Jeanine Meerapfel - Biography
Jeanine Meerapfel was born in Argentina in 1943, attended Journalism College in Buenos Aires, and then worked in Argentina as an editor and journalist. From 1964 to 1968 she studied under Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz at the Institute for Film at the Ulm Academy of Design, having been one of the first women to be enrolled there. Until the end of the 1970s she continued working as a freelance journalist, and gave film seminars in Ulm and at the Goethe Institut in various countries. In 1980 she made her first feature film, Malou, which won the international film critics award FIPRESCI in Cannes and received top awards at the San Sebástian and Chicago film festivals. This was followed in 1981 by the documentary In The Country of My Parents. Her next documentary Die Kümmeltürkin geht (Melek Leaves) won the Interfilm Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the German Film Critics Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. In her 1987 feature film Days to Remember, Jeanine Meerapfel tells the story of the young generation of guest workers trying to find their true home, torn between their parents’ homeland and the place they have spent their childhood. Between 1986 and 1989 she worked on the documentary Desembarcos (When Memory Speaks), dealing with the time of military dictatorship in Argentina, for which she received the City of Strasbourg Award and the El caimán barbudo award at the Havanna Film Festival in 1990. In 1988 Jeanine Meerapfel also completed La Amiga with Liv Ullmann in the leading role.
A wealth of awards and nominations followed for this film: The German Film Award 1989, award for Best Actress at the San Sebastián Film Festival, the OCIC award in Havana 1988. La Amiga was nominated as the Argentinean submission for the Oscars. In 1990 Jeanine Meerapfel became professor in Film/Television at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. In 1995 she completed work on the feature film Amigomío, for which she received the Saarland Screenplay award. Her filmmaking was recognized with the North-Rhine Westphalian Female Artists Award in 2000. In 2001 came Annas Sommer (Anna’s Summer), with Angela Molina and Herbert Knaup in the leading roles, which received the Special Mention Award at the Argentinean Mar del Plata film festival. In the documentary Fictional Lies on Right Occasions (2003), Jeanine Meerapfel profiles the two Greek musicians Floros Floridis and Babis Papadopoulos. In 2007 Jeanine Meerapfel made the documentary Mosconi – o a quién le pertenece el mundo (Mosconi – or to Whom the World Belongs), in which she follows the fight for survival of a north-Argentinian town affected by privatisation. In 2008, good!movies brought out a DVD Edition featuring nearly all of Jeanine Meerapfel’s films. In 2012 at the International Film Festival Innsbruck she received the honorary award for the body of her work. My German Friend has been nominated for the Hessen-Best Film Award.
Jeanine Meerapfel - My German Friend Director's Statement
What parts of this story are autobiographical? It is well known that many German Nazis fled to South America after the war. It is also known that many German Jews emigrated there before or during the war to safeguard their lives. What has rarely been dealt with up till now is how these two groups of people, who emigrated to Argentina within a few years of each other, and who came from the same German cultural circles, were able to get on with each other and how they reacted to each other. It is an irony of history that the German Jews and the German Nazis in Argentina favored similar places to live, had similar tastes in architecture, and chose similar places to holiday. Much of the narrative in the film is based on real events. The autobiographical element is that I grew up the daughter of German- Jewish emigrants in the 1950s in a suburb of Buenos Aires similar to the one in the screenplay, and a German family lived in the house opposite. I got to know lots of young Germans at that time. Some of them, as I later found out, were the children of prominent Nazis. Also autobiographical are the anti-Semitic attacks of my student days in Argentina, and the incredulity of young German interlocutors that I myself encountered in Germany when I informed them that I was of Jewish descent. In the ‘68-era I was a student in Ulm and Berlin. During this period I met German men of my age who were almost fanatical in their attempts to destroy the image of their fathers. Young men who were so ashamed of the atrocities of the Nazi period that they hid their German passports when they went abroad and blindly and recklessly committed themselves to extremist left-wing groups. Young men who had a long road ahead (if they survived their acts of fury) before they were capable of loving themselves – and then of loving others. I followed the period of military dictatorship in Argentina while I was in Germany. Cases of young Germans being abducted in Argentina at that time are well known (Klaus Zieschank, being one). I know the details of the horrors at that time from friends who were abducted, then taken to prison but who survived. The love story between Sulamit and Friedrich is invented but, as we know, the invented and the unconscious are also autobiographical. This film is my declaration of love to Argentina, the country that welcomed my family into safety, but also to the Germans of my generation who dragged themselves out of the morass of guilt and self-hate, and in so doing have helped to give today’s society a humane face. The love between Sulamit and Friedrich could equally be the love between a Palestinian and an Israeli, or a Catholic and a Muslim: a love which is fortunately stronger than the differences of our origins and heritage.