Philip Scheffner being interviewed by Maria-Giovanna Vagenas. The interview appeared in the Festival journal of the FID-Marseille on july 6th 2007.

Could you tell us about the discovery of the archive at the beginning of your movie?
During the research for another film project, I came across an article about Indian soldiers who have been detained in a German prisoner of war camp close to Berlin during WW1. German scientists were recording their voices on shellac records – and these records still exist in a Berlin archive. So I went to the archive, took a headphone and listened to some of the recordings. For me, this was like a shock. It felt as if I had encountered an inbetween world. I can simply open a drawer, remove a record and get access to a real person, a historical individual, who tells a story. What have been his feelings, when he spoke into the recording funnel? Why does he speak at all? What would he think seeing me – sitting there and listening to his voice? 90 years later. So I wanted to find out more about these voices and why they have been recorded. This was the starting point for the project “The Halfmoon Files” which has different forms of presentation: a lecture, a film and an exhibition project on which I am working at the moment.
Halfmoon Files: a ghost story ?
Listening to the voices in the archive was a ghostly experience. You are surrounded by voices of dead persons who are telling stories – The people who are speaking are invisible, but their presence can be felt in the air. So to some extent they appear as ghosts.
As someone working in documentary filmmaking, I am obviously facing a problem when it comes to ghosts: Ghosts rarely let themselves be filmed, let alone be interviewed. They elude your gaze and go through walls. They are not bound to a particular place or a specific time. They hover somewhere between life and death. They come from the past and break into the present. They always carry a secret with them, which needs to be disclosed – All this creates a very specific narrative: The narrative of a ghost story. There is a ghost – and there is someone who is searching for it, through whom we finally get to know that there exists a ghost at all.
The film is somehow following this narrative structure – that is only one reason why I would call it a “ghost story” – or more precisely: a story about how someone is being made a ghost.
But the ghost is powerful and not a mere victim. He escapes the control of the narrator.
The ghost is like air – he can go everywhere.
The quest for Mall Singh’s traces alos leads to a reflection on archives, on writing and manipulation of history?
Tying to trace detailed information about the people behind the recordings or in the POW-Camp at large, one primarily depends on "official records" by German institutions. Mostly these documents rather represent Germany’s perception of “the others” than observations from their own point of view. According to my knowledge, e.g. original writings of the prisoners do hardly exist at all. The prisoners thus remain blurred, like extras in a staged setup, reflected today in 2007 through photographs, figures, lists or footnotes in an archive.
So how to deal with this material without (even unintentionally) repeating the same patterns of representation? How do we construct history by our use of this material and through the narrative form we choose? These were questions which arose through the research and which became more and more important while working on the film.
The narrative structure is elaborate: how did you consider this aspect?
First of all I was collecting  all kinds of material and tried to find out what kind of stories could be constructed out of it. I was looking for “crossing points” and moments where different stories overlap. After a while I realized that it’s not so much the material itself that is important, but the gaps and missing links in-between. All these black holes which are often covered - e.g. in a history documentary on TV - to construct a linear, “complete” version of “history”. I don’t believe in this construction of history. I think it’s absolutely counterproductive and most of the time sheer propaganda. So I was trying to underline “the things that are missing” and this led to a more fragmented, non-linear way of storytelling.
The voice over of the investigator narrator plays a crucial part: as much as regards the text as the choice of the modulation of the voice.
In fact The Halfmoon Files is the first film in which I am working with a narration. Normally I feel very uncomfortable with this form. But as the film is about voices and I am the one who is assembling the different stories – I thought it would be necessary to include my own voice. To question this perspective of the narrator I was trying to ad different layers to it. So in the film my voice appears on the one hand as a somehow neutral, invisible narrator. But on the other hand this voice is also appearing as someone who’s trying to make a film – as someone who’s directly involved in the construction of the story. So the role of this voice in the context of the film is changing – it somehow becomes material itself.
I hope that this somehow provokes the question of “who’s speaking?” and “who are the protagonists of this film?”.
There is almost a permanent counterpoint between the sound track and the image track.
Most of the historical material I am working with derives from a time when sound and image were separate entities. The silent film. The shellac record.
Using this material in a today’s film context – and having the viewers perception patterns in mind - there is always something missing. I was trying to take the absence of either sound or image as an advantage to create a sensibility and a space for “what is missing”.
This space is located between sound and image. It’s at the same time an imaginative as well as an analytical space. It’s a space where ghosts appear and move around. It’s a beautiful space.