Katharina Suckale On Producing ‘The Idiot’ And Why Cinema Should Not Shy Away From Tackling Topical Issues

Katharina Suckale‘s journey into the world of cinema began 25 years ago. She began by working in film distribution and sales with MK2 – Marin Karmitz in Paris and later moved to film production.

She founded Suckale Film Produktion in 2003 and directed documentaries, short and experimental films and produced in Germany, France, Africa and India, where triggered her love for India. Subsequently Suckale co-founded Bombay Berlin Film Productions (BBFP) with actor Arfi Lamba (Fugly, Singh Is Bling). Since its inception, BBFP has produced many noteworthy features including Prague (as Executive producers), LOEV and The Road To Mandalay that combine unconventional subjects, lifelike characters and everyday issues in a very interesting manner.

Their latest venture ‘The Idiot’  is in a similar vein and another interesting addition to their repertoire. Directed by Ruchi Joshi and Sriram Ganapathy, the 18 minute short film deals with issues of Islamophobia, religious fanaticism and bigotry among other topical issues. 

‘The Idiot’ which has been chosen as an official selection for the 40th Asian American International Film Festival and will have its World Premiere on the 30th of July.

We recently caught up with Katharina Suckale who spoke to us at length about her journey, the road ahead for Bombay Berlin Film Productions, her collaboration with Ruchi Joshi and what motivated her to decision to produce ‘The Idiot’.

Republished below are excerpts from the same.

Katharina as a producer what prompted your decision to produce it?

Ruchi Joshi is an excellent young talent and we have known her for a long time. Her screenplays are very special and interesting. When she came up with the idea to make a film about Islamophobia, we were immediately taken by this subject.

Katharina, ‘Bombay Berlin’ has produced films such as ‘Loev’ and ‘The Road To Mandalay’. These are films that are unconventional films yet talk about people and issues that are relatable. What motivates you to back films like these?  

I always liked movies, which show me a world I don’t have any insights into and which have a strong message. Cinema has a huge responsibility to not just entertain but to also make people aware of the problems in this world. ‘LOEV’ tells us a story of love between two men but the narrative is so beautiful that you somewhere loose the track that it’s a different love story and not the conventional man loves woman story.

‘The Road to Mandalay’ is a story, which plays in the Burmese community in Thailand. To the outside it is a story about illegal immigration, but actually it is also a story about ambition overtaking love.

Katharina Suckale

Tell us about your journey and how did you end up collaborating with Ruchi Joshi on ‘The Idiot’?

I was working in different countries over the last 25 years and made my first feature documentary with Tanmoy Bose and a German band in Kolkata 2004, where I fell in love with India. I realised that India carries a whole Europe in itself and has a myriad of relevant stories that must be taken to the world. And that is why I started Bombay Berlin Film Productions with my business partner, Arfi Lamba.

But since 09/11 there is a rising Islamophobia all around the world. Relationships become full of prejudices, despite it should be the opposite in times of globalizaton. Ruchi succeeds in bringing the attention to this subject plaguing our environment and destroying the harmony of lives around us.

Given the fragile times we live in, was there a fear about the film inviting a political or other kinds of backlash owing to the theme the film deals with?

We cannot stop stating the truth because of a fear of backlash. Like Meryl Streep said, in times like these, we as artists have to step up and shoulder a bigger responsibility towards our societies, and I do believe the same. I hope the film will create discussions between people in different countries and cultures about local prejudices. I hope that it is a healthy debate. That is why we made this film.

A still from the movie ‘The Idiot’

Internationally, many shorts have been adapted into acclaimed feature films. This however has not been the case with the Indian cinema barring a few notable exceptions. What reasons would you attribute for it and how do you think the industry can overcome it?

Short films until now had no screening platform in India. But with the new digital opportunities to watch films over digital platforms, genres like short films have become very popular worldwide. We definitely made this short with an aim to develop a feature out of it. And I promise you that Bombay Berlin Film Productions will be a game changer in this regard.

Given its relevant and topical theme, do you think ‘The Idiot ‘can be adapted into a feature film?

The most pertinent theme is Islamophobia and media trails and how they are even trying to usurp the law of any land. We definitely want to make a feature film on the same subject and are in the process of developing something. But I cannot share anything more at this stage. (smiles)

The film will be having its World Premiere soon at The 40th Asian American International Film Festival. What are your expectations from it and which are the other festivals one can expect to see the film at? What plans do you have for the release and distribution of the film?

New York is known for its mix of cultures, liberal attitude and also for its prejudices. This is the perfect city to premiere the film worldwide. AAIFF is one of the oldest Asian American film festivals and we are focusing on this premiere right now. The film is selected for more festivals and we will make the announcements at the right time.

Tell us about your future projects?

Keep watching this space for more. Bombay Berlin is not just going to entertain you but is also going to make you sit up and take this of the contemporary world and all that is wrong with it.

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