The Second World War has ended, the Allies are in power in Germany, and the Holocaust survivors are in US displaced persons' camps. There we meet David Bermann and his friends who want to leave Germany as soon as possible and travel to the United States. But it's not quite cheap. To raise money, David and the others start a con business to sell sheets and towels to the Germans. The business is blooming, but when the US intelligence service suspects David to be a Nazi collaborator, they initiate an investigation and force David to recall the cruel times in the concentration camp.
Goodbye to Germany is a tragicomic film and the storyline reflects elegant David's present and traumatic past.
The film is directed by Sam Garbarski with Moritz Bleibtreu (well-known from the German cult film "Lola") in the role of David Bermann.
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Read more about the film below:
INTERVIEW WITH SAM GARBARSKI AND MICHEL BERGMANN BYE BYE GERMANY is based on Michel Bergmann‘s debut novel, “The Teilacher” (The Travelling Salesmen). Where did the idea for the 2010 novel come from and how did it end up as a movie? Michel Bergmann: I’d already had the idea for many years, because I come from a long line of travelling salesmen. My father is somewhat akin to the Holzmann character. Shortly after the war, he returned to Frankfurt from Paris and established a wholesale lingerie business with his brother, David. He employed salesmen to travel around the country and, much like in the film, foist bundles of lingerie on people. I wanted to turn that into a story for two reasons. Firstly, to memorialize my late Uncle David, who was the “King” of the Teilacher and a magnificent comic. The other reason was that no books or films had so far explored the immigration of Jewish Holocaust survivors to Germany. It was a blind spot in the collective memory of the German people. I started to develop the material into a novel that was eventually published in 2010 as “The Teilacher.” But, given the wealth of material, I knew early on that it would become a trilogy. Of course, the fact that it’s now been made into a film and, what’s more, that TV stations are involved, is a source of some satisfaction for me. Sam Garbarski: Firstly, I was flattered that Michel Bergmann wanted to send me the book with a view to potentially turning into a film. When I read it, something happened that I’ve only experienced two or three times in my life: I couldn’t stop. I read the entire book in one night. I felt like I was swimming around between the dumplings and noodles in my mom’s soup pot. Right away, I felt at home in this world, with these people. Even though my family weren’t themselves Teilacher, I could totally identify with it. An incredible feeling! I didn’t think twice: I called Michel right away and said, “I’ll do it!” So the film doesn’t draw on any of your own family history? Garbarski: That was another reason to do it, though: I didn’t know much about it. After all, I wasn’t born until 1948, near Munich, and people didn’t talk about the Nazi period. For those Jews who had stayed or had returned after the war, it was taboo. They didn’t want to, and simply could not explain it. The film doesn’t provide an answer, either, but rather an explanation. What challenges did you encounter in adapting the novel into a screenplay? Bergmann: The novel is basically one big flashback: The story begins after the death of old David Bermann and looks back at his life. In the film, we inevitably had to compress that into a shorter timespan, but without losing the spirit and soul of the story. We worked together very intensively and effectively on that, and I’m really grateful to Sam because he was the realistic and pragmatic one: He immediately assessed the feasibility of any idea. Early on, he came up with the idea that the film could play out over two years, 1946 and 1947. I struggled slightly with that at first because, as an author, I had to dispense with several events and characters I’d grown fond of. They call it “killing your darlings,” and it can be painful. Garbarski: I found it easy to put myself in the characters’ shoes – after all, I’d already fallen in love with them while reading the novel. But I didn’t know Michel’s family personally, and I didn’t have an emotional attachment to some of their experiences, so it was easier for me to prune certain branches of the story, or to make up something new. The sticking point was when we incorporated elements of Michel’s second novel, “Machloikes,” such as the interrogation, and in so doing gave David’s story far more substance. Bergmann: I was really pleasantly surprised by how well that works. For example, when Verständig talks about losing his eye in Shanghai, I couldn’t imagine telling that story without a flashback. But the way Hans Löw acts it, without uttering many words – it’s so moving that you can really picture it. And that’s really what Sam’s achieved: condensing it like that and thereby giving the characters depth. One character who appears in the film but doesn’t feature in the novel in the same way is US Special Agent Sara Simon, an emigrated German Jew and Nazi hunter who interrogates David Bermann as a possible collaborator. Did female special agents like her really exist? Garbarski: Yes, these agents existed, and they were selected on the basis of their individual experiences and qualities. As a German Jew who had escaped just in time and a lawyer, she was the ideal candidate. And the fact that she wanted to use this mission to offload her own guilt generated additional tension between her and David. How did you cast the film? Garbarski: It’s an ensemble film: They’re like a family. That was evident the first time the actors met here in Berlin – if they’d had their way, they’d have gone straight out and started selling. I had already shot one movie with Moritz Bleibtreu, and he’s simply a very good actor who brings a depth to his roles that few others do. He also loves telling stories and he’s a real “leader of the pack” – so all of that made him a great fit for the role. The other Teilacher were suggested by our casting director Heta Mantscheff, who did a really amazing job. The combination of German, Slavic, Jewish and Muslim actors works wonderfully. Along with very moving moments, humor plays an extremely important role in the film. How did you achieve this balance? Bergmann: This disjunction was an important part of the novel, too. The Nazis are never excused, but there’s often a wink and a nod that makes it easier for people to read the story without a guilty conscience. I’m not saying there’s some kind of chumminess. What happened is terrible, but these people have bounced back. Garbarski: They have a knack for living or, more accurately, for survival. It has a lot to do with Jewish humor, which isn’t all that funny – it’s more philosophical. It’s touching rather than thigh-slapping. It’s life-saving medicine. After all, the absurd thing about David’s story is that he survived because he could tell jokes. That’s what saved his life but, at the same time he finds it difficult to live with the fact that he had played the clown for the murderers of his family. Bergmann: In the 1920s, Wilna was home to Europe’s most famous Jewish theater. A play was performed there called “A Yiddish Life. A Tragedy featuring Music and Dance.” And that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve: that self-mockery. Garbarski: Reacting to a terrible moment with laughter when you really feel like crying: That’s medicinal. They’re often observations that seem funny but are meant sincerely. In the film, when Fajnbrot says, “Your friend’s ruining our good reputation,” and David replies, “Since when do Jews have a good reputation?” – that’s a good example of this. Or as Joann Sfar writes in his new novel: An Ashkenazi Jew is someone who ruins a beautiful today by worrying about tomorrow. An old friend recently sent me a Happy New Year card: “I hope this year brings you lots of beautiful experiences, you can complain about.” That’s spot on. Most of the characters speak Yiddish or Yiddish-inflected German. In the novel, the Yiddish language also played a significant role… Bergmann: People spoke it at home back then, too. And we tailored the dialogs to each actor so that they sounded natural. A German Jew speaks differently to a Czech or a Hungarian Jew. You can hear that really nicely in the film. Why is it important to bring the story of the Teilacher to a larger audience? Garbarski: Michel basically said it already. No books or films have yet explored the fact that there are Jews who returned to Germany and stayed there after the fall of the Third Reich. Then we dug for answers and didn’t find them – everybody must’ve had their reasons for not talking about it. The film goes in search of an answer. It’s a small story that’s part of a bigger story, which again is part of the very big story. It’s a personal story that’s also universal. That’s what makes it beautiful. Bergmann: It’s something I’ve experienced many times before at public readings of the novel. Initially, I wondered why, in Weinheim, Gütersloh and Würzburg, 200 – or in Erlangen as many as 1,400 – people would sit down and listen to this. Then I realized that, although I was telling them a very exotic story, many listeners were familiar with war and flight thanks to the fates of their own families. Especially today, these topics once again have a terrible pertinence. Many people are displaced, trying to find a way to survive in a new location. At my readings, people understood that wherever they were. SAM GARBARSKI – director, screenwriter. With BYE BYE GERMANY, Sam Garbarski continues his successful collaboration with actor Moritz Bleibtreu, who also starred in his 2013 English-language film VIJAY AND I. Garbarski’s 2007 feature IRINA PALM was an international hit, distributed in over 40 countries and shown in some 30 festivals after premiering in Berlin competition. Starring Marianne Faithfull, the crowd-pleaser also won prestigious awards, including Italy’s David di Donatello (Oscar equivalent) for Best European Film. Garbarski made his directorial debut with RASHEVSKI’S TANGO, which screened at numerous festivals and won the “Jewish Experience” Award for Best Feature at the 2004 Jerusalem Film Festival. He also directed the French-language feature A DISTANT NEIGHBORHOOD (QUARTIER LOINTAIN), based on Jiro Tanaguchi’s popular manga. His early shorts (THE TURKEY, LIFE, DEATH, SOCCER and MERRY CHRISTMAS, RACHID) were big hits at festivals and benefited from a wide TV broadcast. Born in Germany in 1948, but based in Belgium since the age of 22, Garbarski started his carrer as a commercials director, having founded the advertising agency Garbarski Euro RSCG. He directed more than 50 commercials, many of them award-winners in international festivals.
2017 BYE BYE GERMANY (ES WAR EINMAL IN DEUTSCHLAND...)
2013 VIJAY AND I 2010 A DISTANT NEIGHBORHOOD (QUARTIER LOINTAIN)
2007 IRINA PALM
2003 RASHEVSKI’S TANGO (LE TANGO DES RACHEVSKI)
MICHEL BERGMANN – screenwriter, author German-Swiss author Michel Bergmann wrote “The Teilacher,” the novel on which BYE BYE GERMANY is based. Born in 1945 to Jewish refugees living in a Swiss internment camp, he began his career as a freelance journalist before becoming a screenwriter for film and television. His first novel, “The Teilacher,” was published in 2010. Together with Anke Apelt, he authored the historical novel “The Female Doctor,” which was published in the same year under the pen name “Anke Michel.” In 2011, he continued the “Teilachers’” story with his novel, “Machloikes.” “Mr. Klee and Mr. Feld,” published in 2013, concluded his trilogy about Jewish life in Frankfurt. Michel Bergmann has since published two further books: a novella, “Everything That Was” (2014), and a novel, “Weinheber’s Suitcase” (2015). MORITZ BLEIBTREU – David David Bermann is a Jewish man who’s a gifted joker. But this talent gets him into spectacular trouble. Was he tasked with personal teaching Hitler how to tell Mussolini a good joke? When the war’s over, David has a lot of explaining to do: he holds two passports and has visited Obersalzberg, Hitler’s mountain retreat. What’s more, Sara Simon, the American Army Special Agent in charge of his interrogation, is so damned attractive! For 20 years, Moritz Bleibtreu has been one of Germany’s most prominent actors. Long ago, the 45-year-old also made a name for himself internationally. Bleibtreu was born in 1971 to Hans Brenner and Monica Bleibtreu, themselves both actors. Having attended drama schools in Rome, Paris and New York, he embarked on a stage career at Hamburg’s Schauspielhaus theater. He made his screen debut in 1993 in Peter Timm’s SIMPLY LOVE. His breakthrough came with Rainer Kaufmann’s romantic comedy TALK OF THE TOWN (1995) and his role as a dim-witted gangster in Thomas Jahn’s road movie, KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR (1996), for which he received the Ernst Lubitsch Award and the Goldenes Filmband (filmstrip) for Best Supporting Actor. With Tom Tykwer’s RUN LOLA RUN (1997), in which he starred alongside Franka Potente, he garnered international attention. Since then, he has regularly appeared in international productions including Steven Spielberg’s MUNICH (2005), Paul Schrader’s THE WALKER (2006), Jean-Paul Salomés FEMALE AGENTS (2007), Fernando Meirelles’ 360 (2011), Marc Forster’s WORLD WAR Z (2012), Bill Condon’s THE FIFTH ESTATE (2013) and Simon Curtis’ WOMAN IN GOLD (2015). Throughout his career, Bleibtreu has attracted regular accolades, including a German Film Award for Oliver Hirschbiegel’s THE EXPERIMENT (2000) and a Silver Bear for Best Actor in Oskar Roehler’s THE ELEMENTARY PARTICLES (2005). His role as Andreas Baader in THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX (2008) earned him a European Film Award nomination. Bleibtreu’s most recent feature projects include Xavier Koller’s BLACK BROTHERS (2013), the dark thriller STEREO (2013) with Jürgen Vogel, as well as Fatih Akin’s THE CUT (2014), which – after SOUL KITCHEN (2010) and IN JULY (2000) – is Bleibtreu’s third collaboration with the Hamburg-born director. He also assumed the leading role in SHADES OF GUILT, the 2015 TV series based on Ferdinand von Schirach’s novel, and in a screen adaptation of Martin Suter’s novel, THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. In 2016, Bleibtreu starred in Johannes Naber’s fairytale movie THE COLD HEART. In March, he’ll be back on screen in Christian Zübert’s stoner comedy LOMMBOCK (2017), the sequel to their joint cult film LAMMBOCK (2001). ANTJE TRAUE – Special Agent Sara Simon This American Army interrogation specialist is trying to find out why David Bermann has two passports and apparently met Hitler at his mountain retreat in Obersalzberg. She sees him as a collaborator. Until she accepted the job for the Army, she lived with her parents in Berlin. Just in the nick of time, she managed to flee to the US. There, she studied law and vowed never to return to Germany – until she accepted the mission. Antje Traue was born in 1981 in Mittweida, Saxony. When she was nine, her family moved to Berlin, where she had her first taste of acting as part of her school’s drama group. Aged 16, having relocated to Munich, she took the leading role of Vivienne in the hip-hop musical WESTEND OPERA, a project initiated by the “International Munich Art Lab.” For four years, she toured with the company through Germany, Europe and as far afield as New York. Antje Traue’s first foray into international film came with her role in Christian Alvart’s science fiction movie PANDORUM (2009), shot at Potsam’s Babelsberg Studio and starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. Renny Harlin cast her in his action-packed war drama 5 DAYS OF WAR (2011), and she then wowed as Faora-Ul in Zack Snyder’s big-budget Superman reboot, Man Of Steel (2013). In Sergej Bodrov’s thriller SEVENTH SON (2015), she appeared alongside Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges. In 2014, Traue acted with Ryan Reynolds in CRIMINAL (2016). She also appeared with Friedrich Mücke and Tobias Moretti in Marvin Kren’s TV film, Berlin One (2016). In February, 2016, ARD screened the two-part TV movie THE CASE OF BARSCHEL (dir. Kilian Riedhof), which won accolades at the Munich International Film Festival and in which Antje Traue was one of the female leads. In 2016, she was nominated for a German Film Award as Best Actress for her portrayal of Hanna Zepter in Till Franzen’s TV miniseries WEINBERG . She can currently be seen on the big screen alongside Matthias Schweighöfer and Till Schweiger in the caper feature VIER GEGEN DIE BANK (based on the novel THE NIXON RECESSION CAPER ), directed by Wolfgang Petersen, and she also has the leading role in Robert Thalheim’s new feature, OLD AGENT MEN, which was released in January.