German distributor Der Filmverleih in Stuttgart has boarded Berlin-based Films in Motion’s World War II trilogy penned by American writer J. Frank James.
The films, in various stages of development, include “The Face,” produced with Leipzig-based Departures Film and starring Ludwig Trepte (“Deutschland 86”). The story turns on a traumatized Jewish survivor and an army deserter posing as a priest who are bonded together into a friendship while reconstructing a bombed-out church. Markus Imboden (“The Foster Boy”) is set to direct.
In “Life Through a Dead Man’s Eyes,” directed by veteran helmer Jo Baier and produced with Amsterdam-based NL Film and Hupe Film in Cologne, a former SS concentration camp guard in danger of being apprehended for his brutal past faces horrors beyond his imagination. Herbert Knaup and Matthias Habich star in the haunting drama.
“Bones of the Wise Men,” currently in development, is set in the waning days of World War II and centers on a mentally and emotionally challenged man who is manipulated into attempting an apparently impossible mission involving the transport of ancient religious relics through the vanguard of an enemy invasion.
Films in Motion, run by René Asch, is producing the three films with backing from German regional and federal film funds.
“The trilogy is vital in that we see a rise of anti-Semitism not only in Germany but in the E.U. and other parts of the world,” said Gerd Klein, managing director of Der Filmverleih.
“Fascism in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s cannot be seen in isolation from the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in those years. And it is flourishing again — as is right-wing sentiment — not only in Germany.”
At first glance, the stories appear to be exciting thrillers or classic crime tales, but the films “use this genre to encourage the audience, especially the young audience, to deal with the darkest part of German history again,” Klein added.
Noting the growing neo-fascism of today, Klein adds, “That is why we should talk about the resurgent right in Germany and Europe. And the National Socialist era has shown where this development can lead.
“The films are about always keeping the memory of this terrible time alive — not forgetting it.”
Munich-based Morefilms is handling international sales for two of the three films, “Life Through a Dead Man’s Eyes” and “Bones of the Wise Men.”
Der Filmverleih’s current lineup includes Maria Peters‘ Dutch drama “The Conductor” and Ficarra & Picone’s Italian time-travel comedy “Once Upon a Time in Bethlehem.”
The distributor is also releasing Rolando Colla’s Swiss documentary “What Remains of the Lie” (pictured), about Bruno Wilkomirski, whose 1995 autobiography chronicling his traumatic childhood in a Nazi concentration camp was later exposed as fiction.
Among Der Filmverleih’s recent titles is Christian Frosch’s “Murer: Anatomy of a Trial,” about the 1963 trial of former SS leader Franz Murer, which was likewise sold by Morefilms.