The documentary film NoBody’s Perfect follows Niko von Glasow as he looks for eleven people who are prepared to pose naked for a book of photos. They all are born disabled – like he is – due to the disastrous side-effects of Thalidomide.
With a darkly humorous touch, and no deference to political correctness, NoBody’s Perfect explores the specific problems which these twelve extraordinary people have faced during childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and shows them reacting with curiosity, enthusiasm or horror towards the project. As the film approaches the photo shoot, von Glasow completes the picture with scenes showing his unsuccessful attempts to contact the chemical company Grünenthal, the maker of Thalidomide.
Niko von Glasow was born in 1960 in Cologne. He worked as a production assistant for Rainer Werner Fassbinder, followed by jobs with various film distributors, studios and festivals. He studied directing at New York University and at the Film Academy in Lódz/Poland. His films include: “Wedding Guests” (“Hochzeitsgäste”, 1991), “Marie’s Song” (“Maries Lied”, 1994), and “Edelweiss Pirates” (“Edelweisspiraten”, 2004). He has also co-produced Peter Sempel’s “Dandy” (1988) and Tom Tykwer’s “Wintersleepers” (“Winterschläfer”, 1997). His latest film NoBody’s Perfect won Best Documentary at the 2009 German Film Awards.
Bijan Tehrani: How did you come up with the idea for NoBody’s Perfect?
Niko von Glasow: I’m 49, and I’ve lived 49 years with my disability. I have been making films for twenty years: films about war, love, etc.—but I have always shielded myself from making films about disabilities, mainly because I did not want to face the truth that I am disabled. Then, German TV came up with the idea that I should make a documentary about a disability. I didn’t want to make the film because I didn’t want to confront my own fears, I also didn’t want to be boxed in the title of “Disabled Director makes a Film about Disability”. But then my wife sat me down and told me that it was really time to make this film; to look into the mirror. So we decided to go all the way and confront my fear.
Bijan: Describe the progression of the film’s story. Did you have an ending in mind from the very beginning or did the story unfold as filming went along.
Niko: I have to be honest here, I am a narrative filmmaker. I didn’t go to school for documentaries or study the art of cinema verite, so I made up the story and then, as is expected when making a documentary, things changed. But from the beginning I knew that I wanted to have this story told. The most important thing to me was to just tell a positive story. This film is really about everyone, because in a sense everyone is disabled, whether it is physical or emotional. If you look deeper, you will see that most human beings are damaged somehow.
Bijan: How challenging was it to make this film?
Niko: This was probably the easiest film I have ever made, but to convince myself to strip down naked and to pose in front of a photo camera was very challenging. I succeeded and I am very proud of that. My family supported me so much with this project.
Bijan: What were the reactions of your friends when you approached them to appear in the film?
Niko: It was astonishingly easy to get them. I explained why I was making the film and that I wanted to show the beauty of our disability.
Bijan: How much of the film took shape in the editing room?
Niko: It is not easy to make a film about twelve people, normally you have one hero and you just follow his/her exploits. So the editors did a tremendous job to put this film together.
Bijan: What is the next project that you are working on?
Niko: I am currently working on a media and art school in Lhasa, Tibet. I am also producing a mockumentary about an Iranian family—a Romeo and Juliet styled satire. I have so many projects coming up and I am trying to get Nobody’s Perfect to the Oscars.
Bijan: Do you think that getting into the Oscars will help the success of NoBody’s Perfect?
Niko: You never know what may happen, but winning the Oscar would help immensely, especially for disabled people. There aren’t many disabled film directors and a win would tremendously boost the spirits of disabled people.
Bijan: Thank you so much for your time, and this truly is an amazing movie.