Photo above: Cinematographer Daniel Bartsch (left) and shoemaker Bertl Kreca aka ‘Schuh-Bertl’ who played the character of Hans Wagner in Kreca’s original workshop in Munich.

100 years – in five minutes. This is what HANWAG asked filmmaker and mountain guide Daniel Bartsch to produce. The idea: to create an honest and authentic portrayal of company founder Hans Wagner – that would include his vision, but also his doubts and fears. But who could play such a role? While searching for a suitable actor, Daniel Bartsch came across a rather unique and special Munich craftsman. Who better to play an authentic Hans Wagner than a skilled present-day shoemaker?

The story behind the film

Bertl Kreca, commonly known as “Der Schuh-Bertl” was just the man. In his workshop and small store in Munich’s Gärtnerplatz, he makes hand-crafted, high-quality leather shoes in small batches, including custom-made footwear. He certainly had the right experience to understand a man like Hans Wagner. Moreover, his small, traditional workshop was the perfect location and had the right light and atmosphere to recreate HANWAG’s early years. From their first meeting, it was clear to Daniel Bartsch that Schuh-Bertl “not only had the right background to play the role, but also had a charismatic and genuine voice.”

This is how the idea started to take shape: reconstructing Hans Wagner’s thoughts and experiences on film – acted out and voiced by Bertl Kreca. As a strong advocate for high-quality, sustainable and handcrafted footwear, he was thrilled by the idea of being involved in a film about honest, shoemaking expertise. The workshop scenes were shot using original shoemakers’ tools, many of which Schuh-Bertl still employs to make his custom-made footwear in Munich. The evening scenes, with diary entries written by candlelight in Hans Wagner’s flat, were filmed in municipal buildings with a traditional arched construction in Weyarn, Bavaria.

Daniel Bartsch has worked with HANWAG over many years – providing moving and still images. The filmmaker says the commission to write and shoot this short film about the company’s heritage was particularly rewarding, but also very challenging: “It’s exciting, but very complex to try to depict what Hans Wagner was like – in words and images – in a clear, expressive and accessible way, whilst delivering a thoughtful and meaningful portrait. At the end of the day, the story is meant to be a genuine and authentic interpretation of reality. Above all, I wanted to challenge the ‘age-old’ perceptions associated with HANWAG and show how they are timeless values.”

After a brief pause, he adds: “And when you realise that people believe in you, it’s a really amazing feeling.” Maybe that’s how Hans Wagner felt when he founded HANWAG in 1921, in a small shoemaker’s workshop in Vierkirchen, near Munich.

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