Acclaimed German filmmaker screens controversial film tonight

Every April, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival takes over the screens of Twin Cities movie theaters.

This year, however, it is not just the films but the internationally acclaimed visitors generating a buzz among area movie fans.

Wim Wenders, the critically lauded German director of “Wings of Desire,” is scheduled to appear in person tonight at the Riverview Theater to present his latest film, “Land of Plenty.” An award-winning entry at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, the subject of the film is the anxiety and disillusionment in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Its screening tonight will be among the first in the country.

In a recent e-mail, Wenders wrote that the genesis of the film was his take on the current political situation.

“The immediate causes for making this film were of a rather political nature,” Wenders wrote. “My film is not anti-American in any way. On the contrary, it tries to come to terms with the division that goes right through the American people itself; it tries to heal and to unify. It defends American values.”

“Land of Plenty” has stirred up controversy in the international film community, tackling an issue that might be uncomfortable for some U.S. viewers, said Emily Condon, Minnesota Film Arts program director.

“It’s been controversial, because without having seen it, it is strongly anti-American government, post 9-11,” she said.

But Wenders wrote the screening tonight is part of a series of U.S. screenings to gauge national reaction to the piece. He also said the subject of the film is not the terrorist attacks of 2001 themselves but the period following the attacks.

“The film is NOT about 9/11, but it is indeed dealing with its aftermath and with the way Americans were lead (or mislead) to understand the ensuing politics,” he wrote.

This screening and Wenders’ appearance were last-second additions to this year’s festival, Condon said.

“It kind of fell into our laps, really,” Condon said. “We had been working on it a long while, for Wenders to come in as part of our directors’ spotlight.”

Condon said everyone in the organization is thrilled to have such an acclaimed director appear as part of the festival. In fact, Condon said that she has considered programming a Wenders retrospective at the Oak Street Cinema in the past, but some of the older titles proved difficult to locate.

Filmed extensively on digital video, rather than film, the look of Wenders’ work has also garnered industry attention.

But Wenders wrote the lower cost of video made it possible for him to explore edgy subject matter a higher-budget project would not have been allowed to pursue.

“I can only affirm that we had an incredible freedom to really explore our subject at the fullest,” Wenders wrote. “Poverty and paranoia are not very popular, I guess, but (they are) important issues to understand today.”