In memory of poet and essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who recently passed away at the age of 93, retired German Studies professors Jerry Wensinger and Leo Lensing published commemorative articles in the “Geisteswissenschaften” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on February 15, 2023. For historical background, Enzensberger had been offered a yearlong fellowship at Wesleyan’s Institute for Advanced Studies (now the Center for the Humanities), but in January 1968 resigned after only a semester to move to Cuba “to work there for a substantial period of time,” as he explained in his resignation letter to Wesleyan president Etherington. On campus, he had been disturbed by the quiescent attitude towards the militarism of the Johnson administration, an attitude he found reflected in how people talked about US politics: “a new crop of words has been banished, by common consent, from polite society: words like “exploitation” and “imperialism.” They have acquired a touch of obscenity. Political scientists have taken to paraphrases and circumlocution which sound like the neurotic euphemisms of the Victorians. Some sociologists have gone so far as to deny the very existence of a ruling class. Obviously, it is easier to abolish the word “exploitation” than the thing it designates; but then, to do away with the term is not to do away with the problem.”
These contemporary German productions represent diasporic characters of Central, West, South, Southeast, and East Asian descent in a variety of genres and intersecting themes including stereotypes, gender, generation, mixed race identity, class, disability, and more.
(1) Get Up (Steh auf!), a 2019 short drama, directed by Seung-Hyun Chong. Taeshik, a German-born 26-year-old of Korean descent is torn between his Korean upbringing and his life in Germany. (2) Fruits & Vegetables (Obst und Gemüse), a 2017 short comedy-drama by Vietnamese director Duc Ngo Ngoc. At first glance, the Vietnamese greengrocer and his employee, who is as attached to the Berlin soccer team FC Union as he is to alcohol, have little in common. At second glance…
Tschick (Goodbye Berlin), a 2016 coming of age film, directed by Fatih Akin, based on Wolfgang Herrndorf’s bestselling novel Tschick. The film depicts two teenage outsiders from Berlin who steal a car and go on an eccentric roadtrip through Germany that will probably change their lives.
My Blind Date with Life (Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben), a 2017 biopic, directed by Marc Rothemund, based on the autobiographical book by Saliya Kahawatte. An ambitious young man struggles to achieve his dream of becoming an employee in a Munich luxury hotel despite being strongly visually impaired.
Semi-Detached (Doppelhaushälfte), a 2022 German TV comedy series. A family moves from hip Berlin to a semi-detached house in the idyllic countryside and gets to know their very different neighbors…