90 Grad Nord



It’s a fact: good Germans wait at red traffic lights. But what do you do when the green man simply won't appear? Taking place almost entirely on the most pernicious traffic island imaginable, 90 DEGREES NORTH is a humorous, fantastical parable offering an extreme take on the notion of following the rules of a civil society.

Director's Statement

The idea for 90 DEGREES NORTH came to me after our move to Berlin from London. I’d forgotten how religiously the Germans obey traffic lights. Three o'clock in the morning, not a car in sight and there we all were: waiting for the green man. No matter what, you observe the code and wait. After a nightmare infused with these observations I scribbled down the first outline for this absurd tale.

The film is inspired by old stories and mythologies. It exploits primal fears found in tales of the brothers Grimm – getting lost in a forest, being trapped by and at the mercy of an evil force with witch-like powers. There are also allusions to Greek mythology: The traffic island on its deadly road reminds of the ferry on the river Styx heading for Hades. It’s a twilight place - on the edge of reason, life and death.

These evocations of old stories are intertwined with modern concerns - embodied in our hero Karl. He finds it stressful to balance his roles as businessman, father and husband. Our ever faster moving lives, the growing expectations and demands for flexibility imposed on us can make us feel lost. In our hectic and lost state we look for systems to give our lives direction - even if they might not really make us happy, keep us from our loved ones or even kill us! For instance I was employed by a London company that kept me under its spell for many years with rewards and bonuses. I worked like a dog and was sucked dry. I left exhausted and someone else took my place. I hear he too burnt out, moved on and was replaced. I was devastated to realise how replaceable I was, but the machine keeps churning.

The island is such a machine. It imposes its own rules on Karl, swats him into place, until finally he is forced to re-evaluate his view on life - to think literally ... out of the box.

This is one of what I hope are many angles of the story. Essentially we wanted to make a short film that takes you off the map and into a nightmarish place with its own dream logic. That has a rounded narrative experience with surprising twists and turns, but allows space for personal interpretation. What can the island represent to each audience member? Work, family, a state or a state of mind, purgatory perhaps or is it just a phantasm? What I didn't expect was how revealing people's reactions to 90 DEGREES NORTH have been about their own psychological traps. The film seems to trigger something in the dark recesses of people's minds. There's a whole film in that, too! I have friends who call me up at times when they feel the world is conspiring against them and say “I’m on my traffic island! It’s happening!”

Director's Biography

Detsky has worked as a director and editor for the BBC, Channel 4, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. His short films have won several awards and prizes. In 2006 PEACE OF MY MIND won the First Prize at the ITV Cobravision Awards. HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE RICHARD GERE received the Caroline’s Comedy Emerging Talent Award at the Hamptons IFF 2008. SLITHER (Morgengrauen) won Second Prize at the Going Underground FF Berlin 2008. The short film DOWN UNDER won first place at the 20th Century Fox Sehnsucht Australian Awards. Detsky is currently developing his feature film debut. The short film MINISTRY OF GUILT is at present doing the festival circuit and has just won the Audience Award at the Isle of Man FF.


2015 - MINISTRY OF GUILT, short
2008 - DOWN UNDER, short
2008 - SLITHER, short
2006 - PEACE OF MIND, short
2000 - THE HOSTESS, short
1999 - ME, MYSELF AND I, short
1999 - TABLETALK, short

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Detsky Graffam

Written by: Detsky Graffam

Produced by: Marianne Graffam

Cinematography: Hanno Moritz Kunow

Editing: Karl Peglau

Production Design: Merlin Ortner

Costume Design: Madeleine Edis

Make-Up & Hair: Susi Bär

Original Score: Mathieu Karsenti

Sound Design: Charlotte Lewis

Cast: Carsten Clemens (Karl), Stefan Dietrich (Herr Harms), Jürgen Haug (Herr Gruber)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Short Film 2016