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Je Suis Karl
Germany/Czech Republic 2021

Opening 16 Sep 2021

Directed by: Christian Schwochow
Writing credits: Thomas Wendrich
Principal actors: Luna Wedler, Jannis Niewöhner, Milan Peschel, Edin Hasanovic, Anna Fialová

Alex (Milan Peschel) and Inés (Mélanie Fouché) Baier drive across the border into Germany. Inés is wearing a red clown nose which distracts the customs official who is checking their belongings. He laughs and they drive on without anyone finding their immigrant, Yusuf (Aziz Dyab), who is hiding in the trunk of the car. Success! This happy beginning changes drastically. At home in his Berlin apartment, Alex accepts a package for a neighbor. He returns to his car to fetch the wine. Explosion! The house is destroyed. Inés and the two small sons die. Alex and his 18-year-old daughter Maxi (Luna Wedler) move into temporary housing with no possessions from their previous life. Maxi, fighting her emotions, meets Karl (Jannis Niewöhner). They go to Paris and attend his Summer Academy, supported by young people from all over Europe. It is soon clear that this organization is hard right wing, under the motto “Re/Generation Europe” or “We are the new Europe.” They travel to Prague and then Strasburg. Maxi meets Karl’s friends Jitka (Anna Flalová) and Ante (Edin Hasanovic). Is there a connection between them and Maxi’s circumstances? Father Alex worries, he has lost contact.

Je Suis Karl (I am Karl) is impressive in many facets. About this same time the three main actors are appearing parallel in three films: The Story of My Wife (Luna Wedler), Confessions of Felix Krull (Jannis Niewöhner), and Beckenrand Sheriff (Milan Peschel). Now we see them together. Their performances, along with Anna Fialová who also sings, are excellent, as they speak in German, English, and French. Much of the filming was done in Berlin’s Friedrichshain, where both director Schwochow and script writer Wendrich reside with their families. The cinematography pulled me into the screen. The 18 songs swing along, with several original compositions by Max Rieger. Underlying the emotions are right-wing politics, represented by young people who wish to change the world. Right-wing opinions are taken seriously in Germany, which will elect a new government on September 26, 2021. Terror, as discussed in the film, is also a contemporary topic. We first hear “I am Karl” near the end of the 126 minutes, which quickly turns into “We are Karl” accompanied by protests which become violent. The final moment is quiet and perhaps symbolic.

Director Schwochow says, “I want this film to be discussed in schools and in families as an artistic event.” Opportunities to discuss in Hamburg will take place in three different cinemas on September 12, 2021, with both Schwochow and Wendrich present for Q & A. They will return the next day, September 13, 2021, to discuss with school classes in two cinemas. Three days later the film will open officially in Germany. Je Suis Karl has been nominated for best film, as well as for three best actor awards in the German Film Prize Competition, winners to be announced October 1, 2021. (Becky Tan)

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