Opening 24 Sep 2009
This German film is so outrageous it deserves to be discussed. Inspired by reality TV series such as Hilfe, Holt Mich Hier Raus (known in Great Britain as I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here) and Deutschland sucht den Superstar (Pop Idol or American Idol in Great Britain and the U.S., respectively), directors Marcus Mittermeier and Jan Henrik Stahlberg, along with actor Christoph Kottenkamp, travel to the U.S. to compete in the American Idol competition. It’s irrelevant that they are over-the-hill age-wise, have little talent (except being extravagantly silly) and know nothing about the U.S. and speak no English. In Germany they already caused a stir by cutting off human limbs on TV, a habit they set forth in the U.S. They also perform as a rock band called the Baghdad Street Boys. Their final coup is to die on screen in Hollywood. This is supposed to be funny. It’s definitely very black comedy and is often amusing, although I felt the film was a means to an end, the end being an excuse for Mittermeier, Stahlberg and Kottenkamp to hang out, share ideas and party. The group almost admitted to this during the press conference at the 2009 Berlinale.
They made the film in ten weeks on a limited budget. Fifteen people traveled through the U.S. in two trailers. They often filmed without permission, Borat-style, in Las Vegas. Some critics felt that the ending was an inappropriate letdown, but if the guys are spoofing typical American TV news which concentrates on trivialities and sensationalism, then it was right on target. Or consider the publicity about former British Big Brother member, Jade Goody, who died, literally on screen, of cancer. The directors appreciated the good graces of the average American, and said that in one scene where they audition before a mayor of a small U.S. town, the real mayor volunteered to play himself. Mittermeier and Stahlberg had already made one small hit called Muxmäuschenstill. Stahlberg went on to make Bye Bye Berlusconi. They are definitely worth watching in the future. (Becky Tan)