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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Hamburgers Love Hamburg Films

by Becky Tan

I saw seven films which were all, or partly, filmed in Hamburg. It was a full house all around as enthusiastic Hamburgers stormed the cinemas. Although perfectly well-made and interesting, they might not have been so popular, in, say, Munich or Frankfurt. Perhaps two films mentioned here will open in mainstream cinemas. Most will appear on television sometime in the future, especially on NDR or ARTE. One, Die Wilde 13, has the chance of becoming a play, possibly to open in Hamburg’s Thalia theater, much like the musical Linie S1 which is also sold out in the St. Pauli Theater in the Reeperbahn.  In Die Wilde 13 Kerstin Schaefer and Paul Spengemann speak with residents of Hamburg-Wilhlemsburg and trace the positive development of that neighborhood over the last ten years.

In Alfred Brehm I sat beside a couple with two small sons. They had driven to Hamburg from Flensburg. The father said that they had a copy of Brehms Tierleben (Brehm’s Life of Animals) at home and they wanted their sons to know more about the man who founded the first zoo in Hamburg in 1861, downtown near Planten un Blomen at Tiergartenstrasse. (See review).

Großstadtrevier is a detective series on television which started in 1986 in Studio Hamburg. So far there have been 342 episodes. In 1992 in the 37th episode, Jan Fedder joined this fictitious police force and became the darling of the series as Dirk Matthies. Fedder was born in Hamburg in 1955 and grew up in St. Pauli where his parents had a bar. He attended this festival which showed one of his earlier segments, as well as the newest one. He was accompanied by his wife Marion and during Q & A told us about singing in the boys’ choir at the Michel Church and taking ballet lessons (where he was practically the only boy). His first stage appearance was at age 13; he performed many years in the Kleck’s children’s theater, as well as Hamburg’s Ernst-Deutsch Theater in Mundsburg.

The advantage to showing films made in Hamburg is that often the directors and members of the cast also live nearby and therefore can come to the openings. The stage was always full of participants at these films, all eager to answer questions. People often have a personal connection, too. For example, my American friend Beth Graß happily showed me her VIP ticket to Filmstadt. She said, “I know the camera man; his wife is the reason I’m in Hamburg. They filmed right outside our apartment in Eimsbüttel.”

Some films receive financial support from the Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein under the condition that at least some part is filmed in Hamburg or has another, less obvious connection, such as rental of an editing studio. In other words, the flow of money is not a one-way street. Cesars Grill was such a film. Director Darío Aguirre moved to Germany from Ecuador and studied at the Hamburg Hochschule für Bildende Kunst (HFBK). In his documentary, he returns to Ecuador after ten years to report on the ups and downs of his father’s restaurant. Naturally, most of the film shows that area, but, since he received money from our local film sponsorship, he was obligated to film here, which he does in various well-known shots of the harbor, for example. Nothing exciting, but he fulfilled his part of the bargain.

Naturally, the docudrama Banklady was filmed in Hamburg, partly to fulfil the financial support arrangement, but also because it is a true story about a Bonnie and Clyde couple (Gisela Werler and Hermann Wittorff) which robbed 19 banks in Hamburg and the surrounding area in the 1960s. (See review) 

Perhaps the most pertinent film is the documentary Lampedusa auf St. Pauli by Rasmus Gerlach. In three summer months he spoke with the pastor of the St. Pauli Kirche, Sieghard Wilm, and many of the 80 Africans who live as illegal refugees inside a St. Pauli church. After the film we had a discussion with representatives of the African group, e.g., their spokesman Andreas, as well as Pastor Sieghard Wilm as well as a representative of the local SPD political party. Since the Filmfest, this situation has now exploded as Hamburg’s police arrested some of these Africans in order to ascertain their origins in an effort to send them back home as “illegal aliens.” There have been regular demonstrations in downtown Hamburg, some of which have become violent, calling for police intervention. This problem will not disappear soon; perhaps there will be a Lampedusa Part II.

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