Andrea Luka Zimmerman

by Arthur Guz


Andrea Luka Zimmerman is an artist, film maker and cultural activist, exploring the intersection between public and private memory. Particularly, in relation to structural and political violence. She grew up on a large council estate in Munich, Germany but later on moved to London, U.K.She left school at 16 and went on to earn a PhD at Central St. Martins.

My name is Arthur Guz. I am a student who is now graduating with a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Cinema and Digital Media from the University of California, Davis. I conducted this interview and chose Andrea Zimmerman as my interviewee because I was compelled by her films and art.

AG: What has inspired you to pursue art and film?

AZ: Where I grew up, in social housing (public housing in US), with an alcoholic mother barely able to cope, art or film was not an option. I remember, my mother was out somewhere, and me at home seeing Stalker (1979) by Tarkovsky when I was 11 on a small black and white TV. This was what I wanted to do.

AG: When did you decide that you wanted to be a filmmaker?

AZ: 11 years old

AG: How did you first get your foot in the door of the art/film industry?

AZ: I am not in the industry. The industry that uses the same visual structure and shape to fit in complexity of human experience, the same music to make us feel sad, surprised, anxious, excited… this is ideological, and perhaps its useful here to mention the idea of monoform that Peter Watkins has made his life work to dispel.

I learnt early on that working-class voices, especially when coupled with some degree of trauma and subsequent personal doubt (being too angry, being too loud, being too working-class, being too hurt, being too this or that the list is long…), means it was hard to fit into a world (industry) that wanted to tell stories about people like me from their middle class perspective. I wasn’t really intellectually conscious of class and its positioning of hierarchies within culture and habituation until I learnt that my failure to fit in was also structural.

I believe that films need to reflect the plurality of our experiences, and that goes for form as well as content. The industry seems stuck in one kind of telling, which I find deeply troubling.

AG: What went into the process of creating/What was it like to create Tașkafa, Stories of the Street?

AZ: I love walking the streets and encountering life. So, this film involved a lot of walking and encounters at all times of day and night. The budget was tiny, so the producer and I did all of the walking, meeting, conversations, and also the transcribing, translating, etc. It was intense but magical.

I believe that we cannot see straight on as easily as we can by route of a detour. I wanted to make a film that could speak about coexistence, care, love, as well as violence, social and political inequality. John Berger’s book King told though the perspective of a dog, about an economically and socially marginalised community at the behest of power, gave me the key into the story. John Berger reading sections of King allowed me to find a way to gesture towards a world that might be possible should we allow for tenderness to touch us regardless of violence.

AG: Similarly, what was it like to make Towards Estate?

AZ: This film was made as a fundraiser for Estate, a Reverie, three years before Estate was completed. It kind of took on its own life.

AG: How was the process and inspiration similar/different when making Estate, A Reverie in 2015 vs Towards Estate in 2012?

AZ: It was a journey and a process. Estate, a Reverie contains the footage of Towards Estate and so much more.

AG: What do you hold as one of the most important goals you strive to accomplish through your art/filmmaking?

AZ: To resist dominant narratives that erase histories. To reframe denied "herstories". To give poetry to the everyday, especially around working-class experience, and to make a counter memory. To make memories that lay claim to the imagination. To repurpose the myths that exist to oppress.

AG: What is the greatest challenge you have encountered during your artistic/filmmaking career? How did you overcome that challenge?

AZ: It is an ongoing challenge, and you need to find a way, each time, anew, and find the strength. We are lucky to be able to make works, when we do, and we must never forget that we are lucky to live where and when we are and being able to take a voice. I don’t think the idea of overcoming is helpful as it implies there is an end to something. If this was true (that we can overcome, instead of seeing it as a daily practice) we would not have the kind of deadly injustices we still see today.

AG: Which of your artistic endeavors are you most proud of?

AZ: No hierarchy

AG: What was the most important lesson you have learned throughout your artistic career?

AZ: If you can, dream and be humble. Films is a sharing practice where you communicate with people elsewhere, don’t underestimate these people (as the ‘industry’ so often does) and find forms that are adequate for what it is you need to tell. There is not one form that is adequate.