MASEL TOV COCKTAIL: Clip 1 (English)
How a young Jew from the former Soviet Union lives in Germany?
Arkadij Khaet was a few weeks old when his Jewish parents emigrated from Moldova to Germany. Almost three decades later, Arkady is successfully mastering the filmmaking niche. His short films are shown at international film festivals, and the newest film, «Cocktail Mazeltov» (Mazel Tov Cocktail), won prizes at several film shows.
January 20th «Cocktail Mazeltov» screened at the annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF), organized by the Lincoln Center Film Society in conjunction with the Jewish Museum.
Seventeen feature films and seven short films, including a half-hour satirical pamphlet «Cocktail Mazeltov» Arcadia Hayet and co-director Mickey Paatzsch.
Mickey Patch and Arkady Hayet
The main character of the film is Dmitry Lieberman (actor Alexander Wertmann). A young emigrant from the former Soviet Union, he lives in Germany, in the Ruhr region. He is suspended from school after an unpleasant incident. In response to the anti-Semitic antics of his classmate Toby, he hit him hard, breaking his nose. As punishment, Toby is sent to wash the street pavement, namely the metal tiles that perpetuate the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. And from Dmitry, the school administration and his parents demand that he apologize to the offender. The guy reluctantly heads to Toby’s house, meeting a variety of people along the way..
The filmmakers gave him a joke warning by including in the recipe «congratulatory cocktail» «one Jew and 12 Germans», as well as a certain number of stereotypes, «culture of memory», patriotism, anti-Semitism and falafel. This mixture follows «pour into film, bring to a boil and shake vigorously». And, of course, add klezmer music. Received product – 100% kosher, the authors assure.
Arkady Khayet graduated from high school in Israel, where he lived for some time. Then he moved to Cologne, where he studied film at the Academy of Media Arts. Since October 2016, Arkady has been studying directing at the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy in Ludwigsburg. As a student, he began making films. Several projects including «Cocktail Mazeltov», he performed with Mickey Patch, whom he met eight years ago while studying in Cologne. In 2019, Mickey Patch received his Master of Philosophy from the University of Cologne.
Correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» talked about the Zoom service with Arkady Hayot.
Oleg Sulkin: Arkady, why did you decide to talk about your hero? Dmitry Lieberman – real face?
Arkady Hayet: No, imaginary. This is not a documentary. We combine document styling with fictional events. But, of course, they are taken from life. For example, the teacher in the film spoke to Dmitry literally the same words as the teacher in the school where I studied. A professor at the film school encouraged us to choose themes for films from a familiar environment. This movie – my course project at the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg. I asked myself: how does it feel to be a Jew in today’s Germany? And we tried to answer it by combining the footage of the chronicle, statistics and monologues of the hero. Actually, we are talking about summing up collective experience and turning it into personal experience. What our hero Dima is experiencing during one day has been experienced by many Jews, emigrants from the former Soviet Union, including myself. So we started with monologues on behalf of the main character..
OS: Who is this – we? You and your co-director Mickey Patch?
OH.: Me and my girlfriend. As for Mickey, he is a good friend and co-author, we have been cooperating for a long time, almost ten years, since studying in Cologne..
O.S.: The story of the anti-Semitic insults that provoked the incident at the school is real?
OH.: Yes. This particular case is based on similar cases of Jewish schoolchildren being bullied and abused by their peers. The German press is constantly writing about these incidents..
OS: Your hero Dima lives in the Ruhr region. You yourself lived there, right? It was curious to see that in the courtyards of the hostesses drying clothes on clotheslines. Somehow not very similar to Germany.
OH.: These are emigrants from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Turkey who bring their way of life. I was born in Moldova. While pondering a plan of where to move, my father, a physician by profession, learned that there is a need for doctors in Germany. So we ended up in the western, industrial part of the country. Due to the fact that coal mines have closed, many have lost their jobs. The situation there is far from rosy – unemployment, growing poverty. It can be compared in this regard with Detroit, with «rusty belt» America. There are relatively few Jewish emigrants there, in any case significantly fewer than in Berlin and Frankfurt. And young people, of course, tend to move to big cities..
OS: How often do you encounter manifestations of anti-Semitism?
OH.: There are two answers to this question. Since I am not religious, I don’t wear a kippah, beard and side-locks, my origin is not conspicuous, and there are no street incidents. On the other hand … Here are the statistics: according to a recent poll, 20-25 percent of Germans have anti-Semitic views. The number of crimes against Jews in Germany is growing every year, which is very alarming.
OS: In the film, you cite fragments of speeches by right-wing German politicians who attack emigrants and national minorities, believing them to be guilty of the country’s growing problems.
OH.: As in other European countries, as in the United States, the positions of right-wing populists have sharply increased. Take the far-right party «Alternative for Germany» (ADH). We have included an episode in the film in which Dima’s grandfather is persuaded to vote for her at a street propaganda center (According to the results of the 2017 elections, the ADG became the third largest party in the Bundestag. – O.S.). Anti-Muslim, anti-emigrant rhetoric attracts many to this party, including immigrants from the Soviet Union.
OS: In the film, you also cite such an expressive fact – there are 23 Russian-language TV stations in Germany. What are their focus? Who is their audience?
OH.: Of the 200,000 German Jews, 90 percent came from Russia and the republics of the former USSR. Older people, such as, for example, my grandparents, live mainly in an airtight «bubble», in areas with a dense Russian-speaking population, with their own shops and the ability to watch Russian television. They receive news not on German TV channels, but on Russian-language ones. It is no coincidence that under the influence of Russian propaganda, many of «of our» a pro-Russian position was formed in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. But the situation is changing. And the new generation in the families of emigrants no longer considers themselves guests in this country, like the older generation. Young people know German well, get a good education, many successfully show themselves in science, art, literature, journalism.
OS: Your hero is noticeably annoyed when his German acquaintances, in particular, the teacher, show concern and compassion towards him. What’s bad about it?
OH.: For many Germans, the Jew represents the fate of the victim. We are sometimes looked at only as the injured party with all the appropriate gamut of emotions. A good Jew, in their understanding, is a person who correctly plays his role in the theater of memory and thereby helps to relieve the Germans of the burden of guilt for Nazism and the Holocaust. After the screenings, the Germans came up to us and said that they recognized themselves in the heroes of the film, in their statements and actions. It is characteristic that many Russian-speaking Jews in Germany are not inclined to act only as a victim. I think they have a reason. My great-grandfather, for example, died in the capture of Berlin. He and other Soviet Jews, soldiers and officers, were real heroes. More than 500 thousand Jews fought in the ranks of the Red Army during World War II, about the same – in the US Army. And Jewish partisans fought heroically against the Nazis.
OS: Can you say that a particular film influenced you, say «Pianist» Polanski or «Save Private Ryan» Spielberg?
OH.: Neither one nor the other, but «Inglourious Basterds» Tarantino. I love it when strong heroes deal with the Nazis. This is a radically new approach, as in «Rabbit Jojo» Taiki Waititi. I am sure that cinema should set new goals. In life, there is no need to fight and break each other’s noses, you have to follow the laws and civilized norms. But art should inspire viewers, elevate heroes and punish villains..
OS: Your character speaks directly to the viewer. Why did you choose to break «fourth wall»?
OH.: We decided to experiment. Address directly to the viewer – not an easy task for an actor. But it helped us make the film attractive to the audience..
OS: What viewers tell you after the shows?
OH.: To be honest, we didn’t think that a humble student film would generate such an overwhelming response. Overall, the reaction is positive. The Jewish communities in various regions of Germany reacted especially actively. The film was shown in them with subsequent discussion, including for educational purposes. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first film that has chosen the life of Jewish emigrants from the former Soviet Union as its theme.
Union in Germany. It became the most popular short film in the country in 2020. We have participated in about 50 film festivals and received three dozen prizes. At first, it was hard to believe that anyone other than German Jews would be interested in the film. But I was wrong. Both in South America and in Asia, viewers understood our message, perhaps because the problems of national and religious minorities exist everywhere.