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Anna Schmidt


Anna Schmidt is an experienced and empathetic author with a fresh approach to topics. Her films are internationally recognized and successful in television and cinema. With a keen sense for relevant stories, she develops and produces sophisticated cinema and TV documentaries for the national and international market. Anna Schmidt is a graduate of the Special School for Music in Wernigerode. She studied journalism and musicology at the University of Leipzig and political science at the University of Amsterdam. She graduated in 1993 with a degree in journalism and musicology. She then worked as a freelance author for radio and later for television in Germany and the Netherlands. From 1996 to 2005, she was Germany correspondent for Dutch television. In 2001, she graduated from the Discovery Campus Masterschool. In 1998, she founded the film production company schmidtFilm and has been successfully producing documentary films with musical, historical and biographical themes ever since.

Filmography (Selection)

  • 2023 LIVING BACH (Cinema)

Interview with Anna Schmidt

Protoganists at theBach Festival Leipzig

How did the idea for LIVING BACH come about?

I am involved with music, I make music, I love music and I am an enthusiastic visitor to the Leipzig Bach Festival. I know Michael Maul, the artistic director, and when he told me that he wanted to invite the global Bach family to Leipzig in 2020 under the motto “We are Family”, I was amazed at how big the Bach family is. There are over 300 Bach choirs and ensembles worldwide, most of which are made up of amateurs. That amazed me, because Bach is difficult to sing and play, as I know from my own experience. But I was even more surprised by the fact that there are Bach choirs and ensembles on every continent and that 55 of them wanted to come to Leipzig to perform Bach’s music once in their lives at the place where he worked. I had the idea of making a film because I wanted to get to the bottom of this enthusiasm for Bach and discover what still connects people on all continents with Bach today, why Bach is so important to them. What is it that Bach triggers in people from different cultures? Why does this music give so much hope? What is it like to live with Bach and why do people want to live with him? I wanted to find out whether Bach gives them strength, whether they look at the world and their fellow human beings differently through his music, whether all these people are united by a common canon of values: does it perhaps exist, the Homo Bachiensis?

 What do you yourself associate with Bach and his music?

I grew up with Johann Sebastian Bach, because I’ve been making music since I was five years old. So, it was inevitable that I would come across the composer. I heard his music in church, where I played it on the organ. Bach’s motets were part of the repertoire in the Wernigerode Radio Youth Choir, in which I sang from the age of 14 to 18. I played the preludes and fugues on the piano. By then I had long since fallen for the composer and his meditative, provocative, smooth and forward-looking sounds. When the voices in the choir joined together to form a whole, it touched me deeply. I felt a special cohesion, something that created an identity. When we sang Bach, I experienced magical moments, and a special energy arose. And so, the composer never let go of me. 

I studied journalism and musicology, attended a film school, and devoted myself to many musical themes in my films. I kept coming across Bach during filming: for example, in my film about the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, who was unmistakably influenced by Bach and for whom there was no greater composer than Bach. I could feel his emotion when the Thomanerchor performed Penderecki’s music in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, where Bach worked for decades. The Israeli singer Noa, who makes pop out of Bach, was inspired when she sang her version of his AIR in St Thomas’s Church.  

Time and again, I have experienced the unifying power of Bach’s music. Music that shakes people up, that gives them faith even when they thought they had lost it long ago. Music that spreads hope and brings joy.


What makes Bach and his music so extraordinary for you?

Bach seems to be the beginning of everything. Writers, musicians, physicists all refer to him and his music. It is emotional, it is rational, a mathematical construct. It is absolutely timeless and very bold, very courageous. Although Bach lived more than 300 years ago and was a white church musician, he means so much to people of different religions and cultures, different genders and social statuses. This groundbreaking aspect of Bach’s music is amazing to me.

How did you find the different protagonists?

I had a list from the Bach Festival of all the choirs that wanted to come to Leipzig. My colleagues and I wrote to these choirs and asked the choirmasters whether there were people in their choir/ensemble who had a special relationship with Bach and his music. We spoke to around 50 people around the world in video conferences. Then Corona came and the Bach Festival was cancelled. Travelling was also no longer possible. So, I kept in touch for two years and ended up focusing on eight main protagonists and the choir directors. From January 2022, I travelled once around the world. All the protagonists then came together at the Bach Festival in June 2022.

Did you know from the start how you wanted to tell the story or stories?

I had various versions in my head, starting with the idea of a trip around the world, i.e. a chronological narrative, which I then discarded as I wanted to build the film like a fugue. Each voice introduces itself, repeats, varies, tells something new and at the end all the voices come together again.

Protoganists at theBach Festival Leipzig

What challenges did you face in making the film? 

Covid was the biggest challenge. For a long time, we didn’t know when and whether we would be able to travel, whether the choirs and ensembles would actually come to Leipzig for the Bach Festival. The second biggest challenge was recording of the choir rehearsals and concerts, for which we had hardly any preparation time. We hadn’t seen the rooms beforehand and didn’t know the acoustics. We didn’t know where to best position our four cameras. In Paraguay, we shot at a room temperature of 40 degrees and with masks. We all got coronavirus anyway, we were in quarantine in Asunción and couldn’t travel around the country as we had planned. 

In the end, I had a total of 160 hours of material. I built and discarded scenes and had to part with a lot of great shots in the end. 

Kazuko Nawata

What surprised you the most during development and filming?

The fact that many young people are enthusiastic about Bach and play or sing in the choirs or ensembles surprised me and also how alive Bach is for many. For example, I was overwhelmed by the sheer enthusiasm of the Japanese musicians for Bach. I found it amazing that they all consider Bach part of their culture and that this is no longer a matter of course in Germany.

Is there anything you took away from the film for yourself?

How important community is and how important it is to share something with each other. It is not important how much you have, but what you have. We should realize that every voice is important and has equal rights and that we can only make progress by listening to and hearing each other.

Oh yes, and: Bach singers and musicians make the world a better and happier place.

Living Bach · A film by Anna Schmidt · Germany 2023 · 114 Minutes · all ages admitted · Cinema release Nov 30th 2023
Distribution Weltkino. Distribution worldwide EuroArts.
Press Relations · WELTKINO FILMVERLEIH GMBH · Alexandra Dathe · (+49)-341-21 339 449 ·
schmidtfim · Anna Schmidt · Spinnereistraße 7 · 04179 Leipzig · (+49)- 341-99 39 057 · ·

Living Bach
A film by Anna Schmidt
Germany 2023
Length: 114 Minutes

Press Relations

Alexandra Dathe
+49 - 341-21 339 449