Find out what changes to the SFF he is excited about.
I put him in the film critic chair and asked him to review the film Teddy Bear. What does he really think? And I learned what movie had the biggest effect on him and why it’s going to change his life.
“What I like is talking about the movies. I don’t even care if the movies are great.” – Peter Emanuel
It’s only Day Three of the festival and I’ve crossed paths with Peter for the second time already. He is passionate and knowledgeable about film. Peter is a partner in a law firm in New Jersey. He grew up with movies and says he often forms opinions based on movies. “I remember movies; they help me think things out,” he says. “I remember little clips and phrases from scenes in the movies and that’s how I think.”
Over the course of the festival, he will see approximately 25 films, about 2-3 a day in addition to attending some of the conversations. Not a fan of the events, he is thrilled with the changes the festival has made this year. “I think they’ve toned down the parties and the emphasis is on film, as it should be. I come here for the films.”
He goes on to say, “I went to the Opening Night film, which I liked, but gave my ticket away for the party.”
Because of my schedule, I was unable to see the sold out film Teddy Bear. I felt guilty about it, which is ironic because according to Peter, Teddy Bear had a big effect on him because it’s about guilt. Specifically, it’s about love causing guilt and almost destroying people’s lives unless they’re strong enough to change things. I’ve been speaking with David Winters, who plays the uncle in this award-winning film. He emailed me and asked me what I thought. I couldn’t answer him so I found someone who could.
The film got rave reviews. “I got to the theater just before the film started and had to sit in the very first row,” said Peter Emanuel. “Normally I would get up and leave after the first 15 minutes, but I was enjoying the film.” The title of the film had Emanuel perplexed. He realized the body builder, Dennis (played by Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard), was just a gentle giant who in his late 30s was not very successful with women; he was uncomfortable and couldn’t connect with them. His uncle, played by Winters, marries a woman from Thailand and through that he thinks maybe that’s the way for him to go. His mother disagrees with his decision and throughout the film he struggles with her guilt. “He’s gigantic. I mean this guy is gigantic and he is a teddy bear.”
Peter thought the movie was very sweet but could have had more humor in it. Pointing out that Mad Matthiesen won Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival, I asked him if he agreed. “It was a very measured movie. He could have gone over the top. He could have done something about the kind of awkwardness in the sexual relationships, which he actually didn’t have.” Instead, Peter says, “He made it very gentle and Dennis, who was shy, became a very soulful person about it, almost female kind of reactions to it.”
In Peter’s opinion, David Winters, even though he had a small role, was terrific. They didn’t really develop his character like they could have. All in all, he would recommend this unique film to others. He points out the film is in Danish with English subtitles.
Monsieur Lazhar, Altina and Dancing on the Volcano are films Peter Emanuel has also seen over the past three days and recommends. I asked him which film had the biggest effect on him thus far. He says, “When I go see a documentary, I rarely see a bad one. Because of my family history, Dancing on the Volcano had the biggest effect and probably will change my life because I have a family story like that, that is in a way even more incredible than the story they told.” He asks if it’s okay to tell me the punch line of his story and of course I encouraged him to continue.
“It takes place over a much shorter period of time. All documents exist and I didn’t know that until last summer. My cousin, who is a curator in a museum, showed me all the documents. My cousin, who was Jewish, worked in a Jewish old age home in the 1940s. They kept him on because he was competent but he wasn’t getting paid. So my uncle sued the German government and his bosses who were not Jewish said, ‘Emil. that’s not such a good idea. It’s not really the German government. It’s the Gestapo.’ The punch line is they sent him a letter saying he doesn’t have to appear in court; your court date is next week but we’ll skip it and he was arrested two weeks later and he survived. He was in half a dozen concentration camps. So, Dancing on the Volcano had an effect on me because my cousin wanted to make a film for a project where she’s going to show all the letters. She wanted to make a film about the making of her project. I said, ‘Why don’t you make a film about the real story?’ We stopped writing about it and I’m going to start writing again,” says Peter Emanuel.
Perhaps in the future, Peter will be coming to the Sarasota Film Festival as a filmmaker. If you have a passion for films like Peter Emanuel, don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with him. He may not be a giant, but he is gentle!
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