Lord of the Toys follows YouTube creator Max “Adlersson” Herzberg and his gang over the course of a summer and leaves a dystopian impression of the first generation of young adults, who never knew the world without the internet. A story about the West in general and East Germany in particular.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer/Editor Pablo Ben Yakov
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
We discovered Max by chance. His videos are a bit like an accident - it's hard to watch but it's even harder to look away. Then we saw his click numbers and subscribers and realized he's a real internet celebrity. We couldn't believe you can have this kind of success with that sort of offensive content. The deeper we looked into it, the more questions we had and eventually decided to look for answers.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should watch the film if you are interested in future generations. We're portraying a very small group of people, but they have an impact on several hundred thousands of kids. They're racist, sexist, violent – everything that we actually despise. But in a time where the whole western world drifts far right, we think it becomes important to take a deeper look. After all, we're dealing with teenagers, and we'd rather try to understand them than to ignore the unpleasant. The film concerns everyone who considers themselves to be part of our society – in the end, we've all created a world that awards clicks and views more than quality of content.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Adolescents looking for identity and affiliation meeting in groups, getting drunk together in order to escape the boredom, running riot, testing each other and exploring their limits is something quite familiar for many – definitely for us – who have spent their youth in Germany, in particular.
But while older generations usually tried to hide those things, Max is displaying it all and he is so successful with it, that he makes a pretty decent living off of it. You can perfectly see the mechanics of an attention oriented system, like social media, and the impact it has on society.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The development process was actually very short – we researched and wrote the treatment in about one month and then jumped right into it. Of course, doing a documentary always changes; while shooting, you can't foresee everything. But after all, we were actually quite surprised how much really happened exactly the way we had sketched it in the treatment.
One thing that we hadn't anticipated and had a huge impact of the film was how hard it was for us to get access to the families. We tried hard, but only met Max's father twice. It seemed like there were no adults miles around. In the end that gave the film its title, referring to William Golding's "Lord of the Flies“.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
At Dok Leipzig, where we had our world premiere, we triggered quite a huge debate even before people had the possibility to watch the film. Funnily enough, it all started on social media. Some people thought the film was giving our protagonists an unfiltered platform to voice far-right slogans. There was a local group calling for protests against the film, demanding the festival to pull it off their program. Even the city council discussed the selection of our film.
On the other hand, we had some terrific reviews in most of the major newspapers in Germany, we even made it in the "Tagesschau", the biggest news program on German television. We won the German competition of Dok Leipzig and we were rated "exceptionally valuable" by the German Film Rating Commission. I guess people either love or hate what we did, there's only very little in between.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Yes and no. Of course, we made a film that we thought would trigger a debate. But we were a bit surprised about which corner the debate came from. We were worried right-wing extremists might threaten us but have meanwhile realized that the same kind of troll culture that we portray and criticize in the film has brought us a lot of attention.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We're looking for more visibility among international audiences.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We're still looking for world sales agencies, buyers, distributors and of course, we'd be most happy if journalists pick up the issues that our film is dealing with.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
A lot of people say our film hurts – we think that's an appropriate reception and hope to create more awareness for the impact the digital world has on group dynamics among youngsters.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Is Max a violence-glorifying influencer with far-right tendencies or just a usual adolescent, just trying to find himself, having been born into a time where the lines between private life and public self-display are blurred?
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We have already started developing our diploma film, also a documentary but this time a long term project, planned for the next couple of years.
Interview: April 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Lord of the Toys
Lord of the Toys follows YouTube creator Max “Adlersson” Herzberg and his gang over the course of a summer and leaves a dystopian impression of the first generation of young adults, who never knew the world without the internet.
A story about the West in general and East Germany in particular.
Director: Pablo Ben Yakov
Producer: Pablo Ben Yakov
Writer: Pablo Ben Yakov, André Krummel
About the writer, director and producer:
PABLO BEN YAKOV, Born 1986 in Saarbrücken, Germany. Started filmmaking as a child actor for movies and German television. Worked as a graphic designer, editing assistant and production assistant from 2008 – 2011. Freelancing editor since 2011. Studies Directing / Documentary Films at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg since 2013. Lives in Leipzig.
ANDRÉ KRUMMEL, Born 1989 in Sangerhausen. Studies Directing / Documentary Films at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg since 2013. His 3rd-year film After the Future premiered at the DOK Leipzig Film Festival in 2017 and received an Honorary Mention in the German Competition. Works as a director of photography for documentaries. Lives in Berlin.
Looking for: sales agents, distributors, journalists, buyers
Facebook: Lord of the Toys
Hashtags used: #lordofthetoys #diedoku #dokumentarfilm
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, May 1st, May 3rd, Scotia Bank Theatre; German Theatrical Release: May 23rd