Remembering Peter Liechti
The team at DOK Leipzig is deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague, the Swiss director, cameraman and author Peter Liechti, who died on 4 April 2014 at age 63 after a long illness. He and his works had been a regular guest in Leipzig since the early nineties. In 2013, the festival honoured him with an homage, which was a great success and whose title “Open-Ended Experiments” reflects Liechti’s artistic ethos. Curator Matthias Heeder described Liechti as a “great poet of cinema” and a “maverick spirit who insists on viewing film as art.” Because we will never stop seeing it that way either, we will miss him sorely.
Matthias Heeder recalls those days with Peter Liechti last fall:
Our first in-person meeting at the Festival Centre:
M.: “Mr Liechti, welcome to Leipzig, and thank you so much for having taken the trouble to come here.”
P.: “My pleasure - and thank you for the lovely write-ups in the catalogue.”
M.: “Thank you for the wonderful films.”
P.: “Let's get a coffee. By the way - you can call me Peter.”
That was the beginning of a wonderful weeklong festival showcase at DOK Leipzig 2013.
Then, the last screening of “Father’s Garden - The Love of My Parents” in the Passage Kinos. The cinema is packed, only Peter isn't there. Finally, he calls. He feels too weak, pain without end, his back is acting up. He can barely walk, but wants to come after the screening. “No, Peter, by all means don't. I’ll give the audience your regards and stop by the hotel tonight.”
And then we're sitting in the foyer of Victor's Residenz-Hotel, recalling the last few days. And it is in this conversation that I realise how important the retrospective was to Peter Liechti. All screenings sold out, very good projections, great conversations with the audience, an outstanding workshop. And feedback, feedback, feedback from people about his work - what every artist needs, what provides strength and what keeps him going. And boy is he determined. Despite every illness, his next film firmly in mind.
But I have one more question. In “Father’s Garden” there is this one scene that I can’t get out of my head: his mother and sister on the sofa. It’s about faith, who goes to hell and who to heaven. Off screen the son’s question to his mother: “And what about me? Where do you think I’m going to end up?” Long, long silence. Glances between mother and daughter. Then: “I’ll pray for you, that you go to, you know, that place ... uh, heaven.” This silence had hurt him deeply. That's why the scene has remained at full length in the film. “Would you have cut it out, if only because there may have been a chance that the audience would laugh at your mother, your sister?” “No, of course not.” Nevertheless, it is pretty intense.
Dear Peter Liechti, it was an honour. Safe journey to, you know, that place for artists. Where else?
For a video recording of the Master Class with Peter Liechti at DOK Leipzig 2013