Willkommen bei den Hartmanns

Germany 2017

Synopsis

The recently retired teacher Angelika decides, against her skeptical husband Richard’s will, to take in a refugee. Soon afterward, the young Nigerian Diallo moves into the Hartmann home, and a whirlwind of complications ensue. These events not only disrupt the lives of Angelika and Richard’s adult children Philip and Sophie; they also put their own marriage as well as Diallo’s chances of integration to the test. Despite all the chaos, hope prevails that the family will recover its stability, confidence, and peace – like the rest of Germany.

Directors Statement

A while ago, a journalist friend said to me, “Pretty brave of you, making a film like this right now.” Was that a compliment? I’m not really sure.
The truth is that I wasn’t feeling particularly “brave” when I began to develop this film in the spring of 2015. Back then it was a little story of a family rife with quarrels that decides to take in a refugee. The topic was a bit particular. Unusual. But I found it exciting and rich. I thought it was interesting to contrast an upper middle-class family and all its problems with someone from a completely different cultural realm, someone facing totally different, indeed, much more serious problems. Several comedic and also very emotional possibilities arose from this.
Back then I could never have dreamed that this point of departure, this nuclear family, would come to be understood as a kind of metaphor for Germany or could even be seen as a kind of social satire.
Then came September 2015. Suddenly this was the only topic. Suddenly my film seemed absurdly current. Suddenly every family discussion seemed highly explosive. And I found this microcosm of family life more exciting than ever.
In my writing and also in my directing, I tended to approach things in a playful, relaxed, and politically incorrect manner and tried, up to the very end, to allow references to current events to flow into my work. I didn’t take anything too seriously since no film, let alone a comedy, can satisfy every political sensibility and take into account every sensitivity when faced with the complexity of the “refugee question.” No film could manage this even for my own sensibilities and sensitivities.
In the end my film is as contradictory as what I experienced in my discussions with refugees, directors of refugee centers, lawyers, and families about “everyday integration.” Admittedly, I was always surprised by the humor with which many refugees view their own situation.
Some of these experiences flowed into the character of “Diallo,” and I can’t thank my actor Eric Kabongo enough for all the heart he put into his role. If anyone was brave, then he was.
Personally, I see it this way: the situation is confusing and complex. My film is certainly no “Refugees Welcome” fairytale; nor is it a cynical, anti-“Yes-we-can” comedy—even if some people perhaps long for this kind of black-and-white portrayal. Germany and also Europe, are in the midst of a discursive shift that I have never experienced in all my years. People are arguing, seeking, and adjusting their perspectives. But this confusion, this uncertainty, this volatility also makes for really fertile ground for comedy.
And “Willkommen bei den Hartmanns” is, first of all, quite simply a comedy. It neither can nor wants the slightest bit to offer any serious political solutions. Nonetheless, I personally hope that my film can at least contribute a little bit to loosening things up. And that, in the process, it can even motivate, one way or another, humanistic reflection. And if I have any personal message, then it’s merely the hope that the Hartmann family—just like the whole country or maybe even our whole continent—can find its peace and solidarity again, despite all the crises and conflicts.

Biography

Simon Verhoeven was born in Munich in 1972. He graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts in New York with a BA degree in screenwriting and directing after attending the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York. His short film “Nice meeting you” won a Lew Wasserman Award at the festival of American film schools. In 2001 Simon Verhoeven directed his first feature, the satirical Munich comedy “100 Pro”. After the enormous success of “Men in the City” (“Männerherzen,” 2009), which takes a satirical look at modern men, he directed “Men in the City 2” (“Männerherzen … und die ganz ganz große Liebe,” 2011), his third feature based on one of his own screenplays. “Men in the City” received the 2010 Jupiter Award for Best Film and the Bavarian Film Award for Best Screenplay. In addition, the ensemble cast received a Bambi and the Bavarian Film Audience Award for its acting. With “Unfriend” Verhoeven filmed a horror thriller set in cyberspace and starring an international cast which opened in theaters in 2016. His most recent film, “Welcome to Germany” ("Willkommen bei den Hartmanns”) was a highly politically charged and critically acclaimed satire about the German refugee crisis. The movie was a box office sensation and Germany’s most successful film of 2016. The movie was honored with the German Film Award LOLA as well as with the Jupiter Award for Best National Film. “Welcome to Germany” also received the Bavarian Film Audience and Producer Award and the German Cinema Award for Peace “The Bridge”.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by : Simon Verhoeven

Written by : Simon Verhoeven

Produced by : Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann, Michael Verhoeven, Stefan Gärtner

Director of Photography : Jo Heim

Editor : Stefan Essl, Denis Bachter

Production Design : Eva Maria Stiebler

Costume Design : Silke Faber

Hair & Make up Artist : Barbara Spenner, Germaine Mouth

Composer : Gary Go

Sound Design : Nico Krebs

Main Cast : Eric Kabongo (Diallo Makabouri), Palina Rojinski (Sophie Hartmann), Elyas M'Barek (Dr. Tarek Berger), Philip Hartmann (Florian David Fitz), Senta Berger (Angelika Hartmann), Heiner Lauterbach (Dr. Richard Hartmann)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Comedy 2017