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Der deutsche Freund (El Amigo alemán)
Germany/Argentina 2012

Opening 1 Nov 2012

Directed by: Jeanine Meerapfel
Writing credits: Jeanine Meerapfel
Principal actors: Max Riemelt, Benjamin Sadler, Celeste Cid, Hartmut Becker, Jean Pierre Noher

In Jeanine Meerapfel’s unconventional love story, a lot of her own biography shines through. Like the female main character Sulamit (Celeste Cid), she too was born in Argentina into a Jewish family, studied journalism at the university Buenos Aires, had German neighbours and as a young woman lived in Germany. She is known for her documentaries, and therefore it is not surprising that her new film is about Jewish emigrants living next to a Nazi family having fled Germany after WWII. Little is known of the conflict created by this situation.

During the 1950s in Buenos Aires, the lovely 13-year old Sulamit befriends Friedrich (Max Riemelt). Her Jewish parents don’t like it but can do little against it. The two stay friends right through their university years. After Friedrich discovers that his father was – and still is – a staunch Nazi (SS-Obersturmbannführer), he breaks with his family and moves into a commune. Here he learns to fight against anything right-wing, becomes more and more politicised and eventually leaves for Germany to join the students’ cause. This can also be seen as a frustrating effort to free himself from his father’s past. Sulamit continues her studies but still thinks of her friend. When she receives a scholarship in Germany, she joins him. As much as Friedrich loves to see her, his comrades have become all important to him. In time, Sulamit realises that the protest movement consumes him totally. She can no longer reach Friedrich emotionally. At a political meeting she gets to know Michael (Benjamin Sadler), who loves and patiently courts her. The two move in together. Friedrich has become disappointed with the political progress in Germany and moves back to Argentina, where he hopes to make a mark in fighting against the dictatorial military regime. He joins a militant underground group – and nothing more is heard of him. Sulamit cannot forget Friedrich. In Argentina many people opposing the regime have disappeared without a trace. Sulamit starts searching for Friedrich and finds him in a prison in far away Patagonia. Their meeting is frustrating to watch. Friedrich only talks of the political protest without allowing any private feelings. Sulamit is disappointed, returns to Germany, becomes an efficient literary professor but cannot forget the love of her life. Many years later she receives a letter from Friedrich. He is out of prison, lives in a small house in Patagonia, and invites her to visit. Will the two lovers at long last find a mutual path for a future together?

The political atmosphere in Argentina and Germany and the effect it had on its people is intelligently interwoven with the love of the young couple born in the same country but from different backgrounds. This is a global theme and could just as well be applied to a Muslim loving a Christian, or an Israeli a Palestinian, etc. Luckily, love still has the power to overcome cultural differences and to let go of any guilt accumulated by the previous generation. (Birgit Schrumpf)

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