The Context of Sound

Interview with Philip Scheffner, published in the Festival Journal of the Osian’s Cinefan Filmfestival in Delhi on July 22nd 2007.

As a filmmaker, do you feel you have to operate at various levels …
as historian and archivist and an engineer?

Well, I’m not a historian but I’m interested in research. With HALFMOON FILES I was more interested in sound, and in the context of sound. Sound is mostly thought of as something neutral and without context. But there are important questions to be asked about the power structures such as “who is pressing the button and who is being recorded”? These are as pertinent as “who is being filmed and who is filming” … or who is being interviewd.
Sound derives from a historical context. I wanted to question the means of production and filming and how we use archive material. I suppose that in this way, I am involved in the construction of history by the way I tell the story.

How useful is the context of war in providing you with a subject – does it elevate everything because of the sheer humanity involved?
Actually I have never experienced a war by myself. I have little idea about what a war feels like. But it is interesting that war, at least at that time, created circumstances that were useful for scientific research, extreme and exaggerated situations. It is not that these situations do not exist outside of a war but I imagine that for the scientists at that time, the human material provided by the POW’s was extraordinary. So yes, basic power structures are elevated.
But again, in approaching this film, the war was not important. I was fascinated by the nature of the production of sound. War created various crossing narratives through politics, German colonial history, and the individual stories of people. All of these mingle and interfere with each other. When you try to tell on story, you realize all the hundred others that are missing. My film is about the gaps, black holes and missing links.
I want to stress that sound is political and in fact more than the image, because it engages the imagination a lot more because there is no real visual reference.