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American Women's Club of Hamburg


Films were divided into 11 sections and for some reason, my favorite section was Sichtwechsel. The most commonly recognized translation of Sichtwechsel comes from the financial world and means “bill payable in advance.” It takes much more research, and, in my case, experience with the German language, to confirm what we all assumed in the first place. Sichtwechsel here means a change of sightings or views. Or, as the festival information says, “This includes film directors who cross national and cultural borders in order to work and make films, i.e., filmmakers who must flee their countries involuntarily, as well as those who choose to make films abroad for artistic or private reasons.”

There were 10 films in the Sichtwechsel category and the five I saw were either real documentaries, or biopics based on true stories. This year’s winner of the 10,000 euro prize was AMIN by Philippe Faucon, who left his home country of Morocco to film in France and Senegal. Of the five films I saw, AMIN was my least favorite and I was surprised that it won. Although the acting was excellent, as well as the filming, the plot was totally “been there/done that.” A man leaves his wife and children to move (in this case to another country) and find work. Naturally, all must accommodate the difficulties of the situation for the good of the family. Surprise, surprise, the man begins a relationship with another woman; the family at home suffers from his absence. How many times has this story been told – anywhere and everywhere?

More films in the Sichtwechsel category:

Cassandro, The Exotico!
Marie Losier, France
This documentary tells the true story of good-looking Saul Armendariz, known as an “exotico” or a drag-queen wrestler. He was born and raised in the United States, but his family originated from Mexico where he returned to begin his career. Now, after almost 30 years in the ring, he is contemplating retirement. Director Losier accompanies him at home, to work, and on trips to Mexico, New York City, London and Japan where he can speak all three languages. Before each fight he must seriously prepare his costume, his make-up, and hair style in detail. All must be glamorous and elegant.
He discusses his health situation which goes back to 27 fractions and hospital stays including four surgeries. He was addicted to alcohol, drugs, and smoking for 10 years, but successfully managed to step back from all. One great support was his belief in the Catholic Church. He says that “going to mass is a free therapy session where I can forget all problems.” Losier often asks him when does he actually plan to retire. After all, he has reached all goals including the National Wresting Alliance Championship and the Universal Wrestling Association Championship. Most interesting was watching him teach this kind of wrestling, which is more like performing acrobatics in theater than competing in a sport. Cassandro was so outgoing, enthusiastic and friendly; I could imagine having coffee with him and talking some more. Director Marie Losier left her home country of France to film in Cassandro’s element. (BT)

Yolande Zauberman, France
Not to be mistaken for the 1931 film “M” by Fritz Lang. For this documentary director Zauberman accompanies Menahem Lang back to his original town of Bnei Berak, the seat of ultra-orthodox Jews called Haredi, where the men wear black clothes and big black hats with long locks of hair hanging down. Lang was recognized as a talented singer in early childhood and began performing religious liturgies in the synagogue. At the same time, rabbis repeatedly abused him sexually. Later Menahem agreed to an arranged marriage which lasted only four months, as he identified as a transsexual; it was easy to leave his parents, who could not accept this situation. He moved to Tel Aviv where he is now a successful singer/cantor/actor, talents which he often shares in the film. We follow him on his first home visit in 15 years, where he meets his two brothers and his parents. He takes us to the house of one of his former abusers, as well as to discussions with other young men about their situations. Naturally,
one could easily imagine being friends with Menahem. He has made his way, perhaps as an example to others in similar situations. Yolanda Zauberman left her home country, France, to film in Israel. (BT)

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes
Sophie Huber, Switzerland, USA
Blue Note Records offers opportunities to musicians to record their works in the world of jazz. The company was founded in 1939 by Alfred (Löw) Lion and Francis Wolff, both German Jews who escaped Berlin at the beginning of World War II and eventually ended up in New York. Their great talent was to step back and allow the musicians to follow their own instincts, which encouraged several streams such as hip-hop, Dixieland, modern, bebop, etc. In this documentary director Sophie Huber shows us films clips from the past. She also interviews modern musicians as they practice and record, which is a marvelous chance to hear many talents, some well-known such as Miles David or John Coltrane, as well as others who have faded back into history. Influential administrators such as Michael Cuscana, Don Was, or Bruce Lundvall, as well as artist Reid Miles who creates record covers, speak about their experiences working with musicians and publishing their works. They believe that “great art comes out of messed-up situations” and “music is only a tool to express what’s inside.” I enjoyed listening to more than 50 songs, all created and performed by black musicians. How interesting that two white, Jewish refugees could set up such a successful platform for black American musicians. So, where are the white, jazz musicians in the USA? My favorite American jazz musician in Hamburg is Jerry Tilitz and he is white. Would he have a chance with Blue Note? Director Sophie Huber left her native country of Switzerland to film in the USA. (BT)

The Return
Malene Choi Jensen, Denmark, Korea
Here the “return” refers to director Malene Jensen’s interest in her own heritage. She was born in Korea and adopted by Danish parents who raised her in Denmark. Actress, Karoline Sofie Lee, portrays Jensen, and goes to Korea to find her birth mother. Language is a problem; she stays in a dormitory called Koroot, where she can speak English with other “foreign” Koreans. She seeks information at Holt adoption agency. We learn various similar histories, such as that of Thomas (Thomas Hwan). We meet two Koreans, who play themselves and tell their true stories of growing up in the USA. One is artist Jou Yung Choi. It’s no matter that some stories are fiction based on fact and some are true. In the end, they are very similar with problems such as being mobbed at school and told to “go back home.” Some choose to find a new life in Korea, which, in one case, leads to a break with the foster family. While talking about their lives, they sit on a sofa next to a teddy bear, which is an actor in its own right.

Karoline Sofie Lee was available for Q & A after the film. Extremely, charismatic, she looked truly Asian in real life, while, in the film, she had reddish hair and seemed bi-racial. This is a fascinating topic, which reminded me of the filmed true story Lion, about a boy lost on a train in India. He is adopted by a family in Australia and returns later to find his real mother in an Indian village. I discussed this topic with my neighbor who was born in India and adopted by a German couple in Berlin. She has no desire to research her origins, saying, “I have a ‘real’ mother in Germany.” (BT)

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