Kino! 2015: Interview: Phillipp Leinemann (Writer/Director- THE KING’S SURRENDER) 

THE KINGS SURRENDER is a film about friendship. Two groups – a SWAT-team and a group of youths – have each been spending most of their time with each other for several years.

Wir_Waren_Koenige_posterBoth groups had to deal with a couple of tough situations which have bonded them together. The group is their refuge, a safe haven, close to being family for most. However, danger is imminent – from within and from outside. The police force is about to be dissolved for financial reasons, the clique threatens to break apart growing up. Their unconditional loyalty is put to the test.

Then a police operation goes tragically wrong. Since the scapegoat is suspected to be part of the group of youths, a clash between the two groups becomes inevitable. In a race against time, everybody chases everybody else in order to desperately try to save their friends, their home and, most importantly, themselves.

In THE KINGS SURRENDER, young people try to hold onto a world that is inexorably breaking apart. In a hopeless battle, they risk it all in order to at least uphold morale.

Kino2015! at New York City’s Cinema Village keeps delivering quality German Films American audiences year after year, this year’s edition takes place from April 9-16.  Anticipating THE KINGS SURRENDER screening at the event, we spoke with the film’s Director Phillipp Leinemann about the origins of the film, sensitive depictions of the police, as well as its quality cinematography and more. THE KINGS SURRENDER screens on Friday, April 10 and Monday, April 13, 2015.

Find more information & tickets to ‘The Kings Surrender’ at Kino!2015 – HERE 

Where did the idea come from?
The first idea was to make a movie about friendship because all the characters are based on real people. This kind of world really exists. That was the main idea, I never really thought about making a movie about cops, that came later while we were editing the script. The main idea was to make a movie about these two groups.

Kings_Sureender_Still_1The film with the SWAT team and police theme is very interesting and different from German films. You wrote the script?
Yes, I did, I found the script in 2007. Same characters, same conflict totally different story. The story how fast all this seems very disguised, something happens and the own world collapses. In this case it’s a young boy who’s trying to get attention and a friend…

…the entanglements in the SWAT team is fictionalized?
Actually the story happened in Germany, nobody knows this. There was a case in Cologne, some of the people in the Swat team were corrupted and one of them wanted to talk about it. The security was involved also like the movie. Then they shut it down on the training area and called it an accident. They closed the Swat team and nobody talked about it again. Even the press didn’t write about it.

How was the casting process?
The casting was a very long process. It took 3 months. I tried to find actors that aren’t very know in Germany. We have known actors in the movie, but we wanted  the main cast not to be known in order to give the story more credibility. Even if you have good characters it doesn’t mean it will work towards opposite characters, that was my work as a director. Since we did it so carefully when shooting starts everything else happens from itself, since they know each other, the place, they know their group, I couldn’t lead the actors at that point.

Last Autumn I did a movie that was much more difficult for me leading the actors because they didn’t know the relationships they had with each other. In this movie it was really clear because of the casting process.

Interesting is that a lot of actors are known and are use to play main roles and now they have to take a step back and being in a group. It was interesting to see how they dealt with it, some of them were fine in being in that room, some were trying to be in front of the camera because of their own ego and I had to be there to deal with it. Some days we had 30 characters with lines so they really needed the attention of the director, that was my biggest concern. They understood the idea that these 2 groups are now my main characters. One is the swat team and the other the teenagers group.  When they understood this they took a step back.

Kings_Surrender_Still_2The cinematography plays a very important role in the film. How did you make those choices?
I like storyboards, I do them by myself. My DP is a friend and we have worked together for 10 years now, since film school. We worked on the look long before, every single frame was painted by me, I wanted the classical use, very old style, capture the nostalgic moment, such as the movies from the 70’s.

Where was the film shot?
In the old DDR, Halle, Leipzig. We shot in an area where people are leaving already, the city is dying. In the last year 70 000 people left, it was perfect for the idea about a world that’s not there anymore. They are living an idea but that disintegrated. That is reason why there is so much anger.

– Interview conducted, edited & transcribed by Lia Fietz

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