A VERY
GERMAN WELCOME

(90 min., Germany, 2014)

A VERY
GERMAN WELCOME

(90 min., Germany, 2014)

As of 2013 the number of refugees in Germany rose rapidly – a nation in an exceptional situation with a deeply divided population. Though the issue stirs citizens’ emotions, it arouses their anxieties, too. These people are precisely where the feature-length documentary A VERY GERMAN WELCOME (original title: WILLKOMMEN AUF DEUTSCH) sets in, with their worries and cares, with their veiled and open hostility toward foreigners. But not in the east where the right-wing “AfD” party has its strongholds: dead center in the middle-class heart of western Germany. In Harburg, a state county that ranges between the heaths of the Lüneburger Heide and big-city Hamburg. A part of Germany where the world still seems to be in good shape.

But now traumatized refugees live alongside villagers. Faced with their new neighbors, these days the locals are worried about their daughters and the sales value of the homes they own. 53 young men who fled from war or lives with no prospects in sight are supposed to be housed in a 400-soul hamlet that boasts neither a bakery nor a supermarket. How is all this going to make for a compatible fit?

The feature-length documentary A VERY GERMAN WELCOME observes this challenging process using two small communities that act as representative examples for 82 million Germans. The multiple award-winning directors Carsten Rau and Hauke Wendler accompany refugees, residents and the regional head of the overwhelmed local administration to accomplish this. Their film tries to get to the bottom of what actually stands in the way of a sustainable change in the policy toward foreigners and integration in Germany. An emotional, at times amusing, at other times highly political documentary that allows those people to frankly speak their minds who would otherwise presumably be found at the tables for regulars in taverns and bars.

www.willkommen-auf-deutsch.de

Screenplay/Directors: Carsten Rau and Hauke Wendler
Camera: Boris Mahlau
Editor: Stephan Haase
Music: Sabine Worthmann
Commissioning Editor: Barbara Denz (NDR)
Production: PIER 53 Filmproduktion

FESTIVALS

DOK Leipzig, International Festival for Documentary Films, Germany
Kasseler Dokumentarfilmfest, Germany
Nordische Filmtage, Lübeck, Germany
Filmtage Luzern, Switzerland
Freedom Film Fest, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Beyond Borders Filmfestival, Edinburgh, Scotland
German-Russian Documentary Film Days, Kaliningrad, Russia
Festival Univercine Allemand, Nantes, France
Regensburger Dokumentarfilmtage, Germany
Husumer Filmtage, Germany
Goslarer Filmtage, Germany
Festival Contre le Racisme, Cologne, Germany
Globale Filmfestival, Bremen, Germany
Tübinger Filmtage Flucht, Germany

VOICES OF THE PRESS

“A VERY GERMAN WELCOME doesn’t tell tales of the good and the wicked, of the poor victims and heartless enforcers. The filmmakers show what happens in the backwaters of Germany when abstracted strangers turn into real-life neighbors – or threaten to do so. And particularly because they don’t point fingers and condemn anything, the large scale of helpless perplexity hidden behind the officially certified provision of auxiliary relief services becomes clear (…) An excellent documentary.”
(Christoph Twickel, DIE ZEIT)

“The documentary filmers Hauke Wendler and Carsten Rau don’t cast an eye into the heart of darkness: they inaugurate a thought-provoking discourse on the issue of asylum by replying to anxieties and prejudices with examples of empathetic readiness to help.”
(Rainer Gansera, Süddeutsche Zeitung)

“Whereas the filmmakers singled out one harrowing refugee drama in WADIM, their award-winning film from 2011, now they try to portray a larger picture. Without commentary and using as few tools for dramatization as possible, they let numerous protagonists speak for themselves.”
(Sebastian Hofer, Spiegel Online)

“A film that makes you think twice, that makes you furious, but one that hurts, too. Because it reveals the everyday racism in the bourgeois heart of Germany.”
(Tobias Schlegl, presenter on aspekte, ZDF network)

“Hauke Wendler and Carsten Rau show a refreshingly differentiated portrayal of the current debate on refugees in their documentary film entitled A VERY GERMAN WELCOME. They juxtapose well-known anxieties and prejudices with human beings who help others during their first steps in a foreign environment and culture.”
(Ernst A. Grandits, presenter on Kulturzeit, 3sat channel)

“A VERY GERMAN WELCOME is a sensitive, intelligent film. It solicits understanding for refugees without becoming a tearjerker and illustrates the prejudices and anxieties of the German middle class without pointing an overtly didactic finger.”
(Katrin Erdmann, NDR Kultur)

“This is how an extraordinarily well-observed portrait of society originates within the microcosm of a village.”
(Deutschlandradio Kultur)

“The touching, astutely told documentary film lets both sides speak their minds without judging.”
(Cinema)

“Controversial, emotional, and even downright amusing time and again.”
(Oxmox)

“Sometimes a film comes along at the right time. The cinema launch for the documentary film A VERY GERMAN WELCOME starts today.”
(Wilfried Hippen, taz)

“Rau and Wendler ask the right and the important questions but remain completely in the background. They give people time to express their thoughts their way. (…) Sometimes it’s amusing, other times deeply tragic. But always enlightening, informative and touching.”
(Deutsche Film- und Medienbewertung FBW)

“Rau and Wendler have been concerning themselves with the issue of fleeing and migration for years. In 2011 they presented a nightmarish masterpiece with the documentary WADIM. (…) In A VERY GERMAN WELCOME they want to engage in the social debate about the policies regarding asylum, refugees, and how refugees are dealt with – and kick the debate off in a way that hasn’t occurred until now.”
(Sven Sakowitz, Jungle World)

“It would have been a piece of cake for the filmmakers to expose the everyday racism in German backwaters far from Dresden and the ‛Pegida’ movement, to bring barroom prejudice to the silver screen. But luckily the multiple award-winning authors Carsten Rau and Hauke Wendler dare to venture a more differentiated view, to show all the facets of the lower middle class and bourgeois discord revolving around fleeing and asylum.”
(Constantin Binder, Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung)

“A VERY GERMAN WELCOME shows – believe it or not, even in amusing ways – the necessity to reform the German regulations for asylum. And that humanity always has to prove itself whenever people are at the mercy of the situation they’re in. Sometimes right next door.”
(Dorothee Krings, Rheinische Post)

INTERVIEW

Carsten Rau, Hauke Wendler

Why did you make this film?

Hauke Wendler: The numbers of applicants for asylum in Germany are sharply increasing, and we have a public debate going on around the issue which is marked first and foremost by prejudices and anxieties. Our new, feature-length documentary A VERY GERMAN WELCOME shows what actually happens when applicants for asylum move into the neighborhood. It’s also an attempt to start talking more open-mindedly about the issue. This is a topic that our society is going to be concerning itself with for years and decades to come, but it’s also one from which we can ultimately benefit.

Carsten Rau: People taking flight and migration are part of the history of mankind. Without people fleeing and migrating, this continent we have here wouldn’t even be populated. And in the end it’s basically ignorant when actors from the political side pretend that refugees could be scared off by high fences and laws that get stricter and stricter.

What sets the film apart?

Hauke Wendler: What’s special about A VERY GERMAN WELCOME is that it allows all the sides involved to have their say, with all their worries and fears, but that means their hopes, too. It doesn’t get you anywhere to act as if there were a broadly based consensus here with a positive attitude toward refugees and immigrants. It’s equally important to us to map out the shades of gray within the public debate and expose the simple-mindedness of the heavy-handed populistic slogans going around as just what they are.

Carsten Rau: On a worldwide scale, 51 million people are currently fleeing from hunger, war and displacement. They are the highest figures since the end of World War II. But of those 51 million, only a mere fraction landed in Germany. A country like Germany must have the capability to handle this. But to get it done the political side also has to prepare itself early enough to face the development of crisis hotspots all over the world along with the growing number of refugees.

Where do the general failings on the part of politics lie that the film is taking aim at?

Hauke Wendler: Since the mid-1980s scientists have pointed out time and again that Germany is an immigration country and that we’ll have to face this challenge with new laws and better integration programs. But politics blocked the warnings out for a long time. Because politicians are afraid to tell the people in this country what the realities are and that refugees don’t let themselves be stopped just like that. Discussion along these lines is precisely what our documentary A VERY GERMAN WELCOME wants to get started.

CREDITS

PIER 53 Filmproduktion

in co-production with
Norddeutscher Rundfunk
Südwestrundfunk

funded by
Filmfund Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein

 

A film by
Carsten Rau und Hauke Wendler

Film Editor
Stephan Haase

Director of Photography
Boris Mahlau

Additional Camera
André Wawro
Torsten Reimers
Julian Krätzig

Camera Assistant
Gerd Hogenfeld
Maik Farkas

Original Sound
Torsten Reimers
Detlev Meyer
Patrick Benze

Line Producer
Andrea Pittlik

Translations
Sina Arsengireeva
Rayana Fakhri
Mukhtar Sheekh Cali
Constanze Stoll
Aneta Wolter

Transcription
Anne Schmalfeldt

Still Photography
Torsten Reimers

Image Editing
Oliver Stammel

Title Design
Katja Reise

Music
Sabine Worthmann

Musicians
Franz Bauer (Marimba, Vibraphone, Xylophone)
Silke Eberhard (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet)
Sabine Worthmann (Contrabass)

Sounddesign and Mixing
Matthias Münster

DCP Mastering
Heckmann und Thiele

Press Support
Doris Bandhold Filmpromotion

Production Assistant
Andrea Pittlik

Production Management
Eva-Maria Wittke (NDR)
Thomas Lorenz (SWR)

Commissioning Editors
Barbara Denz (NDR)
Gudrun Hanke-El Ghomri (SWR)

Executive Producers
Carsten Rau und Hauke Wendler