Keith Wiedersheim (46)
has no mothertongue anymore.

Keith, a tired international executive in his forties that spends most of his time in airports, feels lost and rootless. After a lifetime from country to country, he does not know if he is German or not. His father was German but refused to speak that language to him as a child. Keith suspects this might have been related to his father’s experience in the war. His admired father was a great storyteller and an enigmatic character. Two years after his death, Keith finds out that his father left for him a letter-path to follow: “Keith, come and join me”: 600 letters sent by his father since 1940 to the important women in his father’s life. Some women already died. Most of them are in their late 80s.
Time is short. Keith decides to travel and listen to their words. Beirut is his first step.

technical details

Documentary | 73’| HD 1080 | colour |
Producer: Chisgarabís Kino | Director: Teresa Sendagorta
Script: Teresa Sendagorta | Spain | 2016

Keith Andrew Wiedersheim
Marion El Mokdessi (born Wiedersheim) Adi Wiedersheim (born Stauch) Elisabeth Ryll
Sonja Kirschtein
Audrey Jordá (born Blass)
Els Greshof
Nancy Gordon
Misha Krafft
Teresa Sendagorta

Teresa Sendagorta. Director, Script, Executive Production, Photography and Camerawoman

Chisgarabís Kino. Production
Yago Muñiz, Edu Crespo. Edition
William Kingswood. Music
Yago Muñiz. Associate Production
Keith Wiedersheim. Associate Production / Investigation
Sonja Kirschtein. Historical Investigation
Noemie Dulau. Colorist
Diego Cardoso. Sound
Nano Arrieta. Legal Consultancy
Agencia SOPA. Artwork and Branding
Laura F. Suárez. Graphic Production

“A different kind of diary”, by Keith Wiedersheim

In 2009, my life was in a mess. I was working for a multinational, I was a workaholic, I had left my health behind, and I was just plainly unhappy. One day I decided to open up a box left to me by my father who had died a few years earlier. It was full of hand-written letters and other documents. At the very top of the pile, there was a letter addressed to me. It began saying: “Dear Keith, come and join me on a multipurpose venture…”

It was then clear that he wanted to lea- ve me this documentary legacy. A chronicle of his evolution through WWII and the consequences of this experience on the rest of his life. Perhaps I could find myself again through the adventures of my father, Perhaps I would calm my own restlessness as a man without roots. Perhaps I would come to terms with being a man belonging to no specific culture, with no recognizable mother tongue.

As I began to read the letters, I was humbled by the magnitude of the task ahead. This was no ordinary project. It was a chronicle of the 20th century seen through the eyes of someone who desperately wanted to flee the Germany of the war. What began as a simple search for a man who was my father, ended up as my own diary.

Searching against the clock, before some of the ageing characters would pass away, involved firm determination and quick decisions.

I would have to go to Lebanon, South Africa, Germany and Belgium. As my travels progressed, I became aware that this was an introspective journey. I was looking at myself in the mirror. My father’s letters and the stories of his life were a reflection of my own image. This was a frightening realization. Like at Ulysses there is a voyage and a homecoming, except for that the homecoming was not as I had expected.

Notes from Teresa Sendagorta,
director, script and camerawoman

Foto_dire_MOTHERTONGUE_Teresa-Sendagorta-1-1

 

 

 

 

 

Teresa explores the limits of language and narrativity in fiction and non-fiction audio-visual works and is interested in the relationship between image, sound, time, memory and identity.

Mothertongue is her first feature film. Previously she wrote and directed short films, including ‘La letra es tuya’ -non fiction, selected in Uruguay Film Festival, Arteficial Festival and finalist of ACE awards- and ‘Ojalá’ -fiction, 16 mm, selected for The Beaux Arts Circle Exhibition in Madrid.

She studied Economics at the University of Buckingham (United Kingdom), Philosophy at the University of Deusto (Bilbao) and Filmmaking at University CEU (Madrid). Thereafter she became an active member of the Seminar for Classical Studies at the Escuela Contemporánea de Humanidades. She has also participated in seminars led by Christopher Doyle (DOP); José Luis Guerín, Patricio Guzmán and Mercedes Álvarez (Documentary filmmaking) and Jaime Repollés and Lidia Benavides (Contemporary Art).

In 2009 and 2010 she was Patron of Fundación para las Artes, la Creación Literaria y los Sentidos and a collaborator of the Short Film Section at Art Centre Espacio Naranjo 33 in Madrid. At the moment she is relearning and participating in the Master Videolab for Experimental Cinema. In 2009, Teresa established the production company Chisgarabís Kino where she presently works as producer.

Mothertongue develops within the relationship of two learning processes with uncertain outcome: the first would be the search by Keith, the main character, through words, and the second being the attempt of an audio-visual work based on this search. The interweaving of the two processes explores issues related to time, oblivion, imagination, language and identity.

My interest in language was probably more in- tense when I read Language of the Third Empire, by Victor Klemperer, which reveals the manipulation of language during the period of National Socialism. Some time later the main character, Keith, receives what his father has left for him as inheritance: 600 letters, mostly in German, spanning from 1930 to 1960, and I get fascinated by the words in the letters and intrigued for the people who wrote them.

At the bottom of all these documents, beside a list of names of women, Keith finds a page of a letter addressed to him and written by his father: “Dear Keith, come with me on this adventure…” and he decides to contact the first woman in the list but, when he calls, nobody picks the phone. A week later we found out that she had recently died. Keith starts to look for the women in the list that he did not know. I film.

From the very beginning the filming had to take into account certain limitations; the urgency of the situation due to the advanced age of the women involved, their poor health, and their geographic distance. As a working method I opted for a non-interventionist registration of the protagonist’s quest. The recording would take place with a receptive attitude, open to the happenings of the moment, and without writing a script or teleological directing the talks, the research or the voyages. The prioritizing of the filming project over the real quest would have distorted the very essence of the pursuit and, consequently, it would lose its interest and authenticity. In addition, it was decided to make the recording equipment visible so it would enhance the tentative, subjective and ‘sketched’ nature of both processes.

This peculiar working method bore fruit already on the first trip to Brussels to meet Keith’s aunt, Audrey. When preparing the recording equipment at the ho- tel before going to see her, Keith spoke to the cam- era in order to focus his thoughts. When I listened to him speaking of “white landscapes”, I sensed that for him it was something more than a simple historical search. Later, these recorded reflections of Keith in 2009 would serve to weave the fabric of Mothertongue’s narrative.

Mothertongue has been a big voyage for me as well. I began filming with many cinematographic theories in my mind, wanting to register, for the future, the testimony of a group of women who are living memories of great events of the twentieth century. I suspect, however, that after the journey something has changed.

During the investigation and editing process I found, between a stack of papers, a handwritten letter from Berlin dated 1935. The writing was tortuous and difficult to read. The letter was from Ami, a sculptress from the Bauhaus, and it was addressed to the father of her five-year-old daughter with whom she was trying to leave Berlin for good. The letter does not mention anything about what was happening in the city. One phrase catches my attention “Kinoaparatt vollständig zerstört” (the film projector is totally destroyed), and I think about her that moment. When the magic (silver screen) is broken and chaos is pushing violently from without, she writes. Ami like Audrey, in difficult moments of their lives, they share words.

In this way, every step I take in the process of Mothertongue continues to make me reflect. I did not expect the frankness of their conversations nor did I expect the natural ease with which they accept- ed Keith’s need to share words, stories; the need to build an ‘us’. I am left with the impression that, even though some of them had never met him before, they were waiting for him and already knew about the transforming power of shared words and tales.

At the present, my initial desire to ‘embalm historical testimonies for future generations’ of the beginning of this project has perhaps given way for me to filming as a small gesture of protest against oblivion and time. And what better resistance than recording a simple conversation or an everyday moment, a “Teresa, do you want some tea?”

With a fragile, hypothetical and open narrative, Mothertongue is thought of as an unfinished process that accompanies the main character in a voyage in search for signs of his father ́s past. There might be a small slip from an identity tied to the past, the truth and the language, to an identity in transit where memory and imagination are at play. Perhaps the trace of an ephemeral footprint over a white landscape: always a beginning, always a blur on the past.

(Español) La directora Teresa Sendagorta presentó el documental en Documenta Madrid

(Español) La directora Teresa Sendagorta presentó el documental en Documenta Madrid

(Español) El equipo en la presentación de Mothertongue en el Festival de Málaga

(Español) El equipo en la presentación de Mothertongue en el Festival de Málaga

DocumentaMadrid announces the titles of its section Panorama of the spanish documentary

DocumentaMadrid announces the titles of its section Panorama of the spanish documentary

DOCUMENTAMADRID, brings a new addition to the festival’s Official Palmares: the Award for Best Feature-Length Spanish Documentary, which is intended to recognise the increasingly extensive body of films produced in Spain that are achieving widespread acclaim outside our borders. With this new addition, the Panorama of the Spanish Documentary Section, which provides a special overview each year of the cinema of the real produced in Spain, will become a competitive category, as feature-length documentaries never before screened in Spain will be eligible to compete for the award.

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(Español) Documentamadrid convierte la Sección Panorama del Documental Español en competitiva

(Español) Documentamadrid convierte la Sección Panorama del Documental Español en competitiva

Sorry, this entry is only available in European Spanish.

19 documentales compiten en la Sección Documental del FMCE

19 documentales compiten en la Sección Documental del FMCE

Mothertongue (2016) is the first feature length documentary film by the basque director Teresa Sendagorta, competing in the Official Section of the 19th Málaga Film Festival. It will be screened in the Echegaray Theatre on Tuesday the 26th of April at 22:00, and both the director and protagonist, Keith Wiedersheim, will be attending. […]

Seleccionado para competir en la Sección Oficial del Festival de Cine de Málaga

Seleccionado para competir en la Sección Oficial del Festival de Cine de Málaga

El 19 Festival de Málaga arranca el 22 de abril. Hasta el 1 de mayo reunirá a los rostros más populares del cine español. Serán muchas las películas que se proyectarán en sus tres centros neurálgicos: el Teatro Cervantes, el Cine Albéniz y el Teatro Echegaray.

 

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Mothertongue. Trailer.

Mothertongue. Clip 3.

Mothertongue. Clip 4

Mothertongue. Clip 5.

Mothertongue. Clip 6.

Dossier

This is the Mothertongue dossier for the press. You can also download the film distribution file, Teresa Sendagorta's biofilmography, etc. from the press box.

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Poster

Here you can download the poster of the film in a lightweight jpg. But if you need it in high resolution, you can find it in the press box.

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Promotional postcards

Here you can download some Mothertongue postcards with intervened images from the project.

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PRESS | Press box

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