Homemad(e)

Homemad(e) 2001

Directed by Ruth Beckermann

Thanks to Mubi streaming service I’ve been watching a lot of Ruth Beckermann’s documentaries the last few months. She has a very interesting way of telling extraordinarily big historical stories through the lens of the intensely personal.

Homemad(e) is a great example of this, where again Beckermann turns her lens on Vienna. This time, Marc Aurel-Strasse, where her parents ran a business and where Beckermann lives. The street is the heart of the former textile district, dotted now with cafes and a thriving nightlife but the whole is pervaded by the sadness of a dying culture. The title of the film alludes to the homemade quality of the piece as well as its themes.

She interviews particularly Adolf Dolf, the self-proclaimed last Jewish textile merchant who talks about how he survived the camps during WWII. Even at this late stage of his life, the man is clearly suffering survivor guilt but Beckermann is always respectful and gentle with him. Similarly, she talks with Rikki Goschl, the owner of Café Salzgries and her regular customers. Always the ghost of her husband Ernst, who was the heart and soul of the coffeehouse is present. His photograph is on the wall, while customers/friends reminisce about him and his importance in their lives. The majority of the interview subjects are older, mainly Jewish and WWII survivors but I found the Persian hotelier and the poet who owns five hundred pieces of jewelry but only wears about ten especially interesting.

One of the standout points to me about this film is it never wallows in melancholia or uses outside cues to trigger an emotional response from the audience. There is no soundtrack, just the sounds of the street. It made me want to rush off to Vienna immediately for coffee!

Highly recommended.

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