Stina Werenfels is a filmmaker, author and producer from Switzerland
Born in Basel, she spent her early childhood in the US, Greece and Spain. After a degree in pharmacology at the Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), she changed fields and studied film at New York University (Tisch School of the Arts). Amongst others, she attended master classes by Spike Lee, Arthur Penn and Marketa Kimbrell. Her student film about a vanishing Jewish community Fragments from the Lower East Side received the NYU Graduate Award for «Best Documentary».
Back in Switzerland, she made the award-winning comedy Pastry, Pain & Politics and started directing sketches for the Comedy Show Viktors Spätprogramm at Swiss Television. Her first feature film, the drama Nachbeben (2006) premiered at the Berlinale Panorama and won several prizes. From 2011-2015 she was vice-president of the Director’s Guild of Switzerland and collaborated on the new concepts of national film funding.
Her next feature Dora oder die sexuellen Neurosen unserer Eltern (2015) with Victoria Schulz and Lars Eidinger was again invited to the Berlinale Panorama and won, amongst other awards, the Grand Prix du Jury at the Festival de Films de Femmes in Créteil.
In 2017 she was Co-founder of Kosmos, a socio-political culture center in downtown Zurich, including an event forum, six cinemas, a book salon and a bistro. 2018 Stina Werenfels was granted a Fellowship at the Istituto Svizzero, Villa Maraini, in Rome to develop the screenplay Frisch, née Krakowska, a docu-fiction on her family history.
2019 she co-produced with her production company AleppoFilms the feature Baghdad in my Shadow by Iraqi born director Samir. It premiered at the Locarno Film Festival and won 3 nominations at the Swiss Film Awards.
Stina Werenfels is currently writing her next feature Aletsch – The Glacier. She is in the editing of Hirschfeld, a documentary about the forgotten Jewish director Kurt Hirschfeld, who made the Schauspielhaus Zürich the cultural centre of anti-fascist resistance. Werenfels’ docu-fiction Frisch, née Krakwoska is in financing.
Stina Werenfels was invited to co-direct with 3 fellow directors the historical feature Each of Us about four female prisoners, at the women concentration camp of Ravensbrück.
Stina Werenfels teaches at Zurich University of the Arts and at The Physical Theatre Academy, Ticino.
She lives with her family in Zurich.
Audio installation in the group exhibition So einfach war das. Jewish Childhoods and Youth since 1945 in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, Jewish Museum Hohenems, 2004
Growing up as a Jew in Austria, Germany or Switzerland since 1945, there was nothing natural about it. Or maybe it was? What did it mean to grow up here – after the Holocaust – or to arrive as a refugee, migrant or descendant of survivors?
The exhibition provides insights into the diversity of Jewish life since 1945. 40 writers and business people, journalists, intellectuals and artists, housewives and househusbands, older and younger, devout and less devout, well-known and less well-known people were asked for a photo and a short story from their childhood and youth: Experiences and disturbances of everyday life, brief moments of happiness, strangeness and belonging. Together they unfold a panorama of Jewish existence in Switzerland, Austria and Germany today: pointed and contradictory.
Interview, Nadja Hieringer, «Fritz & Fränzi» Magazine
What was your favourite thing to do in your free time as a child?
My favourite thing was telling jokes. Even today, I can laugh my head off a hundred times over something funny. For me it was like a sport, a way of getting attention. My grandmother was a bourgeois and authoritarian woman. But sometimes she allowed us to tell jokes at the dinner table, even obscene ones. The adults would then laugh terribly. That was a real breaking of taboos, which we all obviously enjoyed. In the village where I grew up, there were small gangs where we tested out boundary games. My sister is older than me. Of the two of us, I was the more tomboyish and sometimes got into fights on the playground: I was often teased because of my hairstyle, the «roll».
What childhood memories do you draw strength and ideas from for your work today?
We lived on the edge of the forest. There was a swing on the wild cherry tree that swung up into the flowering branches. I often swung for hours. In winter, we pulled the sledges up the «Lägern»mountain, my father starting off on his belly and pulling the rattail of neighbourhood children behind him until the first ones went «off the boat». Unfortunately, almost no one rides belly-down today. My interest in film also started through photography. My grandmother passed on her 6 x 6 Rolleiflex camera to me. Similar to her, I photograph quite obsessively. My father, in turn, owned an 8mm film camera and brought the world home with him from work.
If you were a child today, what would you most like to do in your free time?
Singing and making music. I regret not having found a better introduction to music. Today I sometimes take out the recorder flute – to everyone’s chagrin. I can still play simple melodies. I would certainly read comics, too, but my mother didn’t buy them for me back then because they were considered too trivial. And I’d like to go back to digging into the dirt with water. Children don’t always have to be so clean.