Written and Directed by Lucía Puenzo
Starring Àlex Brendemühl, Diego Peretti, Guillermo Pfening, Natalia Oreiro, Florencia Bado and Elena Roger.
The true story of an Argentine family who lived with Josef Mengele without knowing his true identity, and of a girl who fell in love with one of the biggest criminals of all time.
Based upon writer/director Lucia Puenzo’s novel, Wakolda is based upon the real life story of former SS Officer Josef Mengele, once known as “The Angel of Death,” during his time hiding in South America (as many war criminals did) after the war. As we are coming to the tail end of a long summer still filling the multiplexes with blockbusters of all manner, The German Doctor offers the option this week of seeing something a bit less noisy, and more considered.
Puenzo’s film opens in
Argentian filmmaker Lucia Puenzo's novel Wakolda focuses on this infamous man and the true story of an Argentinian family who unknowingly boarded Mengele at their home, now adapted by Puenzo as the movie The German Doctor. Whereas the novel is told through Mengele’s point of view during his exile in South America, the film instead relies more on 12-year-old Lilith (Florencia Bado). Born premature and having suffered from several illnesses at an early age,
In the quest for perfection humanity has gone to great lengths to alter and manipulate physical processes or unaesthetic features. Striving to improve and increase the species' adaptability is the basis for evolution. Traits and defects are passed on through generations engraved in the DNA. Aware of this, and in an attempt to justice their heinous crimes and bless them as 'scientific purification of the Aryan race', the Nazis fabricated their own branch of Social Darwinism. They pursued a type of homogenous beauty based on phony symmetrical genetics, with which they aimed to craft a special breed of super humans.
Rid of any genetic imperfections or miscegenation these individuals would become the pinnacle of their efforts. Spearheading this research and its consequential experimentation was Josef Mengele, a physician and one of the most notorious German SS officers. Following Germany’s defeat the world was learning of the horrors that took place in the concentration camps. Many Nazi officers and supporters, Mengele included, escaped to South America to avoid facing justice. Lucía Puenzo’s magnificent historical fiction film The German Doctor tries to reconstruct the time the so-called “Angel of Death” spent in Argentina and the moral implications of the unexplored complicity of the locals.
Set in 1960 against the breathtaking scenery of the Patagonian town of Bariloche, the story focuses on a family that serendipitously crosses paths with Mengele (Àlex Brendemühl) on their way to the family owned hostel. Upon meeting Lilith (Florencia Bado), the family’s daughter, the doctor is instantly captivated by the girl’s size and physical features. She is a 12-year-old girl that appears extremely underdeveloped and fragile for her age. He immediately considers her the perfect specimen to test his theories, and to his advantage she seems to be equally intrigued by the foreign man. Her pregnant mother, Eva (Natalia Oreiro), fluent in German, seems to like the doctor who easily gains her trust, despite her husband Enzo’s (Diego Peretti) noticeable suspicion of his intentions.
Once in Bariloche the doctor convinces the family to let him rent a room at their place, clearly part of his plan to stay close to his interest. The city exudes a heavily German influence, including Eva’s old Nazi-supported school where she enrolls Lilith and her two siblings. There, her tall and blond classmates of German descent bully the young girl because of her size. This represents a prime opportunity for Mengele to interfere. He persuades Eva to let him inject Lilith with hormones that will make her grow, and he provides her with pills to help with her pregnancy, all of it behind the patriarch’s back.
Mindful of Enzo’s growing uneasiness towards him, the conniving German doctor shows interest in the man’s passion for designing dolls. With Lilith’s father now distracted with his own project, Mengele has free range to experiment after discovering Eva is expecting twins. Increasingly curious about the doctor’s stories, Lilith begins reading about the Aryan pseudo-mythology in her school’s library where she meets photographer Nora Eldoc (Elena Roger). As the family starts to grapple with the motives behind the doctor’s unsolicited help, Eldoc will prove to be a crucial character when the Israeli secret police, the Mossad, comes hunting down the runaway Nazis.
Conceived with incredible moral complexity and a mysteriously alluring tone, the film doesn’t simply crucify Mengele as the source of all evil, but it instead questions the willing collaboration of others. There is a shared responsibility for his acts occurring between him and the participants. He doesn’t kidnap Lilith or forces Eva to accept any treatment, but they grant him permission. In the same manner, the replication of artificial beauty is not only expressed via Mengele’s vision of what Lilith and the twins can become, but also in Enzo’s obsessive interest in creating the perfect human-like doll.
“Wakolda”, Lilith’s rag doll made by the native Mapuche Indians is not good enough in his eyes, and it must be improved. Just like with Mengele’s grueling fixation with engineering a utopian race, all individuality must be suppressed and replaced by identical flawlessness. This absurd aspiration is shared by both of the their enterprises. Such tacit complicity mirrors that of the entire community, which aware of the numerous Nazis and their supporters, prefers to let them live in obscurity.
Puenzo’s fascinating period piece, based on her own novel, revisits familiar stories of Nazism with a particular focus on the Argentinean involvement. Executed with outstanding attention to detail, a prodigious ensemble cast, and splendid cinematography, the film is a window into a time lost in history. Despite the secrecy surrounding the doctor’s time in her country, the writer/director incorporates the facts available to formulate her own informed version of the story. Her great artistic achievement might be the most plausible retelling of the events one might ever get to see. Evoking a sense impending danger, The German Doctor is a challenging and enthralling masterwork.
The German Doctor opens in L.A. and New York on April 25th, 2014
Read Sydney Levine's Case Study on The German Doctor (Wakolda)
Read more about all the 76 Best Foreign Language Film Submission for the 2014 Academy Awards
Argentinian director Lucia Puenzo once again adapts one of her own novels for her latest offering, an intriguing period piece, The German Doctor. Whereas her 2009 adaptation of The Fish Child unraveled itself with a series distracting narrative flourishes, her latest effort is a bit more reserved, a simple and straightforward tale that manages to build a sinister simmer, even distracting us from what audiences familiar with historical accuracy already know will happen. While avoiding the use of Nazism and the perverse case of Dr. Mengele as an exploitative element, the rather demure narrative only hints at the possibility of the notorious and despicable terrors residing underneath the calm visage of a stranger that upends one unremarkable family’s livelihood.
Set in early 1960’s Patagonia, a man by the name of Helmut Gregor (Alex Brendemuhl), becomes fascinated with an underdeveloped
Pyramide International continues to tot up sales on Argentine writer and filmmaker Lucia Puenzo’s The German Doctor (Wakolda), some four months after the film first premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard.
Review: The German Doctor (Wakolda)
The Paris-based company has unveiled a batch of sales into Central and Southern America including to: Brazil (Imovision), Bolivia and Chile (Los filmes De La Arcadia), Colombia (Cine Colombia), the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (Wiesner Distribution), Peru (Pucp) and Panama and Costa Rica (Palmera International).
In Europe, Sarajevo’s Obala Art Centre has acquired the picture for multiple territories including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and Montenegro.
The film has also sold to Hungary (Vertigo), Poland (Hagi), Israel (Nachshon) and South Korea (Company L) since Cannes.
As previously announced, Peccadillo acquired the film for the UK and
The film premiered in Un Certain Regard under its original title Wakolda. Sources did not comment at time of writing on whether the film would be named Argentina’s official foreign-language Oscar submission.
Samuel Goldwyn Films plans a spring 2014 release for The German Doctor, based on Puenzo’s novel about a family in post-WW2 Argentina who unwittingly entrust their daughter into the care of the notorious Nazi fugitive Josef Mengele as Israeli agents close in.
Alex Brendemuhl, Florencia Bado, Natalia Oreiro, Diego Peretti, Elena Roger and Guillermo Pfening star.
Samuel Goldwyn Films vp and general counsel Ian Puente negotiated the deal with Lucero Garzon and Valentina Merli of Pyramide International.
For unsuspecting porcelain doll-maker Enzo (Diego Peretti) and his wife, Eva (Natalia Oreiro), the prospect of inviting a distinguished foreign physician to be the first guest in their new boarding house has its perks. Their underdeveloped 12-year-old daughter, Lilith (remarkable newcomer Florencia Bado, who serves as the film’s
Gist: Starring Alex Brendemuhl, Natalia Oreiro, Diego Peretti and Elena Roger, this is based on Puenzo’s own novel detailing the true story of an Argentine family who lived with Josef Mengele without knowing his true identity, and of a girl who fell in love with one of the biggest criminals of all times.
Prediction: Un Certain Regard. Despite Lucía Puenzo making waves when she had Xxy unfold in 2007′s Critics’ Week, by appearances, Wakolda might have a a narrower chance of showing in Cannes as this stylistically looks too mainstream for the Directors’ Fortnight. In between films she premiered El niño pez (2009) in Berlin and this 2013 feature is set to be released in Argentina less than a week before the Croisette opens for business.
“Elena Roger, I love you. We will see each other soon!,” said Ricky in a message published on Twitter along with a photo of him kissing and handing flowers to the actress.
.@elena_roger Te quiero. Nos vemos pronto! twitter.com/elosykcir/stat…
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) January 28, 2013
Inspired on legendary Argentine leader, Eva Perón (Elena Roger), second wife of Argentine President Juan Perón (Michael Cerveris), the play’s final performance on Saturday, January 26, ended with a sold out and a very emotional farewell.
On Saturday, from the Marquis Theater, Martin left his heart on stage playing the role of “Che”, the voice of the people, and received an unforgettable standing ovation from the audience.
The Puerto Rican international
Producers of the Tony Award-nominated revival of Tim Rice’s and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s landmark musical said Tuesday night they have decided against plans for an open-ended run after Martin, Roger and Cerveris leave after the Jan. 26 performance.
“Our extensive search for a new cast presented the significant challenges of not only replacing a high-caliber trio of stars but also synchronizing the schedules of potential replacements with that of the production,
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