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American Women's Club of Hamburg

A Big Hand of Applause: Homage to Wim Wenders

As Wim Wenders thanked his lead actress Yella Rottländer for her role in the film Alice in the Cities, a shiver went down my spine and now I pay tribute to a director who expanded my horizons in international filmmaking. As an American, I remember learning about WW2 and how Germany was divided into East and West, but that was pretty much the extent of my history lesson and I can honestly say that many Americans today still know very little about Germany as a modern force in Europe. But back in the 1980s this unknown black-and-white foreign film with its poetic vision called Wings of Desire made a huge impact at my Midwest campus cinema and would change my views forever in relationship to film. Wenders captured a glimpse of Berlin at its most critical time. With the fall of the Wall, everything would rapidly change its face as East and West would merge into one. Also extraordinary is that for those of us attending the Berlinale, we recognized the wasteland at Potsdamer Platz which has long since vanished. He said at the press conference that, when they were digitalizing these old films, he noticed that someone from the East was filming the crew as they worked. Wenders said he would love to have their footage for a different perspective. I also decided to see An American Friend for the same reason. I can see the past history of the Hamburg harbor, which has recently changed so much that it makes it hard to guess where this film was shot.
It was self-evident that Wim Wenders should receive this honor for his tributes to the cinema since his expression and process in filmmaking over the decades is his unique style. Now, almost 70 years of age, he has time to reflect on what he has learned through this experience of being a director, as well as on films that he does not have time to make. He describes how his first films were modeled after great directors but he needed to find his own language to become a real filmmaker. And with Alice in the Cities he knew he had found his unique expression. He said at the press conference, “Some of my film looks at the language of film through microphones and cameras; it was a sign of doubting its capacity of storytelling. That doubt does not exist anymore.” He said that it is clear that doubts do not exist in documentaries.
Born in 1945, he studied philosophy and medicine. In the end he traded his saxophone for a camera and began to find himself, studying painting, working as a film critic and then finally diving into film making. His first film, Schauplätze, dates back to 1967. Many of his films have won awards, with an Oscar nomination for Buena Vista Social Club (1999) which portrasy a group of Cuban musicians, who were lost due to the political situation and then re-found due to his documentary film. He was devastated in 2002 when he lost the rights to all his films and had to regain control of his lost children (his collection of films) through a foundation; he would recommend that to any film director. He has written a number of books and worked as a professor at the Hamburg University in the Fine Arts Department until 2013. The one thing he hasn’t done but has dreamed of doing is a comedy. He says he is not sure he will pull that one off and smiles at the audience.
Films by Wim Wenders
Every Thing Will be Fine 2015
The Salts of the Earth 2014
Cathedrals of Culture 2014
Pina 2011
Palermo Shooting 2008
Don’t Come Knocking 2005
The Blues: The Soul of A Man 2003
Viel passiert – Der BAP Film 2002
The Million Dollar Hotel 2000
Buena Vista Social Club 1999
The End of Violence 1997
Lisbon Story 1995
Faraway, So Close 1993
Until the End of the World 1991/1994
Tokyo-Ga 1985
Paris Texas 1984
The State of Things 1982
Hammett 1982
Nick’s Film-Lighting over Water 1980
The American Friend 1977
Kings of the Road 1976
Wrong Moves 1975
Alice of the Cities 1974
The Scarlet Letter 1973
The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick 1972
Summer of the City 1971
Schauplätze 1966/67

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