Bertram Verhaag - Director and Producer

For over 30 years, Bertram Verhaag has been making documentary films with his own production company, DENKMAL-FILM. Those three decades have seen the realisation of roughly 130 productions, including eight feature-length films.

During the 1980s, his proximity to the Upper Palatinate area of Bavaria motivated him to make five films exploring the proposed nuclear reprocessing plant at Wackersdorf. The best-known out of these five was „SPALTPROZESSE“ (SPLITTING THE ATOM), whose title refers not only to the process of nuclear fission, but also to the deliberate splitting of the population into supporters and opponents of the nuclear facility.

Verhaag‘s latest film on genetic engineering „SCIENTISTS UNDER ATTACK - GENETIC ENGINEERING IN THE MAGNETIC FIELD OF MONEY“ was screened to great acclaim in German and Austrian cinemas. „SCIENTISTS UNDER ATTACK“ is a documentary thriller on the independence of science. It illustrates the fate of scientists, who investigated genetic engineering, and were mercilessly punished through defamation and the withdrawal of research funds after publishing GM-critical results. Statements from scientists themselves suggest that 95% of those conducting research in the field of genetic engineering are funded by the industry. Merely 5% are independent. This situation is clearly incompatible with principles of freedom of thought - and with democracy. The question is: Can we, the public, still trust our scientists? 

Over the past twelve years, Verhaag has made nine films on genetic engineering. However, given the frustrating nature of the topic, he sees it as vital to also illustrate the other side of the story by portraying people who have consciously chosen to produce food in an ecological, holistic and sustainable way. In doing so, his aim is not only to provoke thought, but also to encourage viewers to take action. These films have garnered an impressive array of awards over the past years. For example, „THE FARMER WHO HEARS THE GRASS GROWING“ has won nine accolades so far, including „Best Ecological Film 2010“.

In June 2013, Bertram Verhaag was awarded the prestigious B.A.U.M environmental award, for his persistent film work.

Verhaag creates productions that serve society as a whole, making DENKmal a truly „social business“.He sees himself as an active participant in the movement towards more humanity, respect for nature, sustainability and courage to intervene.

His evocative works helped to defeat the plans for a reprocessing plant at Wackersdorf and to drive forward the movement against nuclear energy. His films on genetic engineering have encouraged countless people to actively engage with, and resist this deeply flawed technology. „LIFE RUNNING OUT OF CONTROL“ has served as a catalyst for the establishment of a citizens‘ movement, and was - and still is -  the foundation and backbone for the ever-growing GM-free regions.

 

Director's Note

I was instantly captivated by the idea of making a film about one of Europe‘s most renowned organic farms - the DUCHY HOME FARM and its royal proprietor Prince Charles. We could only realize this project thanks to Bernward Geier and his valuable contacts to the Royal Household.

We were convinced of the project‘s potential and were sure that an exclusive permit for shooting on an exemplary, royal organic farm could only mean that we were bearing a diamond in the rough. It would be foolish to let this opportunity slide! So we started shooting with no funds and no TV-backing whatsoever - at our own command and especially at our own expense.

Altogether we shot for five years, documenting many exceptional situations on and around the farm, accompanied by charismatic farm manager David Wilson, who was able to convey the scope of the Prince‘s vision with his unmistakable British humour. 35 years have passed since Prince Charles implemented his vision of agriculture, which is now highly respected and exemplary not only for England, but for the entire world.

The Prince counted on a mode of agriculture that was free of poisons and genetic modification, and encompassed species-appropriate livestock husbandry. This visionary idea fell into place long before the word sustainable was on everyone‘s lips, at a time where the term organic was still connected to muesli munchers.

During our shoots a representative of the Royal Press Office had to be present at all times, vigilant over every spoken word, but otherwise remaining unobtrusive throughout. Prince Charles was available for two interviews, and in both of them he speaks of his views on agriculture with a clarity that is largely unknown to the public and sheer breathtaking. And thus, this diamond in the rough developed into a multifaceted, sparkling brilliant. To our dismay we are not allowed to show the film outside of Europe or in England - by groundless order of the Royal Press Office, which is probably trying to prevent Prince Charles from gaining any more prominence as the green Prince.

Despite these hindrances, we are proud to say that the film will finally open in German cinemas this Autumn, offering many people the chance to be inspired. Sometimes filmmaking and organic agriculture have more in common than one may think - it takes one step at a time, and in the end, quality will prevail.

 

Bertram Verhaag – Filmo/Bio

BERTRAM VERHAAG has been making documentary films for over 30 years and is one of a few filmmakers who continues to engage unflinchingly with political, environmental and social issues.
His multiple-award-winning films bolster democracy and educate people - in the broadest possible sense, by focusing on protagonists who, themselves, engage with important social issues. They encourage the viewers not to submit to the idea that „there‘s nothing I can do about it anyway!“

Born in Sosnowitz (Upper Silesia)
Study of sociology and economics
Three years freelance worker at the department of urban development in Munich
1972 – 75 Munich College of film and TV
1976 Foundation of DENKmal-Film together with Claus Strigel
As a producer, author and director, he has realized over 130 films for cinema and television.

 

Filmography - a selection


2014    The Farmer and His Prince
2013    Of Lucky Cows
2013    The Beloved Cattle
2012    The Ecobrewery
2011     The Agricultural Trader
2010    Scientists Under Attack
2009    The Farmer Who Hears the Grass Growing
2009    Percy Schmeiser – David versus Monsanto
2008    Life in Plastic ...
2008    Pensioners Inc.
2007    The Farmer and the Earthworms
2007    Sekem – Born of the Sun
2004    Life Running Out of Control
2002    86 000 Seconds
1997    Living on the Borders
1996    Blue Eyed
1991    The Eighth Commandment
1989    Residual Risk
1987    Nuclear Split

Awards – a selection

1st Price for Best Long Production, Goias, Brazil  / Certificate of Creative Excellence, Elmhurst, USA / Best Film of the Festival, Orlando, USA / International Federation of Journalists Media Award: Special Recommendation / Audience Award, Maremma Documentary Festival, Pitigliano, Italy / Best Film by a German Filmmaker, Black International Cinema Film-/Video Festival, Berlin / Findling, DOK Leipzig / CIVIS Award / Audience Award I.D.F.A., Amsterdam, Holland / Audience Award, Palm Springs, USA / Golden Cable for Innovation / Adolf-Grimme-Award / German Youth Video Award / Award of the German Film Critics / Silver Dove Leipzig / Award of the City of Freiburg, Munich and Salzburg / Golden Lynx for best journalistic achievement, Ökomedia / Audience Award, International Filmfestival Eberswalde / Award for Environmental Conversation and Stewardship, Arpa Film Festival / Hoimar von Ditfurth-Award, Ökofilmtour / Best Ecological Film, Greenscreen, Eckernförde / The Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism Award / Best of Show, Indie Film Fest / Environmental Great Prize for the best work in the category environment, CineEco, Portugal / Prize of the President of Nitra, Agro FilmFest, Slovakei / Award of the Minister of Agriculture, Life Sciences Film Festival, Czech Republic / Beste Director, Yosemite Film Festival, USA / Horst-Stern-Award for Best Nature Film, Ökofilmtour / International Jury Award – Grand Prix, T-Film Festival, Czech Republic / Prize of the Youth Jury, Green Screen Festival, Eckernförde / Nominee for the German Nature Film Award 2014, Darßer NaturFilmFestival