December 1, 2010

Ulli Lommel, box office party and the quiet grandeur of Wiesbaden

I shall never forget Wiesbaden.

There I met cult director Ulli Lommel, the German actor and director best known for his horror films (The Boogeyman, Diary of A Cannibal, Black Dahlia). We had a brief chat details of which I barely recall. I was heavily jetlagged and worrying about my lost (and later found) luggage. He invited me to the screening of The Boogeyman that evening. I even got myself a ticket but decided against watching the flick at the last minute. I am scared of horror films and being alone for three nights in my hotel room in a century-old building I thought that it was not a good idea.

In Wiesbaden exground Film Festival -the real purpose of my visit - I also participated in a very unique festival experience: The Box Office Party. Ten or more people squeezed inside the newly renovated box office of the Caligari FilmBuhne for a half hour of drinks, cheese and glorious sandwiches. We were so pressed together we almost defied the laws of physics. What was logic defying was how a small room like that could cost 100 thousand Euros.

"I could make ten films already with that amount," I quipped.

Wiesbaden is a city in the heart of Germany. It was the retreat of the kaiser who sought the city for its rejuvenating hot springs. Now the affluent members of Hessen society continue to make it home, preferring its old, quiet grandeur to the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan Frankfurt only twenty minutes away.

Wandering its streets during Eid, I strayed into the city's section that has become home to Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese migrants. "Salam," I greeted a middle aged man on the street. He started mumbling Arabic to me. I could not understand him. He spoke in broken German. I was speechless. His granddaughter walked out of a store and smiled at me. "You speak English?" I asked her. She nodded and offered me a baklava. She said something to his grandfather then he invited me, "Would you like to spend the Eid with us?"

"It's a beautiful city. The magnificent buildings were spared by the Second World War," Brigida, the lady manning the box office, told me.

I was in Wiesbaden for barely a week but the city will remain a beautiful memory for me.

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