Our first woman in the expat filmmakers in Berlin series is Australian born and now Berlin local, Mala Ghedia. She talks about filming at the Berlin Wall, working with refugees, and making a living in Berlin.
Born in Leeton, New South Wales, Mala started out as an actress on Australian television before moving to Germany over 10 years ago. Her latest project is a short film called No Monsters in Berlin, which appeared in the Down Under Berlin film festival program in 2017. Last year this film was seen at a myriad of festivals around the world and won prizes including the 2017 JURY PRIZE at the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase, 2017 Best Short Film at the New York Short Film Festival. The film is about an Indian immigrant running from her past, who forms a bond with a Syrian refugee in the city of new beginnings. Let’s find out about her jump from actress to filmmaker in this city of new beginnings.
What prompted you to make this film in the first place?
Mala – In 2015 I met many newcomers arriving in Berlin from Syria and other conflict zones. I was able to empathise with these migrants and refugees, in that I knew what it felt like to come to a new country and not know the language or my way around. I remember those first months when I felt so scared and nervous to even ask for a postal stamp at the post office to send a letter to my mother I felt so powerless without the language – this so wasn’t me at all! Meeting these people gave me the idea to co-write, co-produce and star in a short film called NO MONSTERS IN BERLIN, which gives a voice to newcomers. We wanted to make art in true collaboration with the refugee community and tell their stories with them.
Did you need a permit to film at the Berlin Wall Memorial Bernauerstrasse, and what was it like to film there?
Mala – Yes we did. We bought a license to shoot on Berlin streets for the duration of our filming. It was amazing shooting there. It’s one of my most favourite Berlin landmarks because its a bit less touristy than the East Side gallery for example.
We shot that last scene on the first day of shooting and the sun was shining so brightly. I was so happy to be shooting this film and it was a “living the dream” moment for me.
How many days did it take to complete filming, and then to complete the film entirely before you released it on the festival circuit?
Mala – We shot for 6 days and then post-production for three months. We wanted to submit for a particular festival so we gave ourselves a hard deadline.
What do you do when you are not making films?
Mala – I work as an actress, voice artist, I write screenplays, I teach German kids English and Drama with my little school platform called Mala’s Playhaus and I’m a mum of two. Pretty busy.
Tell us a bit more about your podcast and why you started it?
Mala – I host a bi-monthly podcast with my good friend and fellow Aussie actor, Angus McGruther. It’s called OzLänder. We started it purely out of fun. We love connecting with other creatives. We sit down each month and feature a different Berlin-based Aussie artist/entrepreneur to discuss creativity and life in Berlin. OzLänder is available on iTunes and SoundCloud.
Any more plans for No Monsters in Berlin, or something different?
Mala – We have already finished the first draft of the full feature film of NO MONSTERS BERLINS. This time the film will feature more characters from even more diverse backgrounds. We have an Executive Producer on board who has begun collecting funding for the film. We plan to shoot it in Spring 2019 if not earlier. The short film was just released on the United Nations / IOM I AM A MIGRANT platform so it’s available to watch in full. And it’s free! And only 15 minutes!
Thank you, Mala.
Some of our readers would have seen a short live interview we did with Mala and her film collaborators at the DUB festival in 2017, after the screening of No Monsters in Berlin, for those of you who didn’t get to see it in the cinema, head to this link to watch the whole film, and then watch this space for for news on the feature film.
Charmaine Gorman is an Australian actress and writer living in Berlin with her family. As a content writer and editor, she works for many clients around the world, and along with her husband, is the founder and content manager of the online travel guide My Guide Berlin