Willkommen bei den Hartmanns
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.
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Simon Verhoeven
Written by: Simon Verhoeven
Produced by: Stefan Gärtner, Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann, Michael Verhoeven
Cinematography: Jo Heim
Editing: Stefan Essl, Denis Bachter
Production Design: Eva Maria Stiebler
Costume Design: Silke Faber
Make-Up & Hair: Barbara Spenner, Germaine Mouth
Original Score: Gary Go
Sound Design: Nico Krebs
Main Cast: Senta Berger (Angelika Hartmann), Heiner Lauterbach (Dr. Richard Hartmann), Eric Kabongo (Diallo Makabouri), Palina Rojinski (Sophie Hartmann), Elyas M'Barek (Dr. Tarek Berger), Philip Hartmann (Florian David Fitz)
Nominations and Awards
- European Comedy 2017