Friday, October 25, 2013

Film: "Rheinland" Afro-Germans in the Nazi Era (+ the tale of the worst houseguest ever)


Last week, the above promotion for a film trailer popped into my twitter feed and I was immediately intrigued because, while there are countless films/books/art/etc on the horror Jews faced in the Third Reich, not much is out there about what Blacks and "Mischlings" (mixed race people) went through.  So I really want to support this project.  (And yeah, of course, the actor in me was also thinking, "Hmm, maybe I'll send my headshot and resume to the director...." Don't smirk! Acting is a constant hustle.)  While reading the short description, I saw the cast list and stopped right there.  One of the actors starring in this film is the very same person who stayed with me last summer and caused the worst houseguest experience I've ever had.  Just seeing his name took me back in time...

Here's what happened:  On his deathbed (f'ing cancer!), a former schoolmate of mine made a film with two of his friends (one being that actor).  That film, Geschwisterliebe (an emotional short about immigrant life in Berlin culminating with a brother mistakenly raping his sister - based on a true story) made it to the NY International Film Festival (and it WON!).   Another mutual friend asked if I'd connect with the two guys and take care of them while they were in NYC for the festival.  I said, "Of course, and they're welcome to stay with me as long as they want!"  Famous last words...  They stayed with me for 9 days and it was like bunking with teenage boys or living in a frat house.  I'm pretty relaxed about sharing my home, but this turned out to be a disaster:
-  They took over the apartment spreading their stuff out in every room (clothes strewn in the kitchen, dining room...After they left, I even found their boxers hanging off my fire escape.)  Ironically, I'd given them my bedroom so they'd have their own space and I was, myself, sleeping on the couch in the living room.
-  They broke things & ignored them (the light in the fridge - how do you break that?! - a cfl bulb in the bedroom - lesson learned: those things reek once they're broken!)
-  They smoked in my kitchen which left my small flat smelling like an ashtray.  For a non-smoker this is a big deal.
-  They turned tv & radio on/off at their own leisure whether I was watching/listening or not.
-  They kept leaving windows open while the AC was running.
-  They tracked beach sand all over the apartment.
-  Blah Blah Blah...you get the picture.  They generally acted like it was their home and I was the guest.  Classic case of you give an inch, they take a foot.

It was just little things, but they added up. Three times, I mentioned stuff to them and they did try to change, but after a day, they'd revert. On the morning of their flight back to Berlin an argument started and this man exploded, shouting obscenities at me, calling me names, wildly packing up his stuff and then stormed out for good.  I've never been around that kind of volatile energy.  Never had anyone viciously screaming at me like that.  Confrontation terrifies me so this left me completely shaken up.

Seeing his name on the cast list for this new film, Rheinland, not only reminded me of that whole trauma, but it made me wonder something.  We're both actors.  I'm trying to get more work in Europe.  Rheinland is the kind of film I'd be auditioning for.  What would I do if we ever ended up cast together?  Could I work with someone I'd had such a negative personal experience with?  I'm super sensitive, so I'm not sure I could.  And if I did, I'd need extra therapy to get through the anxiety! Meantime, I'll send the few bucks I have to spare to help this film groundbreaking film get made.  It's an important piece of history.

p.s.  Recently, I heard a great "rule" about being a houseguest. "Treat it like camping in a rare & protected habitat:  Respect the environment, keep the smallest footprint possible and leave no trace behind."

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