German film Global Player has a dumpling connection with China

Writer-director Hannes Stohr portrays the economic relationship between Germany and China with a humorous touch in Global Player. -- PHOTO: STOEHRFILM
Writer-director Hannes Stohr portrays the economic relationship between Germany and China with a humorous touch in Global Player. -- PHOTO: STOEHRFILM
(From left) Jinjin Harder, Zengquan Guo, Kevin Chen, Christoph Bach and Yu Fang in Global Player. -- PHOTO: SABOTAGE FILMS, WOLFGANG SCHMIDT
(From left) Jinjin Harder, Zengquan Guo, Kevin Chen, Christoph Bach and Yu Fang in Global Player. -- PHOTO: SABOTAGE FILMS, WOLFGANG SCHMIDT

The Chinese crew of Global Player loved the dumplings given by the film's German director

Even cultures that seem very different from each other can rub shoulders in unexpected ways.

In the case of Germany and China, it turns out that they share a similar dumpling dish - maultaschen in German and jiaozi in Mandarin.

When writer-director Hannes Stohr filmed in Shanghai for the comedy Global Player (2013), he took some maultaschen along as a present and the Chinese crew loved them.

Stohr, 44, says: "That was really funny because jiaozi is a holy dish in China, they eat it on New Year's Day."

While jiaozi are a must-have during the new year, they are also commonly eaten as an everyday dish. Perhaps it was a case of some details getting lost in translation as Stohr does not speak much Mandarin and had to rely on a translator to talk to some of the Chinese actors and crew.

The dumplings make their way into the film, where a family-run German textile machine manufacturer fights for survival against the backdrop of a changing economic world in which China is ascendant. Global Player is part of the line-up of this year's German Film Festival, which runs from Thursday to Nov 16.

As Stohr puts it: "Germany and China are competitors in the global market, but also partners. The son Michael wants to collaborate with the Chinese while father Paul insists on mistrust.

"For me, Global Player asks the crucial question about Europe's strongest economy: Can Germany cope with China?"

The subject matter is potentially heavy-going but Stohr applies a light touch and also spices things up with a dash of family drama as the set-in-his-ways Bogenschuetz patriarch (Walter Schultheiss) constantly clashes with his son (Christoph Bach).

He says: "I talked to many entrepreneurs who do business with China and observed negotiations between Germans and Chinese myself. For me, it was very important to convey this world authentically but with a humorous tone."

The tone turns serious though in a scene where Paul has to confront his Nazi past when meeting his Jewish-American son-in-law. Germany has been very open in addressing its war past but even then, this can be a sensitive subject to discuss within families.

Stohr points out: "It is important to tell young generations the truth about the Nazis. They were criminals committing ugly crimes. Ninety-year-old Paul Bogenschuetz knows the details from his own experience, a very complex generation."

Paul Bogenschuetz took part in World War II as a young man of 19 and continues to be haunted by memories of it.

"At the end of his life, he offers an important piece of advice: Nobody wants war! That is the main point," says Stohr.

The film-maker studied scriptwriting and directing at the German Film & Television Academy Berlin from 1995 to 1999 and has consistently contemplated the question of identity in his films.

He describes his first three features as a trilogy: "Berlin Is In Germany (2001) shows Berlin viewed from the alien perspective, One Day In Europe (2005) shows Berlin in the European context and Berlin Calling (2008) is the view from within."

He adds: "I am inspired by the new Berlin, symbol of a new Germany which has learned from the failures of the past."

bchan@sph.com.sg