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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Interview: Jörg Sievers

Jörg Sievers’ newest project is a sport documentary about the Sadler’s Ultra Challenge which celebrates its 25th anniversary in July. It is the world’s hardest and longest (267 miles) paralympic cyclist competition and runs between Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska. Sievers will feature German cyclists Stephan Bäumann and Andrea Eskau.

Versatile Sievers has worked on many facets of film over the last 30 years. In 1985 he helped to established one of Germany’s first independent television stations, SAT l, in Hamburg. He says, “The era of private stations was just starting; the public stations could see their money floating away. We worked 18 hours a day for this start-up.” Two years later he was reporting from the United Nations building in New York City as cultural correspondent for the ARD (first German TV channel). He worked for 18 months and still returns to NYC regularly. He has worked for the Nord Deutsche Rundfunk (NDR), both television and radio and was influential in establishing the regular feature Das! When the German wall fell, he did a series on German life in former Eastern Germany. By 1991 he was working for the Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (ZDF, second German TV channel). He started a televised evening film discussion group called Film Magazin. “This was a time when true film critics actually discussed films in depth. We were a precursor to today’s Philosophischer Quartett which discusses books. In those days the media depended on the colleagues; the actual film critic was important. Now the media considers the companies behind the reporters more important than the actual critic.” He founded Calypso Media production in Cologne and developed a new format for TM3. The list of independent contributions to magazines and newspapers as well as films, scripts and advertising is long and impressive.

He comes from six generations of a Hamburg sea-faring family and grew up near the Hamburg Fischmarkt. He was predestined for a life in film. His mother remembered working during World War II in Berlin and going to movies, even sitting with actors in Berlin bunkers during bombing attacks. His father introduced him to westerns and detective movies such as How the West was won. His first film memory at age six is of Pongo und Perdita (known to English readers as 101 Dalmatians) which first showed 1961 in a long-gone cinema called MGM Waterloo formerly near Dammtor station. He is well versed in the history of German film companies such as UFA and DEFA.

He got his Abitur in Hamburg, studied literature, philosophy, art and history at Hamburg University, as well as film directing at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie in Berlin. As a young photographer and film enthusiast he travelled to South America for a book production for Hoffmann & Campe, attended “all the international film festivals” (“Those were the days when our way was paid by the companies.”), worked in Paris, then Los Angeles to establish an office, spent the day with Robert Di Niro in Hamburg, went to Munich and helped launch media companies such as EON and Calypso.

Jörg has gone full circle to return to a Hamburg home along the Elbe River. He says, “It was always great to be able to work exclusively with films, now and in the past. Today 27% of films in German cinemas are German. What’s my favourite film? I saw a good one which just opened recently: Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. It touched me. Cinema should be a mirror of reality.”

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