Katja Esson

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Katja Esson (born Katja Kümmerle in 1965 or 1966 ) is a German documentary filmmaker and author who lives in New York . Her film Ferry Tales was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Documentary Short at the 2004 Academy Awards.


Esson grew up in Hamburg-Poppenbüttel . At 21, she moved to Miami to study. In 1990 she earned a Bachelor's degree in Motion Pictures and Theater from the University of Miami . During a trip to Havana, she met the Cuban painter Tomas Esson, whom she later married. At the age of 25, she moved back to Hamburg with him, but they encountered many prejudices there. After three months they returned to Miami. When Katja Esson was 28 years old, she moved to New York. Esson lives in Brooklyn, New York.


After studying in Miami, she initially worked as an assistant director for German feature film productions and in Miami's music video industry. One of her first films was a documentary about Cuban artists who emigrated to the USA. After moving to New York, she first made documentary portraits and commercials.

She has been making her own films as a director and writer since 2000. So far she has realized 18 film and television productions. She is also the author of almost all of her productions.

Her film Vertical Traveler (German title: Die Reise nach oben ) tells in an essayistic way about the indispensable role of elevators in the cosmopolitan city of New York. The film follows an old engineer who has immigrated from Cuba to the elevators of famous New York skyscrapers that he has looked after all his life, including the steam-powered elevator of the Flatiron Building .

Ferry Tales takes the viewer to the ladies' bathroom at New York's Staten Island Ferry , which has become a social microcosm for a loose clique of working women, dominated by make-up, gossip and the most intimate problem discussions. Other German women who lived in New York at the time also worked on the film: Corinna Sager, Sabine Schenk, Cassis Staudt, Martina Radwan and Sabine Hoffmann.

Your film A Hole in the Sky (German title: New York in the shadow of the towers ) is a portrait of the city of New York five years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center . It was broadcast on Erste (ARD).

Hooker, Harlot, Whore - The Oldest Profession (German title: Das Äldeste Gewerbe ) deals with the history of prostitution and lets today's prostitutes have their say, who talk about their situation and their profession with great openness.

Esson's film Skydancer (German title Die Himmelsläufer von New York ) depicts the life of Indian high-rise steel constructors from the Mohawk tribe between the city and the reservation. The very personal portrait of two families illuminates the contrast between their role as modern US citizens and the desire to live and restore their own traditional identity.

Backroads (German title: Legendary Roads of America ) is a format that was co-designed by Esson, consisting of five documentaries that follow historic motorways through the American hinterland. A picture of American history and culture emerges from many small portraits and bizarre anecdotes, often with a slightly ironic undertone.

Esson's films repeatedly deal with American topics and shed light on unusual aspects of social and societal life. Her insider knowledge of American and especially New York culture and society is combined with the distance of the outside perspective. Most of her films have been and are shown on German television, especially on Arte. Her films are also featured on US channels such as HBO and PBS , as well as on international television.

In 2004 she started her own production company Penelope Pictures .

Awards and prizes (selection)

  • 2004 Academy Awards / Oscar nomination for Best Short Documentary "Ferry Tales"
  • 2005 WinFemme Film Festival / WIN Award Grand Price "Ferry Tales"
  • 2006 World Media Festival / Gold Award Best Documentary "Hole in the Sky" ("New York in the Shadow of the Towers")
  • 2008 Jerome Foundation Grant
  • 2011 US International Film and Video Festival / Silver Screen Award "Hooker, Harlot, Whore - The Oldest Profession"
  • 2011 DocuWeeks IDA Theatrical Showcase / Oscar qualification Best Short Documentary "Poetry of Resilience"
  • 2011 Woodstock Film Festival / Diane Seligman Award Best Short Documentary "Poetry of Resilience"
  • 2012 Shanghai Film and TV Festival / Nomination Magnolia Award Best Documentary "Skydancer" ("The Skyscrapers of New York")
  • 2012 Cinema for Peace Award / nomination for Best Documentary "Poetry of Resilience"

Filmography (selection)

  • 2001 Vertical Traveler (The Journey Up)
  • 2003 Ferry Tales
  • 2006 Hole in the Sky - The Scars of 9/11 (New York in the shadow of the towers)
  • 2006 A Season of Madness
  • 2009 Hooker, Harlot, Whore - The Oldest Profession
  • 2010 Latching On - The Politics of Breastfeeding
  • 2011 Skydancer (The Sky Runners of New York)
  • 2011 Poetry of Resilience
  • 2013 Backroads USA (America's Legendary Roads) (5-part documentary)

Web links


  • Hannes Klug: Schauplatz Film New York , Bückle & Böhm 2015, ISBN 3941530259 , pp. 162–166

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f Anja Reich: Katja Esson went from Poppenbüttel to New York , Berliner Zeitung from February 21, 2004, accessed on December 4, 2015
  2. Samantha Bonar: Women find power in ferry's powder room , September 14, 2014; on latimes.com
  3. a b c Esson's curriculum vitae on the website of your German agency
  4. a b c http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/makers/fm585.shtml
  5. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1534515/
  6. http://www.ksta.de/jks/artikel.jsp?id=1156330329693  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.ksta.de  
  7. a b c d e http://blueflowerarts.com/artist/katja-esson/
  8. http://ffc.twu.edu/issue_3-2/rev_ema_3-2.html
  9. http://www.thewinawards.com/2005winners.html
  10. a b c http://speakerpedia.com/speakers/katja-esson
  11. Archived copy ( Memento of the original dated December 10, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.jeromefdn.org
  12. http://www.filmfestawards.com/awards/index.asp?PROCESS=Y&F_ENTRY_YEAR=2011&F_AWARD=SILVER+SCREEN&F_TITLE01=the+oldest+profession&F_CATEGORY01=&F_KEYWORDS=profession&F_MATCH_TYPE=Submit
  13. http://www.documentary.org/magazine/meet-docuweeks-filmmakers-katja-esson-poetry-resilience
  14. http://www.woodstockfilmfestival.com/awards2011.htm
  15. http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c826.shtml