Natura Urbana (2017)
Director: Matthew Gandy
(UK/Germany, 72 mins)
Natura Urbana tells the post-war history of Berlin through its plants. The film takes us from the Trümmerlandschaften, and their unique ecologies, to the abandoned roofs of the Friedrichshagen Waterworks on the edge of the city. We encounter an extraordinary variety of spontaneous vegetation from all over the world that has sprouted along railway lines, on street corners, and in the distinctive Brachen of Berlin. In Natura Urbana the changing vegetation of Berlin serves as a parallel history to war-time destruction, geo-political division, and the newest phase of urban transformation. In addition to stunning urban landscapes, and unknown or rarely seen archive footage, the film also features interviews with leading cultural and scientific figures from Berlin such as the botanist Herbert Sukopp and the actor and writer Hanns Zischler. Post-war Berlin became the leading centre for the study of urban botany in the world and the city has played a pivotal role in the emergence of “urban ecology” as a distinctive scientific field. The encounters with urban nature are set to a compelling acoustic atmosphere, along with diverse electronic music from the city including compositions by Thomas Fehlmann and Manfred Miersch. Natura Urbana takes us on a unique journey through Berlin ranging from the botanical microcosm of cracked paving stones to elaborate attempts to map the entire city in terms of its distinctive ecological zones. Our film presents Berlin as a living book through a series of chapters, starting with the strange landscapes of war-time destruction—that are likened to the aftermath of a volcanic eruption—to more recent attempts to protect sites of urban bio-diversity from the speculative dynamics of urban change.
Writer & Director: Matthew Gandy
Executive Producer & Co-author: Sandra Jasper
Editor: Wiebke Hofmann