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West Germany, 1988 (MIFF 1989)

Director: Norman Bunge, Christine Fischer-Defoy

Bertolt Brecht arrived in Los Angeles on 21 July, 1941, with his wife, 16-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. The little-known story of his brief time in exile in the USA is documented in this insightful and unglamourised account.

Quickly slipping into the circle of exiled European film and theatre artists in Hollywood, Brecht was soon at work on the script of Fritz Lang's third US film, The Hangmen Also Die, and he was to develop a distaste for Los Angeles after clashing with the co-writer over the film's script credits.

Thus, Brecht's hot/cold relationship with the US is set in motion. This colours the next six years of his life. 'How I hate the little heatwave that besets everyone when money is in the offing,' he wrote after only months in LA.

Co-directors Binge and Fischer-Defoy also reveal the not-so-pteasant aspects of Brecht's character— particularly his appalling treatment of his wife — as they chart his American movements (cross-country trips, long-forgotten writing projects, infidelities) and read from Brecht's diaiy, letters and writing, talk to colleagues and friends from those years. Their reliance on 'first hand sources' lends the film an authority absent from many. A particular highlight is the unearthing of a crude film shot 'for study only' of a performance of Brecht much lauded staging of Galileo Galilee with Charles Laughton and Jo Losey in Los Angeles, proof that Brecht was still active despite his disillusionment with life in the USA.

Hounded by the FBI, and eventually summoned to testify at the HUAC hearings, Brecht left: the USA in 1947, the day after his HUAC appearance, never to return.

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