Like most lesbians who love to see our stories on television or in film, I became a YouTube searcher a number of years ago. My fingers did the walking to a German series named Verbotene Liebe. It had a 20-year run with over 4300 episodes as a daily soap in Germany. You can imagine my delight finding a series that I could marathon watch. And I did. I fell in love with Rebecca and Marlene. I especially liked the way the story played out from 2001-2007. So I did a bit of research and found that the episodes to which I was especially drawn to were directed by Petra Clever.
You are probably wondering why this build up. The build up leads to my decision to watch the film Happy End?!. When I saw that it was directed by Clever, I knew it just had to be good. Guess what? It is outstanding. Being quite smitten now with Petra, I contacted her in Germany and asked her about her career and her thoughts on lesbian cinema.
JC: I first became aware of you as a director when I discovered Verboten Liebe. The story of Rebecca and Marlene was told so well. What drew you to direct 137 episodes between 2001-2007?
PC: I worked as a assistant director sometimes for VL and I liked it a lot. In these days daily soaps were quite new in Germany and I liked the “young issues” in this genre. Together with “gzsz” and “lindenstrasse” they told stories with homosexual content-that was pretty rare in the 1990’s. So I felt very honored and lucky as the production company asked me to direct myself for VL. I was supposed to tell the Carla-Hanna storyline as authentic as possible. It was very touching to bring that stuff into mainstream TV. Verbotene Liebe was very successful with a big audience….in the early 90’s I was personally beaten myself as a gay woman. Violence against gay people physically or psychologically was everywhere. So it was important to show gay lives in TV shows-and I think this show opened a door for a more tolerant life. I got a lot of mail from closeted people who told me that VL gave them role models and finally the courage to come out….it was great to be part of it…
JC: You have a very long list of credits from music videos to feature films. Happy End?! (2014) is a poignant and touching story about Lucca whois in the middle of her A-level exams, heading for a career as a high-flying lawyer when she is mistakenly accused of criminal damage and sentenced to community service in a hospice. “There she meets Valerie who is determined to carry out the last wishes of her friend Herma, despite Hermas son who is only interested in his inheritance. Lucca helps Valerie to kidnap Hermas ashes and they begin a journey which turns Lucca’s ideas and values upside down.”(IMDB) What drew you direct this film?
PC: Together with my wife I launched a little company “sistas inspiration” -first it was a fun company-we shot the shortfilms like Lady Pochoir and “The Mermaids” with friends: we worked by day in big companies and by night and the weekends we shot our own material…it is a very special energy to work this way, and maybe the audience senses this: we got some money for the films from distributors, tried startnext crowdfunding and sold our car and could get along. Then we tried our first feature film Happy End: I was in the middle of my life and I had to go through a very painful loss in my family and with a very good friend. Happy End helped me to process this-three women at completely different points in their life. We looked at the ideas of life and death and re-evaluated needs and fears-a healing process for me. I am not sure if I ever want to shoot such a personal story again…
JC: The tide is turning in LGBTQ cinema as a specific genre. In a few years it is predicted to disappear as our stories become mainstream. How does the European filmmaking community and its audience embrace, for example, lesbian films?
PC: This is an interesting point. I hope that successful shows like Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, or Transparent lead to a strong place in the LGBTQ community in TV and movies, as an equal part of a modern society…
JC: What is your next project? Can we expect more lesbian themed films from you?
PC: We believe our new project is the screen adaption of: Herz Kammer Spiel (Heart Game) a lesbian novel from Anne Bax, a popular writer in Germany. Maybe it will be possible to find sponsors for the film and find production companies who believe in strong women stuff: Cross fingers for the sistas!
Watch for a San Francisco screening of Happy End and an after party in the spring of 2016.