ENTERTAINMENT AND PAIN. an interview with Miron Zownir regarding his film 'Phantomanie'.

ENTERTAINMENT AND PAIN. an interview with Miron Zownir regarding his film ‚Phantomanie‘.

ENTERTAINMENT AND PAIN. an interview with Miron Zownir regarding his film ‚Phantomanie‘.

Preview Screening during „Transducers! Festival“ in Berlin at Tresor on 12th of February 2009 was a success. We posted a German interview a few days ago. This is the translation by M.A.Littler.


After several attempts you have now made your first feature films. Why has it taken so long?

Zownir: „I had already written screenplays in the 80?s in New York and L.A. that anticipated several things that Tarantino then realized in the 90’s.
But my then producer Chosei Funahara insisted on doing a flic in the Philippines first because he hoped to be able to raise a larger budget for our film that way.

Unfortunately that film turned out to be a flop as I had expected and Funahara never recovered.
We had been preparing my film ‚The Contender‘ for three years. We had a great cast lined up ? Peter Fonda, David Terriffick and Richard Edson (Stranger than Paradise).

When I got word that the Philipino film killed our project, I threw my videorecorder and television set out of the closed window and was arrested, tied up and almost killed by a fascist LAPD deathsquad.
After that my screenplay ?The Loser? was rejected by ?Das kleine Fernsehspiel?, claiming that the German audience could not be confronted with such violence and obscenities.
Even the support of internationally acclaimed actors couldn?t eleviate the fear of the financiers that my films would pass the boundaries of the tolerable.

What is ‚Phantomanie‘ about?

Zownir: „I believe that today’s materialistic hegemony, the blind faith in progress and the uncontrollable globalisation of power and economy paired with the idolatry of fame and an anachronistic monotheism triggers our primal fears.

Who am I? How or based on who can orientate myself. Who can I still trust? How can I survive without becoming part of the inhuman machinery? How can I protect my emotions and individuality when everything can be duplicated and replaced.

Perhaps those are not the fears of the majority but much rather the fears of those who refuse to conform. But that?s probably the target audience I want to connect with and that I identify with.“

Natalia Avelon plays a prostitute in Phantomanie.

That doesn’t sound like entertainment.

Zownir: „My films are an amalgamation of entertainment and pain. You can laugh and cry about the helplessness, confusion and anger that my characters experience. But the mere fact that they fight back and have to find a way through the chaos of their psychotic dreams and illusions makes them rebels of sorts. Even if they fail, they have more in common with one of Crumb’s comic heroes than a good looking Hollywood loser.

They’re overdriven, distorted and far from the norms of mass production, designed on the drawing boards, that everyone wants to supposedly see. None the less they are realer than the common media puppets that the German televison networks force upon their audience.

There is a particular passage in your collection of short stories ‚Parasites of Helplessness‘, in wich a journalist tells a director: ‚you make films for lunatics, sadists and pilgrims on their way to hell. In how far does that apply to you?

Zownir: (laughs) „Everyone should see my films. I have no reservations or fear of contact.“

Bruno S. performed in his first feature film in thirty years. How did you convince him?

Zownir: „I had already made a documentary about him and he trusts me. He plays a mixture of a moronic bum and an all knowing philosopher, a character that mediates between dreams and reality ? he does the same for himself in real life.“

Bruno is known as an icon of amateur acting, who no one wanted to touch after he made films with Herzog.

Zownir: „I freed him from that Herzog corsette, which is really limited to the poor, ridiculed outsider.
The scene in which Bruno becomes the werewolf-like strangler will most likely not please most of his fans. But Bruno is more than merely part of the Herzog mythology and I gave him the opportunity to prove that.“

What was your collaboration with Alec Empire like? He is known to be eccentric not unlike yourself.

Zownir: „When working with me every genius eccentric has a jester’s license’let’s say within the boundaries of what I am trying to say. With Alec I had to make no compromises because he understood the film better than I did (laughs). Our collaboration could not have been better.“

Your photographs, novels, stories and films are hard to digest for most people. Could one refer to you as an iconoclast?

Zownir: „I believe on your way to self-realization, you must first tear down all barriers before you know where it is that you want to go. As soon as I encounter taboos, I feel provoked, I get uncomfortable and try to question them. Looking at it from this angle, I haven’t learned all that much within the past thirty years (laughs). Call it what you will, but I believe what distinguishes me is the courage of the uncensored word or image.
The moral imperative of post-war Germany is hard to digest or to accept because their moral ambassadors, as we well known are the biggest opportunists and cowards.“

One of your lead actors Frederic Geay died during the post production of Phantomanie due to an asthmatic attack. In his part he continuously talks about death. Do you see a connection?

Zownir: „Freddy was a good friend of mine and I knew he was asthmatic. In a way he played himself and he addressed fears that tortured him his entire life. Yet at the same time he was optimistic, enjoyed life and defied it all with humor and charme. Freddy’s death was a shock to us all. Everyone that worked with him liked and respected him. I would have made many more films with him.“