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Scene from WHAT A MESS! (photo © Stephan Rabold)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2009

"It has quite a lot to do with my own biography," says Alice Brauner about her very first own production, WHAT A MESS!, which wrapped principal photography in Berlin at the end of March.

The daughter of the producing legend Artur Brauner, she had never wanted to follow in her father's footsteps into the film industry and had successfully built up a career as a journalist and TV presenter.

However, three years ago, she took over the reins on Joseph Vilsmaier's THE LAST TRAIN (DER LETZTE ZUG) when her father was incapacitated.

"This is when I made contact with Degeto, and the commissioning editors Hans-Wolfgang Jurgan and Renate Michel asked if I had some other projects," Brauner recalls. "I submitted four treatments, of which they were interested in three, including WHAT A MESS!."

"We worked an extremely long time on the screenplay for WHAT A MESS! so that we had reached the 11th draft by the time we started shooting," she continues. "None of the actors I approached said 'No' and they were all very accommodating because they were so taken by the script. The author Daniel Wolf – whom I have known for over 25 years – also comes from a Jewish family and the story has something of Ephraim Kishon and a bit of Woody Allen, without the humor being too intellectual."

Natalia Avelon – 60s supermodel Uschi Obermaier in EIGHT MILES HIGH – plays the thirtysomething accountant Jil who thinks she has found her dream man in the landscape architect Marc (Johannes Zirner), if it wasn't for her strict Jewish family who would never accept a "goy", a non-Jew, as her betrothed. Jil and Marc try to keep up the pretence that he is Jewish, but everything comes out into the open with catastrophic results at a bar mitzvah celebration to which Marc's parents have also been invited. It seems that tradition and family is stronger than Jil's love for Marc – or is it?

"I want to show that the Jews are not just defined through the Holocaust, since WHAT A MESS! is a story about today's Berlin and things that happen to me and my friends each day," Brauner explains. "The few Jewish boys you get to know in kindergarten are like your cousins or brothers, so how can you fall in love with a Jewish man? Consequently, we all fell in love with non-Jewish men and that led to conflicts with our families. My father, for example, didn't speak to my future husband for a whole year!"

"You have a real clash of cultures and there is a balancing act between falling in love and the issue of embarking on a mixed marriage and its 'watering down' of Jewish culture," she adds, pointing out that the film has "the most profound of Jewish humor coming from within and doesn't work with the kind of Jewish clichés other films used. You have soul, love, warmth, music and suffering: everything that is part and parcel of Jewishness."

"I also wanted to show that Jews and German can live together in today's Germany," Brauner argues. "You don't have to reduce everything about Germany to neo-Nazis and radical right-wingers, and so the film could help to contribute to a more differentiated image of Germany abroad."

WHAT A MESS! was commissioned for one of the pubcaster ARD’s Friday night prime-time slots towards the end of this year, but Brauner negotiated an option for a theatrical release before the TV airing if a distributor expresses interest in taking on the film.

Genre Romantic Comedy
Category Feature
Year of Production 2009
Director Dirk Regel
Screenplay Daniel Wolf
Cinematography Stephan Wagner
Claudia Froehlich
Martin Stock
Oliver Hoese
Cast Marianne Sägebrecht, Michael Mendl, Gedeon Burkhard, Dieter Landuris, Mariella Ahrens, Gudrun Landgrebe, Hans Peter Hallwachs, August Zirner, Johannes Zirner, Natalia Avelon
Producer Alice Brauner
Production Company CCC Television/Berlin for ARD Degeto
Format Super 16, color
Shooting Dates Berlin, February - March 2009
Sound Technology Stereo
Festivals Hof 2009

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