Cuckoo Clocks & Memphis Tapes
90 Min Feature Documentary - In Pre-Production
Heidelberg's Tassilo Treiber, aka Skinny Finsta, has made a name for himself as the "German King of Memphis." But what does a white small-town boy from southern Germany have to do with American Southern HipHop? A documentary journey between fantasy and reality – crime and cuckoo clocks – between cultural appropriation and appreciation.
Tassilo Treiber comes from a rather conservative household, his 83-year-old father collects cuckoo clocks, owns dozens of paintings of Bavarian king Ludwig II and likes to play with his model railway that takes up the entire basement. Tassilo is also a collector: he collects cassettes, mainly recorded with so-called Memphis Rap, music that emerged in the '90s from the autonomous rap scene of Memphis, USA.
Despite the conventional security offered by his parents, Skinny Finsta began to immerse himself in rap music, influenced by "Three 6 Mafia" and other Memphis icons releasing his own songs in the style of his Memphis icons. His personal musical journey, transitioning from a fan to an artist, started in 2015 when he copied his debut album "Solo Tape" onto a total of 25 cassettes. "Just making tapes," has been his heartfelt desire since his youth and remains so to this day. Since then, his discography has grown to 11 releases, all published on cassette tapes.
In his lyrics, he often draws parallels between his hometown region around Heidelberg and the brutal gang life in Memphis. The comparison seems far- fetched at first glance. Heidelberg is an idyllic university town in southern Germany, while Memphis is the capital of robberies in the US, a place largely controlled by black gangs where whites - like Tassilo - usually live in protected gated communities.
Tassilo's father is not exactly a fan of his son's imaginative lyrics. Nevertheless, the two have many similarities, going on vacation together in their camper every year and occasionally drinking several beers at a traditional German roundtable with mostly members in their 80s. We want to explore and try to understand this unusual father- son relationship between two men who are so similar and yet so different. Both share a passion for collecting artifacts and a longing to immerse themselves in a time and world far away from their own.
HipHop has become the dominant music genre and the most relevant (youth) culture. Many cultural phenomena and narratives from the US have crossed over to Germany, where they are more or less reflected and reproduced.
Our protagonist embodies many of the tensions and contradictions that arise from this exchange, often with a humorous exaggeration. Tassilo is a Memphis rapper, but also a true Heidelberger, which may not seem entirely compatible at first glance and can evoke laughter in many instances. When he roams the southern German vineyards on his moped, wearing a Carlo Colucci outfit, and his mullet hair flutters in the wind, outsiders may find it strange and ridiculous.
However, we aim to demonstrate how interconnected our world and its various cultures truly are, often transcending national borders.
Southwest Germany, specifically the Heidelberg area, has a unique connection
to America due to the former US occupying forces. Despite castles, palaces, and wine routes, there is probably no other part of Germany where so many Americans have lived or continue to reside. This has left its mark on the people – and we want to explore these traces through Tassilo and his father. The father-son relationship is particularly important to us, as it represents a universal truth: we are all like our parents – yet at the same time, we are the exact opposite of them. We try to reinvent ourselves, yet we cannot escape our roots. We see relevance in this truth that can engage and provoke thought in audiences far beyond the HipHop bubble.
From an early age, I have been interested in unusual people who don't fit neatly into a traditional mold and live lives outside the norm. My films have taken me from Indian construction workers to Mongolian homeless people struggling to survive in heating ducts, and to illegal coal mines in Poland. I did this independently and self- financed.
Through my work as a music video director, I've come to know the German HipHop scene from the inside over the past few
years, and I met Tassilo, aka Skinny Finsta, who has also built an unexpectedly unique and fascinating life away from mainstream society. The decision to dedicate my next work to him was influenced by the immense complexity that characterizes the protagonist, which allows for telling an equally complex story without missing a sense of ironic absurdity.
After knowing Tassilo since 2016 in person and finally visiting him and his family last summer in his hometown, it quickly became clear that I wanted to delve deeper and look behind the cool HipHop façade of the artist and bring the person Tassilo Treiber to the forefront for a broad audience. Since becoming a father myself last year, I've developed a particular interest for the special father-son relationship Tassilo and his Dad have. It’s bewildering to me how
fathers and son's seam to be able to clash and get along at the same time.
Skinny Finsta is a multifaceted artist in the German HipHop landscape, allowing us to peek behind the scenes with him. I have never considered making a pure rap PR film about a "successful" artist, as it is unfortunately commonplace in German HipHop.
As a filmmaker, I have the task of capturing moments and creating images that draw the viewer into a foreign world and create connections within that world. The film will raise existential questions, such as the relationship between father and son, violence and death, and the fulfillment of childhood dreams.
DIRECTOR'S PREVIOUS WORK
In the spirit of the classic auteur film, I, Paul Henschel, serve as the director, sole cameraman, and editor for the majority of my work. With awards and TV broadcasts for my previous self-produced documentaries, I have proven in Germany that I am capable of successfully executing my own projects.
Working with a minimalist team is a necessity and prerequisite for me to establish and maintain a close personal connection with the protagonist.
This new documentary project is a logical continuation of my previous documentary works.
After several 30-minute reports and documentaries, I am now ready to face the challenge of creating a feature-length film for the first time.
The connection to HipHop culture, in which I have been active as a photographer and music video director for almost a decade, offers me the opportunity to devote myself to another passion project – while remaining independent from the industry, allowing me to create a more objective film from a healthy distance.
You can download a visual treatment about the project with more information as printable PDF available in English or German.
Please request the link via email: email@example.com