‘Human Factors’ Director Ronny Trocker on Social Media Malaise and Multi-Language Moviemaking

Nick Vivarelli
·3-min read

Director Ronny Trocker, whose second feature “Human Factors” world-premiered at Sundance on Jan. 29 in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, was born in Bolzano, Italy, capital city of the autonomous province of South Tyrol where German is the first language of most of the population. Early in his career, Trocker moved to Berlin where he worked as a sound engineer before studying film in Argentina, followed by more film studies in France. He now lives and works mainly in Brussels. Just like the family in which Trocker grew up, different languages are spoken throughout this pic, which follows a French-German married couple — both work in advertising — whose both lives are disrupted by a mysterious break-in at their country getaway. Trocker spoke to Variety about the multiple languages in “Human Factors” and also the social media-skewed perspectives in his film that depicts “a contemporary malaise in a family context.”

“Human Factors” is being trumpeted by the Italian industry as being Italian; by the Germans as being German. But I don’t identify it as coming from either of those countries. Do you feel you have a national identity as a director?

I’m from Alto Adige [South Tyrol]. When I was at film school in Argentina and people would ask me ‘Where are you from?’ I would say: I am Italian, but Italian is not my mother tongue.’ So it’s complex. Identities are complex, they are subjective and they constantly change. As a director I think my biggest influence comes from Argentinian cinema: Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero, to give you a couple of names.

More from Variety

What did ‘Human Factors’ germinate from?

It came in part from my personal experience. I have two children, and have asked myself plenty of things pertaining to family life. What role does my family expect from me within this convention that is the family? I’ve gone through this change of perspective, I used to be a son, now I am a father. How do my children perceive me? It started from there.

The world of advertising social media and cellphones also plays prominently in the film.

I wanted to reflect on how our society is influenced by our new media era. How this impacts the microcosm that is a family. There is this paradox where the parents are professional communicators, but in their private lives they are no longer speaking to each other, and are not listening to their children.

Was “Human Factors” tough to finance?

I was very fortunate from the development stage to have the support of the IDM Alto Adige Film Fund. They allowed me to develop the project even though they knew I wasn’t going to shoot there. Then my Berlin-based producer [Zischlermann Filmproduktion] found the funding to shoot in Belgium, where I live, because I really wanted to shoot the coast there. I thought that since I live in Belgium I would find funding here, but that did not happen. We found funding in Denmark, which is where we did the post-production.

The photography and editing are top notch, who did you work with?

My director of photography is Klemens Hufnagl and my editor is Julia Drack, they are both Austrian and they are a couple. Initially I was very afraid to work with this set up because I thought there were plenty of ways that we could come into conflict. But it actually works very fluidly; we are friends. Producers tend not to like it because if you say that you have two heads of departments from the same country that reduces your options to tap into subsidies from different countries, so they tend to balk a little. But they understood that this triangle works well.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.