Film fest spotlights language, culture

Madison Martin

On an early October evening, students began to filter into a second-floor room in Cherry Hall. 

Tim Straubel, one of the two German instructors at WKU, orchestrated the evening and asked students to sign in before taking a seat in front of a large pull-down screen. 

The audience members, some attending for course credit and others for personal enjoyment, began to quiet down in preparation for the German-language film to start.

Beginning its sixth year, the German Film Fest commenced on Monday as it targeted this year’s theme of youth culture. Straubel, who also advises the German Club at WKU, chose some of the films while also enlisting a class’ opinion to create this four-day movie series. 

The festival features two popular German comedies, as well as two children’s movies spoken in the language. English subtitles make it possible for the films to be friendly for all students, whether or not they’re studying German.  

“The point of the film fest is to draw students in to get like a little bit of the German culture, to see the kind of humor that they have,” Arla O’Neal, a Louisville senior and president of the German Club, said. 

Past festivals had entirely different focuses, with one year featuring films from Austria and another showcasing movies that were historical in nature. Straubel wanted to play the two children’s movies because of their high acclaim and the content they reveal about German values. 

“It’s not that [Germans] don’t believe in cartoons, but they believe that if you’re going to have a film for children, they should be intelligent,” Straubel said. 

“Das Pferd auf dem Balkon” (“A Horse on the Balcony”) was screened on Tuesday, relaying the story of a boy who dreams of owning a horse, despite living in an apartment. Straubel said the film had won many awards.

“If there was an Oscar for a children’s film, this probably would have won it,” he said. 

“Karo und der Liebe Gott” (“Karo and God Himself”) is about how a young girl deals with her parents’ divorce, which Straubel said is actually used in counseling for children going through similar circumstances.

This year, the students wanted to showcase some films that weren’t as serious as years past. “Fack ju Göhte” (“F*ck You, Goethe”) and “Frau Müller muss weg!” (“Mrs. Müller has to go!”) both make fun of the school system, and were highly popular in their country.  

“So this year I think it should be fun because it’s all comedy,” O’Neal said, acknowledging that it should help dispel a stereotype that “a lot of people think that Germans don’t have humor.”

Freshman and Bowling Green native Shelton Scharhag attended the screening of “Fack ju Göhte.”

“This was a really good one,” he said. “I liked it; it was funny.”

After taking four years of German and hosting exchange students before coming to college, Sharhag said he looked most forward to achieving “proficiency with the language.”

“Like I’m now at the point where I can feel like I can converse with people, actually understand what they are saying, and they can actually understand what I’m saying,” he said. 

O’Neal highlighted her belief in the importance of learning another language. 

“Students don’t realize that there are a lot of jobs out there that require a second language or whatever,” she said. “So to have that kind of background is very important to us language majors, so we’re trying to advocate that to other students.”

Even if a WKU student isn’t planning on studying a foreign language, Straubel said many departments offer film festivals that people outside of the university setting might get the chance to see. 

“We give you all these opportunities as students to get exposure to this gigantic world that’s out there beyond Bowling Green and we just hope you take advantage of it,” he said. 

Tonight is the last evening of the festival, with the screening of “Frau Müller muss weg!.” The film will begin at 7 p.m. in Cherry Hall Room 210, with a discussion following the film.