soldiers.

Danquart'€™s films have a distinct style and bear the hallmarks of existentialism, something that he says has greatly influenced him both as an artist and an individual, especially during his examination of Germany'€™s recent past.

His films have the power to remain relevant to current social and political issues even decades after their release. For example, the issues featured in Schwarzfahrer are strongly relevant to the current refugee crisis in Europe.

Danquart said he hoped the message of individual liberty conveyed in his films could help people realize that humanity, despite its flaws, still had hopes for a better future.

'€œIf you give up hope, you are a dead man. I still think we can avoid the next catastrophic war. Well, if not avoid it, at least extend the period before the next catastrophic war. We are lucky that in Europe we have had 70 years of no war ['€¦] I still think that politicians and people can do their best to avoid the next catastrophic war.'€

Now teaching as a professor at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, Danquart retains the rebellious, freedom-loving punk spirit of his youth, and tries his best to sow a similar spirit among his students.

'€œI am still a kind of weird artistic art professor who teaches people to be open-minded, tolerant and concerned about society.'€

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