I stepped out of the train in Rüsselsheim and there waiting for me, not far from a statue of Adam Opel was a chauffeur ready to whisk me away to a nearby Best Western Motel. An hour later I was picked up by yet a second chauffeur who drove me to the nearby Rüsselsheimer Filmtage. As the car door opened at Theater Rüsselsheim a photographer was waiting to ceremoniously snap a photo of me. I had seen enough of awkward female car-exiting shots in the Daily Mail to be ready for this moment. I made the most ladylike exodus from the back seat of a limousine possible. (It must be exhausting being a celebrity.) Exciting as it was getting all this attention, I felt a bit of a fraud. Once inside I was welcomed by Doris Andörfer, given a name tag, a program, a ballot, and a fistful of tickets for food and drink. There I met a number of “other” young filmmakers, each one slightly fidgety, anticipating the evening to come. Outside there was a festive atmosphere, a beer garden with the C# Band, a band of oldies playing oldies, food stalls, and lots of relaxed and friendly moviegoers. It was delightful.
What exactly had brought me on a sunny day in June to this charming film festival?
A week before, my son Jon (he is the young filmmaker nominated) had asked me a favor (he seldom asks for favors) to represent him at the film festival in Rüsselsheim. His satirical film Trump Super Soccer had been chosen as one of the sixteen films in competition. He had planned on attending himself, but had to be in a sound studio that Saturday in Hamburg for another film he was making. Doris had told him he had to send someone in his place, even if it was his Oma. That not being a remote possibility he chose me instead, and assured Doris, not to worry, I had not voted for the main character in his animated short film. Just to prove it I quickly sent an order to Zazzle in the States and received by special delivery a huge I Voted for Hillary button.
After agreeing to go, I hadn’t heard from Jon for a few days, and asked him to send more information. Upon reading the emails I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, there was to be a short interview on stage with each filmmaker or representative directly after their film was shown. So when the moderator Philipp Engel phoned me the evening before, we briefly discussed what we would talk about. I didn’t anticipate this would be my favorite part of my visit.
Now let’s go back to where I was sitting in the festive atmosphere in the beer garden at four in the afternoon enjoying the ambiance of warm sunshine and cultural creativity. The films were to start at five, with an intermission, the last to be shown shortly before ten in the evening. As I innocently leafed through the program in anticipation of seeing what was coming, I was also anxious to see when Jon’s film was scheduled. I hoped it would be one of the first. I discovered to my chagrin on the very last page, there was #16 Trump Super Soccer. As I had said, the interview on stage in front of, what I had just learned was 1000 moviegoers, was the part I was least looking forward to.
I dared just to have one glass of wine, such as shame I know, so as not to forget what Philipp and I had agreed to talk about. Ten o’clock was hours away, such a long wait to talk about an animated film which lasts one minute and 49 seconds.
Once inside the theater in the front row at five o’clock, with the young filmmakers, all uneasiness evaporated. It was fascinating watching such a rich variety of satirical films. There were four animated features. Der Wechsel was filmed in black and white as a silent movie with a camera and film from the twenties. All were satirical, and yet not one of them was anything like the others. Zwischen uns steht ein Salat had a sprinkling of Loriot inspiration. My absolute favorite was Mein Freund der Deutsche, a film about a Turkish Gastarbeiter straight out of the sixties. The films ranged from 45 seconds to 19 minutes. After each was an interview, something the audience seemed to savor. It was the audience who would vote for the three winners.
Ten o’clock was approaching, and so was Jon’s film. When I went up on stage, I knew exactly where to stand for the light, what not to do, like try to grab the microphone as some of the others had. Philipp and I spoke a bit about the film, but nothing about what we had prepared, and then mostly about Donald Trump. I was wearing my rather gigantic I Voted for Hillary button, as a joke and a talisman. The audience seemed to love it. We also spoke of the danger of drinking the local apple wine Äppelwoi. I explained to Philipp that Jon had been to the Rüsselsheimer Filmtage three times before, and each time had had a memorable hangover from the wine, and warned me not to drink any. The audience seemed to love that little tidbit, and those in the front seats mimed toasting me from their seats with imaginary Äppelwoi. Then it was back outside for more beer garden delicacies and the oldies band.
An hour later, after the 1000 ballots were counted, we all ambled back in the theater where the officials announced the three winners (see box). Each filmmaker bounded to the stage, ecstatic and optimistic, basking in their well-deserved awards. Afterwards, I rode back in the chauffeured driven Opel with a four other filmmakers who had obviously not won, and were not staying after to celebrate. Yet, they were all in good spirts and found it quite remarkable that I had come all the way to Rüsselsheim for my son. They wanted to know if I often represented him, and I had to admit, it was the first time, and though I had had a fabulous time, I wasn’t sure I would return. But if I did, next time I would be sure to drink some Äppelwoi.