Filmmaker Spotlight: Sonja Rohleder

As soon as we saw Sonja Rohleder’s film “Dame mit Hund”, which translates as “Walk the Dog”, we were captivated. The animated piece has a quirky story and an intriguing minimalist animation style that stole our hearts.

Sonja works with a Berlin animation collective called Talking Animals. We asked Sonja to tell us a little bit more about her work.

FBB: Your style of animation is so wonderful and minimalist. Much like reading a book, it allows the viewer to fill in so much of the visual story with our minds. How did this style come about for you?

SONJA: The short answer is that I wanted to engage the audience and I wanted everybody to see something different in their own mind. That was my aim but I didn’t know if it would work so for me it started as an exciting experiment.

It always interesting to see what the others [at Talking Animals] are doing. When I saw all the beautiful details of a 3D animation, I thought to myself: that’s great but the picture is done and there is nothing to do for the audience except for enjoying it. So, I thought, what can I do that might have a different approach to films like this?

FBB: How did you conceive of the storyline for your piece?

SONJA: The film started out with a different storyline but in the test screenings I notice that not everybody understood what was happening. Which can happen if you chose a minimal style like this. So I kept all the characters but tried to use the dog as a “red line” that the viewer can follow so they wouldn’t be to confused. And the bike of course is the finale of the story. So the second version of the story was the final one.

FBB: From where do you draw your inspiration?

SONJA: Puh. Everything. I listen to podcasts a lot, I follow the work of illustrators like Hannibal&Hvass, my colleagues at the studio and my film guru Gil Alkabetz. I enjoy going back to the abstract animation (in german “Absoluter Film”) which was a movement of abstract films in the 1920s. I like commercial and non-commercial work.

FBB: What are you working on next?

SONJA: We have just finished 11 short films for a museum in Germany. The films are about the reformation between 1530 and 1547. Now I’ll will go back to work on my next short film.

Sonja says that when she’s not busy working in her films, she enjoys people, love, food, coffee, the experience of seeing films with others, thrift shopping and politics “these days, of course.”

“Every film is an new little world in itself,” Sonja says. “You never know where you end up with.”

We can’t wait to share Sonja’s piece with you at this year’s festival.

“Dame mid Hund” plays Friday, May 5, in the 9:00pm program.