Monday, May 30, 2011

MusicMonday: "America" - Bill Callahan

"America" by American singer-songwriter Bill Callahan (aka Smog) is maybe another great expat song - or maybe an appropriate Memorial Day song or an Anti-Memorial Day song... All depends on how you feel about things and how closely you listen to the lyrics and attempt to interpret them.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gardens of the World - In A Berlin Minute (Week 56)

Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World) is a park in Marzahn, a neighborhood in the former East Berlin.

It originally opened in 1987 as a kind of showcase for gardeners - and as a present to the city of (East) Berlin. In 1991 it was converted to a park with a focus on lawns and relaxation. In 2000 the Chinese Garden was created, followed by various other themed gardens - to become the current mixture of showcase, "Epcot Center of gardening" and relaxing park, with lots of photogenic backdrops and the lovely sound of waterfalls and birds.

Balinese Garden - Balinesischer Garten
This week, for the first time, I used footage entirely shot during a different week (actually week 54) when my mother, who is an amazing gardener, visited and we made this trip out to the "Gärten der Welt". This week, in turn, I visited her and my father in the countryside. Sadly this week we also attended the funeral of my mother's sister Ingrid, who used to have a lush garden as well - but who happened to be a world traveler, who has inspired my desire to explore the world.

Now it seemed quite fitting to put together a video of "The Gardens of the World" this week and dedicate it to all the Pohlmann sisters - including Hanne, who moved to a foreign country a long time ago (where it always seemed to smell of fresh grass) and whom unfortunately I didn't get to know very well, but who must have been an amazing woman as well.

The song is called "Second Cousins" and was written and performed by Jason Matherne of Goonygoogoo Productions.
Oriental Garden - Orientalischer Garten

Monday, May 23, 2011

MusicMonday: "Live Alone" - Debbie Harry Does Franz Ferdinand (and so does LCD Soundsystem)

"Live Alone" is a beautiful cover by American singer (of incomparable NYC band Blondie) Deborah (Debbie) Harry of a song by Scottish band Franz Ferdinand. Actually Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand sings on it and it's on the new Franz Ferdinand Covers EP. So it's a bit more than just a cover version.

While Scott is back in New York for an undetermined time - and I'm still in Berlin for an equally undetermined time (basically we can't say for sure today who's going to join whom - just that it'll be soon), this song keeps coming to mind.

Not, of course, the part about "I wanna live alone because the greatest love is always ruined by the bickering" but the:
"Wherever you are
Whoever is there
You'll know that I'll be here
I'll be here wishing I could be there"

I don't know if there will be an official video, but I appreciate this unofficial "fan-made" video directed by Matthew Daniel Siskin, especially because it shows my beloved NYC, where Scott and the cats are hanging out without me today.

Oh, wait, just coming in... there's also a version of "Live Alone" by LCD Soundsystem.

By comparison here's Franz Ferdinand playing "Live Alone" themselves live at a record store in 2009.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"All God's Children - Germany Premiere" - In A Berlin Minute (Week 55)

"All Gods Children" - Germany Premiere - In A Berlin Minute (Week 55) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

Big week for me: our 70-minute documentary All God's Children premiered in Germany. It's played all over the US and Canada already - and in parts on Dutch television. But this was the first time I showed it back in my home country. It screened on May 18th at Kultursalon Roderich in Kreuzberg, Berlin.

About the film: Through the eyes of three families, All God’s Children tells the personal story of the first boarding school for children of missionaries to be investigated for abuse at the hands of the parents’ missionary colleagues. The survivors and parents share their journey of seeking justice, redemption and healing.

Flyers for All God's Children Screening in Berlin
In order of what you see in the video: I made and distributed flyers, the awesome people of NetzwerkB, Shortcutz and Bang Bang Berlin posted about the screening on their blogs, I translated the film into German and added the subtitles, arriving at Kultursalon Roderich, sitting with friends outside before the screening and finally the actual showing of the film.

It was quite an overwhelming experience for me. I wrote about my thoughts that day on my blog. The screening itself, the audience reaction and the Q&A afterward all seemed to go well. It would have been better if Scott and someone from the film could have been there as well though.

The audience was wonderful and I'm so grateful for each person that came - including a friend I hadn't seen since high school and people I only knew through YouTube, Twitter and Skype, respectively. The Expat Tribe was represented!

I'm very pleased to announce that you can watch the entire documentary for free online:
on the film's website -
on YouTube: -

Please be aware that this film can be very upsetting to some. We'd like to refer you to the resources section of the film's website where you can find further information and links to support groups.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"All God's Children" is streaming online!

The day has finally come: we have released our documentary film All God's Children online for free streaming.

Anyone anywhere with an Internet connection can now watch this film in ten parts for free.

About the film: Through the eyes of three families, All God’s Children tells the personal story of the first boarding school for children of missionaries to be investigated for abuse at the hands of the parents’ missionary colleagues. The survivors and parents share their journey of seeking justice, redemption and healing.

Please be aware that this film can be very upsetting to some. We'd like to refer you to the resources section of the film's website where you can find further information and links to support groups.

There are several places you can watch:

You can start watching the first part right here (via

Or right here (via YouTube):

With this effort we are hoping to reach more people all over the world to be informed and inspired about the abuse children of missionaries have suffered at boarding schools. We hope it will encourage more people to face what has happened to them and reach out to their families and friends. We further hope it will bring awareness to parents and decision makers to ensure that children are safe today.

A huge thank you to everyone who was involved in making the film - especially those who told their personal and painful stories for our cameras.

Please help us spread the word about this film by sharing the link, embedding the videos, leaving comments, sharing on Twitter, Facebook or wherever you like to share information online.

If you are on YouTube, please subscribe to the GHWP channel and "like", "favorite", comment and recommend to others. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Of course, we still encourage people to purchase the DVD for home use or for educational use.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Big Day

Watch out, this is going to get personal and long. So you may want to skip this.

Today is quite a significant day for me. May 18, 2011. Two-thousand and eleven - wow, how long it took!

For the first time today, I will be showing one of my full-length films in Germany, my home country.

To cut to the chase, this is significant because after moving to the US in the early 90s, one of the reasons why I wasn't ready to return to Germany for all those years was because I wanted to make a film first. I wanted to come back with something, I guess I wanted to come back AS something.

In Gainesville, Florida - circa 1994

Since then I've made short films, music videos and two full-length documentaries (there actually are also some pre-film school fiction and documentary features that haven't seen the light of day in a long time). 

Last year, it was finally time to return home for a while.

And today there will finally be a screening of All God's Children, the documentary my husband Scott Solary and I made together.

I've often imagined what it would be like to come back here with a great film and how wonderful it would be to share it with my family and my friends in a real movie theater. They'd be so proud.

Well, tonight isn't quite the way I imagined it. The screening will not be at an amazing movie theater or a significant film festival. I actually had to organize this screening myself. It's going to be in a basement of a venue in Kreuzberg, projected from my own laptop via a computer cable. (This is nerd speak for: it won't look its best.)

With Scott and his mom Ellie (who did a lot of the transcriptions) at the premiere at Sarasota Film Festival in 2008

Scott can't be here because he's on a job in New York. My parents won't be there tonight. And I regret not having tried to organize getting them here earlier or expressed or realized how important that would be for me. 

None of the people from the film will be here. Some even had expressed they'd travel to Germany if I gave them enough notice. You know what, I didn't. Because maybe a little bit, I was embarrassed that it wouldn't be a magnificent location - and I didn't want to waste their time. 

With Jennie Couts McDonald and Dianne Couts (who is in the film and whom I should have given more notice this time)
I hope my brother and my sister-in-law will be there. I know some of my wonderful friends from Berlin will be there. Most of whom I didn't even know before I came here a year ago.

Since I've been working on getting the German subtitles together myself until the last minute (before I started writing this), I didn't have time to get a haircut or a nice outfit. Needless to say I don't have "a date" either. But then maybe this is how it should be - because it seems fitting to the whole process: if you want it, you gotta do it (yourself) no matter what - and vanities have to fall by the wayside.

So here it is: I'm back and I'm showing my film - and I'm NOT a successful, known filmmaker.

But this is the more positive realization: That's okay. Because I'm back and I'm showing my film - and I AM STILL a filmmaker!

So maybe life and our dreams and our ambitions don't quite work out the way we envision them. I think it's important we realize what is at the core of our desires - and focus on that.

In my case it's: people and stories and the wish to make a positive impact.

I still love making films, I still love meeting people, being with people, hearing their stories, feeling with them; I love filming, creating stories, editing, telling you about them and finally showing them to you - and I wish that my work will make a positive difference. 

Filming Beverly Shellrude-Thompson (Canada, 2004)

I'm so grateful that I have been able to pursue my passion for so long and hope I'll be able to continue. A big thank you to everyone who has been involved in making these films, especially to the people willing to be in front of my camera. 

On a filming break with Bev in Canada, 2004

Tomorrow we will also release All God's Children online. It's our last big step in getting the film out there. 

And in a way it will be the end of a journey that began during a weekend with Scott's great aunt and uncle in New Hampshire in the summer of 2003 when they told us about the horrors their sons had gone through at boarding school in Africa. A story we felt we couldn't turn our back on.

With Ann and Howard Beardslee at Jacksonville screening, 2009

It's been a long and bumpy journey. It was full of amazing and gracious and inspiring people. It was full of tears and sadness. It was full of disasters and rejection and disappointment. It was full of perseverance and meaning and kindness.

With Marilyn Christman, Beverly Shellrude Thompson, Dianne Darr Couts and Rev. Richard Darr at New York City Screening, 2009

The next journeys have already started with All's Well and Fair, which is finished already (and isn't really winning awards either - but will still find its way to you), and with Five Sisters, which I still hope to edit one day, and in a way with In A Berlin Minute. And maybe I'll finally get to make Summersquash, the narrative feature script I put aside when we started making All God's Children... 

Okay, one more piece of unrequested admission: I'm quite nervous about tonight. People in America are so friendly and gracious, that even if your friends don't like your work, they'll still tell you nice things. Germans can be frighteningly honest...

Home Turf Screening in New York City, 2009

P.S.: It feels weird to have put so many pictures of myself in this blog post. Quite self-indulgent. But writing this was actually quite emotional (and I mean the teary kind). So I'd like to balance that out with some of the personally wonderful moments from this film's journey. So there!

Monday, May 16, 2011

MusicMonday: "Wordy Rappinghood" (Uffie, Chicks On Speed, Tom Tom Club)

Three versions make this a timeless classic - but I suspect there are even more covers out there...

Just heard the very fun song "Wordy Rappinghood" by French artist Uffie (produced by DJ Mehdi) about something I truly love: words!

Turns out that the song is currently used in a rather quirky advertisement for Evian water. So some people may be over-exposed to that version already.

In any case, I personally prefer the following version...

In 2004 the artist collective and Germany-based band Chicks On Speed made this awesome version (and video):

But originally "Wordy Rappinghood" is by Tom Tom Club, the off-shoot of legendary Talking Heads. It appeared on their 1981 debut album Tom Tom Club.

A more recent live version (2008 - Japan):

A well-made behind-the-song video from Dutch TV:

Talking about words, I really need to get back to turning English words into German words in time for the screening of All God's Children on Wednesday...

"Stuck - Part 2" or "Friend, Couch and Happiness"

Another reason why I feel so lucky to have such wonderful friends:

My friend Judith Hecktor, after having stood by me step-by-step through all the whinin'n'cursin and actively getting involved in some strategies of how to get rid of Someone Else's Stuff and improving my new apartment, just sent me the following message and picture.

Planänderung! vielleicht musst nicht DU »glücklicher« werden – sondern die Couch?

(English: Change of Plan! Maybe YOU don't need to become "happier" - but the couch does?)

It's not you, it's me

I really think she's on to something here. The mood around here is changing. And that has nothing to do with a hooded figure, which was certainly not me, taking pieces of broken-down shelves to a dumpster in the middle of the night.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stuck with someone else's garbage...

... or the tale of finding an apartment in Berlin and making it livable. 

In recent months our lives have been quite... um... mobile. About a year ago I came to Berlin, not really knowing how long I would stay, Scott followed soon after, then returned to NY for some work, came back... in-between we kept moving from one Berlin sublet to another: four different apartments in 12 months.  

It's been nice to just move with little more than a few suitcases every time (and we're lucky to have such awesome friends here in Berlin who helped carry those) - but it wasn't fun to be looking for apartments every few months - or, to be honest, to be living with someone else's stuff over and over again. 

So when a year was up and we weren't quite ready to turn our backs on Berlin completely, we decided to take the plunge and look for our own apartment, which we could then sublet when we're in NYC (so we'd be looking for subletters, not sublets, just as we do back home and WE get to pick the furniture). 

Unfortunately everything was so in flux that we only had two weeks to find an apartment before we had to leave our last sublet. We ran all over town and pretty much out of choices. On my birthday, one week before moving-out day, we looked at a small apartment that could work, except that it was stuffed with hideous mismatched old (not antique or retro or anything cool) furniture. And the previous tenant, who got to choose the new tenant said that we'd have to buy the furniture off him. Oh, dregs. 

Supposedly it was between us and one other interested woman. A few days later he "chose" us. We said great, except that we don't want the furniture. Too bad, he said, because if he had known that, he'd gotten rid of it himself. This statement I now laugh about (with maybe a bitter tear)... because two weeks after moving in, this apartment is still pretty much stuffed to the gills with furniture and other crap. Oh yeah, there are not only random dishes but sheets and old blankets and a printer without plugs and Playboy perfume and this huge corner couch with a pull-out bed. 

The previous tenants literally left us their garbage, which we had to pay for and now can't get rid off. In all fairness I was able to sell a few select items like the good mattress and give away the nasty mattress (for an art project) and the dusty French paperbacks and the old juicer with an English plug... 

Some ads for things succeeded on the classified section of eBay.  The regular eBay remains a mystery to me and doesn't seem to work for that fancy HAG office chair

Freecycle helped some more in getting rid of things, but I can't honestly recommend it because you end up having to communicate so much with people who end up not showing up anyway and you should have just thrown things away. Oh right, which in Germany is actually quite difficult. Yup, it's not like America, the big "throw-away culture" where you can just put your stuff on the curb once a week.

No, here you have to pay for getting big things picked up or you have to rent a vehicle and drive it to a recycling or garbage dump yourself.  Actually, big things? I can't even throw a bag of comforters away here because the garbage cans for this building are so small.

It's turned into a huge time and energy suck that is just not worth the bother - except that I, having enjoyed mobility and lack of baggage, am still stuck with other people's garbage and don't have much of a choice to "bother" at this point. As you can tell from my rant, I'm just bothered.

Lessons learned:

- Don't say yes to an apartment filled with stinky fridges and huge couches you don't want and agree to pay for them no matter how many other people want the apartment and how soon you need to get out of your old place. Say no and see what happens. You may just get the apartment anyway (I'm pretty sure at this point the "other woman" wasn't really in the running).

- There is no magical Polish man that comes by and picks up your unwanted furniture for a few hundred Euros. 

- Scheduling with and waiting for people to show up via Freecycle is a very inconvenient time-suck which mostly leads to you thanking the few people who actually show up instead of them appreciating that they got stuff for free. So maybe just throw the small stuff away. 

- When moving out of your next apartment, be kind and don't blackmail someone else into taking your garbage. It makes them sad. 

So now, who would like to have a beautiful, large corner sofa with a pull-out bed? 


P.S.: I do love having my disco ball hanging from a high ceiling with crown molding: 

And this apartment has a balcony, which gave my mom the opportunity to plant beautiful flowers, which I cherish every day. It's also great for wine drinking with friends. And my mom and my best friend Erik really like the neighborhood and the apartment and will hopefully visit much more often.

So now that I've gotten this off my chest I'll have another cup of tea on the balcony from where I can't see that ugly Polsterbett. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

forgetters at Schokoladen - In A Berlin Minute (Week 54)

forgetters at Schokoladen - In A Berlin Minute (Week 54) 

This past week, Brooklyn band forgetters played at Schokoladen and gave me just the right reason to finally check out (and film) this former squat and staple of alternative culture in Mitte. Schokoladen's motto: "Keeping Mitte yuppiefree since 1990". Yeah, not sure if that's really working - but maybe yuckies (young urban creatives) don't count. Unfortunately their lease has recently been cancelled and they're now in negotiations to make their stay in Mitte possible.

Forgetters are charismatic Blake Schwarzenbach (Jawbreaker), Kevin Mahon (Against Me!) and Caroline Paquita (Bitchin') who is also an incredible print artist and whom I met few years ago through my friend Jessica Mills when she was in town to play with Citizen Fish.

That Jessica was actually the main reason why I was at the show in the first place, since she was in town (from New Mexico) only for the night while traveling with the band. Such a treat to connect with one of my old Gainesville friends (and meeting and hanging out with other old and new friends and acquaintances and passers-by). The whole night, including the awesome music, brought back lots of great memories and connected them with the present.

The other band playing that night was a great surprise: Witches with the lovely singer Cara Beth Satalino, who I already happened to have some music from (even with me on my phone that night). 

I highly recommend checking out both those bands (both continue to tour through Europe right now) - and if you're a mom, check out Jessica Mills' book My Mother Wears Combat Boots.

The song played by forgetters in this video is called "Stupid Libation". I'm grateful they gave me permission to record and publish a minute - and I seriously hope no one is offended by my mixture of images with lyrics. It actually happened by chance.

Now rock on!

forgetters art by Caroline Paquita

Friday, May 13, 2011

Berlin Premiere of "All God's Children"

On Wednesday May 18th we will screen our feature-length documentary film All God's Children at Kultursalon Roderich in Kreuzberg. It will be the German premiere of the film! And if all goes well it will even have German subtitles by then.

Through the eyes of three families, All God’s Children tells the personal story of the first boarding school for children of missionaries to be investigated for abuse at the hands of the parents’ missionary colleagues. The survivors and parents share their journey of seeking justice, redemption and healing.

I will be in attendance to answer questions and discuss the film.

5/18 - 8pm
Kultursalon Roderich
Glogauer Strasse 19
10999 Berlin Kreuzberg
Tel.: 030 - 61 62 81 58

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

MusicMonday: "I Want The World To Stop" - Belle & Sebastian

A Music Monday post on Tuesday - after having skipped a week or maybe even two? Life and work are quite time-consuming right now. So this pretty song seems fitting: "I Want The World To Stop" by Scottish Belle and Sebastian from last year's Belle & Sebastian Write About Love.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

May Day - 1. Mai - In A Berlin Minute (Week 53)

May 1st (1. Mai), or May Day, is a holiday known in Germany and other countries as the International Workers' Day - a day for political protests, mostly organized by left-leaning groups, which has its history in May 1st protests in Australia and the US during the 1880s.

During the 1987 May Day demonstration in the East Kreuzberg (SO36) neighborhood of Berlin it came to extreme clashes between protesters and police. Ever since then, there's been a tradition of rioting during the night before (Walpurgisnacht) and the evening of May Day.

People and police travel from all over Germany to Berlin and Hamburg to participate. It's become a very strange form of tourism for people wanting to set cars on fire, smash in windows, throw stones at the police - and for people who like to photograph and video tape it all. Yes, I had mixed feelings about running around with a camera that day.

To work against these riots, since 2003 there has been a family-friendly street fair called MyFest on Oranienstrasse and other locations in East Kreuzberg.

In my video I wanted to focus on the street fair, the amount of police around, the protest (a lot of which I actually believe in), the bands (including old time favorites Jingo De Lunch), the gawkers and photographers who stuck around until late at night just waiting for something to happen... but then I didn't think I wanted to try to get actual violence footage - because that pointless, mindless, violent s**t, I definitely don't support.

Fortunately, this May Day actually went down without any major violence. Maybe the political groups that actually have something to say finally got the message through to the violence tourists and drunk teens: you're not helping, so please stay out of our neighborhoods. Or maybe the police's strategy of letting people dance, drink and celebrate later on the streets and then go home tired and happy had an impact.

Don't know. But it was an all-around good, thought-provoking and even fun experience.

Gentlemen Police at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg on May 1st