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May 31, 2007

Deutschland: Ich liebe dich!

The German screening tour last week was fantastisch: great cities, great people, and great events. The day after the Typo event, we had a matinee screening at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Berlin. I was a little blurry from the Typo afterparty (which went till like 6am) but had a great time with a full room of students who’d turned out. The best (or worst) part was that midway through the screening, one of the component video extension cables on the video projector stopped working and everything in the film turned pink. Severin Wucher, a professor at the school and organizer of the event, discovered that if you held the two ends of the cables together and squeezed, the picture went back to normal. So for the last 40 minutes of the film, Severin valiantly held the two ends of the cables together, squeezed hard, and Helvetica played on…

I decided to rent a car in Berlin and drive to the next four German screenings, and then on to Paris. Everyone I met in Germany seemed surprised by this (train travel between cities is the norm there) but I think it makes all the difference. And driving in Europe was a cinch with Sabine along for the trip. “Sabine” is now the official name for the female voice in those satellite navigation systems, coined by Jesse Epstein on the road trip back from the Full Frame festival. I think Jesse was sitting in the back seat, and somehow read “Garmin”, the brand name of the navigation system, as “Sabine”. Jesse proceeded to ask Sabine for advice about the guy she was dating. Sabine responded by telling her to turn left in 500 feet.

Handmade posters from HBK Braunschweig. 10 euro for the series of 3, email jpetri(at)macnews.de

The trip started at the beautiful campus of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, where the students made a series of one-of-a-kind letterpressed posters. The screening was lovely, with professor Jörg Petri opening the evening with a powerpoint on why he hated Helvetica. The after-screening dinner and subsequent dance party strecthed far into the wee hours, and at some stage I found myself behind the turntables spinning Grandmaster Flash and Abba. To the crew at the Silverstube… light another sparkler for me.

Then it was on to Bad Homburg for an afternoon screening for the employees at Linotype and a few special guests, including Manfred Schulz, the gentleman who we featured in the opening title sequence of the film setting all that old metal type Helvetica. Manfred used to work for the German type foundry Stempel, one of the licensors of Helvetica and the company responsible for the typeface’s name change in 1961. Also present were Otmar Hoefer and Bruno Steinert, who both appear in the film. Otmar brought a crate of special Bavarian beer from his hometown, so the German revelry continued.

The students in Mainz working the merch

But later that evening I crowned a new champion in the ongoing informal “which school can make the best Helvetica promotional items” battle: the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany. They had the great concept of making a 3-D paper mobile of Helvetica letters and filming the mobile moving and rotating. The video was shown on screen as the crowds came in prior to the film, and an image of the mobile became the theme for their postcards, posters, and t-shirts.

The screening room at KUZ, Mainz

The mobile image was also printed on popcorn bags! And there were people walking the line outside, selling freshly baked Helvetica pretzels! All that, and an amazing venue: the Kuz, a huge converted factory that hosts touring bands and big events. During the screening (I don’t stay and watch the film anymore… let’s just say I’ve seen it a few times already. I usually head to a bar during the screening and come back for the Q&A!) I walked down to the Rhine, where people were hanging out by the riverside as the sun set. Germany in the springtime is amazing. Thanks to Boris Markic and everyone in Mainz for hosting.

The next day I drove to Saarbrücken for a screening the Hochschule für Bildende Künste there. I was pretty excited that there was a laundromat near the school… after two weeks on the road I needed to wash some socks! Saarbrücken is yet another incredibly beautiful German city, nestled into hillsides of trees. After the screening we were treated to some traditional Saarland bar-b-que, prepared on a huge circular rotating grill (I don’t have any pix of this, but it was pretty impressive), and some excellent DJing. Thanks to Soenke, Indra, and everyone at HBK Saar for rocking it.

The next morning I arose at 6am, and Sabine and I started the drive to Paris…


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mimo says

May 31, 2007

Cool that you liked it here. I love germany too.