Thursday Nov 6th was a surreal day. Paul, Cheryl and I woke up at the beautiful Steigenberger Hotel, Mannheim in our jet lagged haze, and headed for Heidelberg where The Baby Formula was the opening night film of the Mannheim Heidelberg International Film Festival. We went down to the lobby at the designated time and boarded a bus with some very well dressed film festival guests. Or so we thought. It wasn’t until the bus stopped that we realized we were with the wrong group of people on the wrong bus. After a few minutes of shear panic, Cheryl managed to hail us a cab, and we were able to make it to the screening in time. What an event it was. A huge tent with over 600 seats was erected in University Square – the screening was sold out with an amazing audience that included local politicians.
We had four more screenings on subsequent days that were either sold out or packed, and we were frankly floored by the audience reaction. Any worry we had that the humour would be lost in the translation and the subtitling was put totally to rest.
The Q & A’s at this festival are a big part of the experience. They are usually done in an adjoining room right after the screenings, and most of the moderators are journalists. Rudiger Suchsland and Joy Guthardt handled most of our Q & A’s, however Dr Josef Schnelle did the one on opening night. I love that guy. A question from the audience prompted him to declare “I’m not gay and I love this film.” That was music to my ears. I have always believed The Baby Formula would appeal to an audience beyond our GLBT crowd. For years we have willingly and easily empathised, laughed and cried with heterosexual characters in film. It makes me so happy to discover that we have reached a day and age where the reverse is also happening.
Director of the festival, Dr Michael Kotz and his wife Daniela Kotz were welcoming hosts, whose true love of film and support of new filmmakers permeated the festival. When we asked if we could stay longer than expected, they approved without hestiation. The staff couldn’t have been warmer: Alex, Gitta, Rebecca, Gudula, technical Paul….we have fond memories of them all.
During the Mannheim Meetings, it was great to connect with fellow Canadians Elizabeth Yake and Shirley Vercruysse. It was also a treat to finally get to see Borderline, the other Canadian film screening at the festival. Congrats to Roger Frappier and director, Lyne Charlebois who weren’t able to attend the festival, but took home some well deserved awards.
On a sad note: Monday November 10th, my family called and told me that my Uncle Bern passed away. He was eighty-one. I’d seen him a week earlier, and wasn’t surprised by the call. I’m so thankful that he went peacefully at home. In order to encourage me not to interrupt our trip, my Mom and sister scheduled his memorial service on Nov 28th after we get are scheduled to get home. Bern will be missed.
Right now, Paul has gone back to Canada to take care of business. Cheryl and I are in Italy looking forward to tonight, the opening night of the Torino Film Festival!