Water & Coltan

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Daniel Kötter

Is there a particular video, film, campaign or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

There are many filmmakers that inspired me. Harun Farocki taught me that each framing, each camera movement, each cut has political implications. And I see in Miklos Jancsos or Jorge Sanjines films how it is not the individual shaping our world but systemic societal practices.


What motivated you to make your XR + Interactive project?

As a german filmmaker collaborating on Water & Coltan with my congolese colleagues, 360° filmmaking allowed me to re-arrange the asymmetric relation between the (white, priviledged) filmmaker and its subjects on one hand and the between the position in front of and behind the camera on the other hand. In 2D filmmaking this asymmetric power relation is translated to the viewer in the cinema while in 360° immersive video the viewer is rather intimidated and involved to “act” the colonial visitor rather than to distance from an allegedly distant situation. On top of it since the topic of Water & Coltan is about an extractive approach to landscapes it makes sense to literally transfer the viewer into these landscapes which would not be possible in conventional filmmaking.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

INSTA 360Pro2


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your XR + Interactive project to help tell your story. 

An important aspect is the reduction of any sort of immersive effects. The camera is not moving. That allows the viewer using VR goggles on a swivel chair to connect each movement of her body to the movement within the image without losing the contemplative cinematic experience.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

The initial idea was very much shaped by the collaboration with my congolese colleagues, the lawyer and activist Olande Byamungu, the social worker Yasmine Bisimwa and the engineer Christian Muhigwa. It was their contacts, their local knowledge and ethical approach to the situation of women in mining in DRC that helped to tell the story and it was them conducting all the interviews. It would not have been possible for a white male to speak with the female workers in the mining field. We decided to avoid any explanatory comments in a voice over but let the actors speak for themselves. Of course the editing of image and dialogue sharpened some of the aspects but the general story is told by my collaborators.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this XR + Interactive project.

As described above the most rewarding experience was to find my rather modest role within a team of researchers. To step back a little bit with the ego of a filmmaker and leave the story to the people that are directly involved with it. On a personal level of course the work and non-work related exchange with the local people in South Kivu was an important social aspect of the whole project and we will be happy to travel the project back to where we took it from as soon as the pandemic allows.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

I think impact cannot be calculated. Impact happens when you as a filmmaker stay curious and are ready to give away the story to the ones experiencing it. I never planned to be an “impact filmmaker”. Though I am more and more interested in ethical questions of filmmaking practices, methods. And I see filmmaking as a part of learning about the world and changing it at least a bit. If this makes an impact, even better!


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

Personally speaking it definitely is the shooting days rather than the editing, post-production for the simple reason that shooting is at the same time a social, societal and artistic experience.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why? 

I guess a camera :-)? Well, to be honest I admit it is the smart phone, this evil coltan containing object that became the subject of several of my films including Water & Coltan. But it is an indispensable research tool.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

The work deals with the women’s role in coltan mining in DR Congo and its intrinsic connections with environmental disasters and the disappearing of mining sites in the west. We mainly worked with the women’s communities, the female stone crushers and sex workers in the mining town of Nzibira and the Shosha and Zola Zola mining camps in South Kivu, DR Congo.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

It seems that the immersive character of the project helps our audience to not only learn but to empathically engage with the situation in DR Congo. That 360° filmmaking can avoid the stereotypic spatial and temporal denial of coevalness by westerners in non western situations. What impact our project will have on the local communities in DR Congo we will find out as soon as the pandemic situation allows us to bring the project back to where we took it from.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this XR + Interactive project.

My key collaborator Olande Byamungu organises a monthly Cafe des femmes (Women’s cafe) in Kaniola, South Kivu, where on a grass hill the women from the surrounding villages can gather and exchange their stories about abuse, sexual vioence connected to ongoing  massacres committed by armed groups involved in mining. Sharing time with these women was personally surely the most impressive experience during the work on the project.


What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

I would like it if western audiences no longer keep what is happening in mining communities in the so called global south as something that could be “far away” spatially and temporally, but that they understand the interconnectedness of global extraction strategies. And that they do understand that in the form of their smartphones they are carrying around a small piece of DR Congo and thus a small piece of the situation depicted in Water & Coltan in their pockets.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

This depends in which economic and regional context the discussion takes place of course. In Western and extractivist countries it will surely be important to discuss the links between the two locations Water & Coltan was shot in: the Ruhr area in Germany and  South Kivu in DR Congo. And I’d be curious to see to what extent Water & Coltan potentially could change judgements like “they are working with stone age methods”. So facilitating the fact that artisanal mining in DR Congo are intrinsically part of a very recent development in the supply chains in international capitalism and thus are the atrocities of our times instead of being something pre-modern.


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

Water & Coltan invokes the possibility of the Ruhr area being flooded in the near future. When the big flood in West Germany happened in summer 2021 with nearly 200 casualties we were surprised ourselves how fast our near future scenario became reality. The situation in DR Congo is of course mainly depending on the world market price of coltan and how Chinese companies are acting within the congolese legal systems. It seems that the Congolese president Tshisekedi tries to change some of the laws, but to what extent this can ever change the situation of women for the better is up in the air.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

My collaborator Olande Byamungu is continuing her support for the women’s rights in Walungu province in South Kivu. On top of it she is running a care system for orphans of the massacres in South Kivu. Completely independent from any confessional or NGO structures she needs support in any way. People interested can get in touch with her via email: [email protected] or with her Congolese collaborator Donatien Nakalonge (Through Facebook).


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:




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