Hot Docs 2023: Qs à la mode with… Peter Hammer (Revir – Everything You Hold Dear)

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In Revir – Everything You Hold Dear, director Peter Hammer examines the complicated, co-dependent relationship between a pair of siblings. We posed our Qs à la mode to Peter, and here’s what he shared!

If I had to describe my film using only three adjectives, they would be: Intimate, breathless, lifelike.

I decided to make this film because: I admire Susie and Sune, the vivacious sister and brother duo who are the main characters of the film. They share a damaging upbringing and have always felt like misfits, but they’re willing and able to bring about change for themselves. I was always fascinated with Susie’s vocation as a taxidermist, and its imagery. But at first I found it difficult to connect the stories of their upbringing with the easygoing, funny, thriving hosts of my visits to their home. All the while, this made it easy for me to want to spend time with them — and time did tell. 

The thing that surprised me most about my film’s subject/topic was: How closely related taxidermy and documentary filmmaking are: equally obsessed with collecting, representing, preserving realities. While I don’t have to kill anyone in my line of work, this realization still made me aware of some pitfalls of documentary practice: consigning a person in life to a character on film can be, symbolically at least, similar to the taxidermic practice of turning an individual into its own representation. 

My favorite moment/scene/sequence in my film is: After the siblings’ return from the European Taxidermy Championships in Budapest, where Sune has had to face their mother after eight years of radio silence. Susie and Sune are inside a museum diorama, themselves undergoing some sort of taxidermic transformation. Then Sune gets up in the morning, eats breakfast by himself, Susie is suddenly nowhere to be seen. He drives off to work while everything stands still in her taxidermy workshop. A tender moment transpires as Sune confides to his boss what has happened. 

The most challenging part of making my film was: The balancing act of trying to be a confidante for two, sometimes three, people who share very close and tense relationships, and nurturing my own relation with each one while championing sustainable change between them. I didn’t want to meddle or manipulate, but everyone understood and acknowledged there was a film to be made, so it was an intricate operation. You see it in action when I include my own intervention in the film, asking them how they will deal with their mother joining them in Budapest, and Susie’s berating me for causing the ensuing conflict. 

My most invaluable piece of doc-making gear was/is: My beloved Digital Bolex D16 digital super-16 film camera. It allows me to represent light, color and motion the likes of which we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford. It’s a very simple camera to operate, not many options, and while the post process is slightly labor-intensive, the raw footage that it produces is very saturated, thick negative-like frames, brilliant motion rendering. They’re sadly no longer made. 

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice I’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is: Go and see. Often we are asked to explain, demonstrate, prove our ideas before we’ve had a chance to explore them — in my experience even more so in producing for broadcast. But before deciding on a solution, we must acquaint ourselves with the problem. Sometimes this means we invest our own time and cover our own expenses. That’s not sustainable in the long run, and we should collectively remind our producers and financing bodies of the importance of investing in directors. 

Want to check out Peter’s film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!


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