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Hotel Very Welcome

Hotel Very Welcome
Scene from "Hotel Very Welcome"

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2005

Hotel Very Welcome, Sonja Heiss’ Munich film school graduation project, is a fictional documentary which takes a bird’s-eye view and fly-on-the-wall approach to backpackers tramping the well-trodden paths of individual tourism in India and Thailand.

The camera accompanies five “typical” travelers as they search for the life exotic and themselves. Some seek their spiritual center, others the next extreme sporting adventure, the best dope, the nearest open keg and the hippest beach party.

“They follow their desires,” says Heiss. “They have hopes and expectations they want fulfilled. But the obstacles that arise are something they can’t calculate. It’s not so much the external limits they come up against but their own, internal ones.”

Marion, for example, is in India, seeking spirituality. Her greatest obstacle is herself. Bernhard has a detailed itinerary and little time to lose. Frank is in Thailand, looking for fun. He has the island, the palm trees and the ocean. He just needs the perfect woman.

How the travelers deal, or fail to deal, with their limits is, of course, all part of the fun. “It’s exciting,” says producer and Komplizen Film co-founder Janine Jackowski, “to watch how they behave in these adverse situations. Some face the problem head on, whether it’s understanding the culture, getting used to the food or even being ill. Some remain true to themselves, like walking an extra two kilometers to save five cents for a Coke.” What Hotel Very Welcome shows all too clearly is that you can never leave your origins behind.

And the irony of searching for that indefinable something is that, says Heiss, “so few backpackers travel off the beaten path. The infrastructure is close to perfect: cheap accommodation, restaurants, bars, Internet cafés, tours. Everything can be found in even the smallest village. So much for individual tourism.”

And at the end, does the traveler go home, refreshed and empowered, or stay? Does he marry? Break a leg and get stuck in Bangkok? Land in prison for drug dealing or become a diving instructor? The vast majority gets into the aircraft and returns to what they never really left behind.

Founded by Janine Jackowski and Maren Ade in 2000, Komplizen Film specializes in the development of commercial arthouse films, promoting and establishing local talent on the local market. Previous productions include Karma Cowboy (winner of the Bavarian Documentary Film Award) and the feature, Der Wald vor lauter Baeumen, which won the Special Jury Award in Sundance 2005.

Genre Society
Category Docu-Fiction
Year of Production 2005
Director Sonja Heiss
Screenplay Sonja Heiss, Nikolai von Graevenitz
Cinematography Nikolai von Graevenitz
Cast Eva Löbau, Carsten Strauch, Chris O'Dowd, Gareth Llewelyn, Ricky Champ, Svenja Steinfelder
Producers Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade, Christian Cloos
Production Company Komplizen Film, in co-production with ZDF Das kleine Fernsehspiel
Format color
 Geman and English
Shooting Dates India and Thailand, February - June 2005
Sound Technology Dolby SR
Festivals Berlin 2007 (Perspectives German Cinema), Karlovy Vary 2007 (Variety Critics' Choice), Vancouver 2007, Sevilla 2007, Houston 2008
With backing from FilmFernsehFonds Bayern
German Distributor STUDIOCANAL/Berlin

Komplizen Film GmbH i.G.