German filmmaker Till Hastreiter takes Bangalore’s film buffs on a journey into the lives of hip-hop artistes with his feature film Status Yo!

“The hip-hop community is all about earning respect, irrespective of your background. That’s what makes any movie on the culture very special,” says German filmmaker Till Hastreiter.

In the city to present his award-winning film Status Yo! at Suchitra Film Society, the bangaloREsident interacted with audience and shared insights into the film and his other projects.

Set in Berlin, Status Yo! is a hip-hop epic that tells the story of a few days in the German capital using performers and locations from the local dance scene.

After Wild Style and Beat Street , the movie is emerging to be the hottest inside story on the life of hip-hop artistes. His first feature film, Status Yo! has won several awards worldwide and follows local artistes and hip-hop crews giving the audience a broader perspective of the community and their lives.

Hip-hop is their way of life, Till explains when asked why he used real-life characters for the movie. “In their community, hip-hop is what defines their lifestyle. The thing about hip-hop is that it is a kind of migration culture; it gives a home to everyone with common rules. It is conservative in a way too. You should be able to do something to be part of the community. You you’re your respect.

“It’s like a parallel society. Out of the nine main characters in the movie, only one knows his father. For them, hip-hop is an alternative family,” Till says.

Shot over three months with a team comprising amateurs, Till says the movie took over one-and-a-half years of editing. “It is a chapter film with different lives and stories blended into one.”

Till recalls that he met this group of youngsters in Berlin and was inspired to shoot the movie after observing their interesting life stories. “I created an environment for them where they did not feel intimidated by the cameras. We had a trick for each of them to make them not feel conscious which included redoing shots and getting real-life responses. Most of the scenes are staged but in a special way."

“For example, in one scene where we have a kidnapping, we placed our actors without telling the script at the spot with cameras some distance away. We then had our other actors kidnap the girl and shot the entire scene based on a very natural response from the male protagonist. That gave him only enough time to be instinctive. This kind of set-up worked really well for us.”

Reclaim public space

Most amateurs only think of trying to impress the director, he further says. “That was what made shooting this film interesting. Getting them to be natural was the only way to get closer to these people. It looks improvised but a lot of the scenes are scripted. The authentic feel to the film is what makes it special.”

“Another theme we focus on in the movie is to reclaim public space that gives the audience the message that this is our city and our space,” he adds.Born and raised in southern Germany, Till currently lives and works in Berlin and Zürich. He started his film studies at Prague’s film school and finished them at the Budapest International Film School as director and cinematographer.

After working as a freelance creative director for international marketing agencies, he established his own Swiss creative production company Gute Filme, through which he creates, directs and produces international campaigns.

Till is also in Bangalore to conduct a workshop for filmmakers on shooting first-time voters which runs till April 26. In collaboration with Suchitra Centre for Film and Drama, Till’s workshop will portray hopes, wishes, dreams and realities of first-time voters in Bangalore and capture them in real-time film processes.

On the workshop, Till says this is one of the most significant elections since Indian Independence. “More than 160 million first-time voters are expected to play a key role in the elections. That is twice the population of Germany.” Till hopes the workshop, which will take the collected impressions and collage it in a filmic portrait, will help people get a better understanding of India and connect viewers with the thoughts of young Indians.

Hip-hop is a kind of migration culture since it gives a home to everybody who is foreign to the place