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Sunday
Jul102016

Never Been Kissed: Inside Director Barbara Kronenberg’s qFlix Comedy ‘Ballad of Ella Plummhoff’

'The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff' writer and director Barbara KronenbergIt’s nice to be blogging again, as I interrupt the Popcorn Snobs’ (semi)regularly scheduled “Taking of A-Z” series, in favor of world cinema. If you believe laughter is the best medicine, you need to get acquainted with Barbara Kronenberg, a German writer/director whose comedy Die Ballad Von Ella Plummhoff (The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff) is among the most anticipated shorts playing at the qFLIX film festival in Philadelphia, PA this weekend.

Dr. Sheena Howard and Wafiyyah Packer of the Women’s Screening Committee even cite it as one they would highly recommend people to come watch.

“I thought the angles and intensity of some of the shots were well put together,” praises Howard on the cinematography as well as the overall technical excellence of what she describes as “a really quirky” and entertaining short film. Packer agrees adding “I love teenage awkwardness….the way they told this coming-of-age story was great.” What’s interesting, however, is that this film almost didn’t get made. There was a time when Barbara Kronenberg got fed up with filmmaking after a string of depressing projects.

Encouraged by her wife along with family and friends to not give up, she tried working on a story that was different and more humorous than her usual fare – resulting in The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff. This 29-minute short helped Kronenberg, a former software developer, rediscover her passion for filmmaking. I arranged a conversation with Kronenberg, who was up for discussing a few topics, from the challenges of shooting goldfish to the definition of beauty and why everyone needs a funny bone.

So without further ado, here’s the woman behind this wildly enjoyable film about an eighth grader who is flunking Math, getting love lessons from a grotesque ballet teacher and only cares about landing her first kiss—on another girl. Grades be damned!

Madlab Post Asks: What is your favorite scene from The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff?

Barbara Kronenberg (BK): The one where Ella is sitting in front of the aquarium after everyone else left for holiday vacation. It has very subtle humor and people usually start laughing when they realize that Ella is wearing her swimming goggles as if she has made up her own holiday setting, which is of course not satisfying. Ella is just sitting there, observing the two goldfishes through her swimming goggles and it seems to be a very easy to shoot scene because there is no big action.

As you probably wouldn't imagine, the two fishes were not that easy to handle - they behaved like little divas. I tried to give compliments about their beautiful fish scale, I praised their skills as actors and we even bought them gourmet fish food, but they preferred to stay in the tank corners. Finally I told staff to fire them and to cast turtles instead of fishes. That was the key and they started to perform the choreography, which we trained on for about 3 or 4 weeks. So this very small scene took some more time then people are expecting.

What makes a woman beautiful?

I never felt attracted only because of a “perfect“ body, face or dressing; it’s always a mixture of charisma, behavior, attitude, brainpower and appearance. To me, beauty isn’t something that you can see, it’s something that you feel.  – BK

(l-r) Actresses Lotta devil and Inga Dreger on the set of 'Die Ballad Von Ella Plummhoff' directed by Barbara Kronenberg.Would you like to share the story behind your first kiss?

The only thing I can tell you is that I had to kiss a lot of boys before I found out that I prefer kissing girls. - BK

What is the best quality everyone should have?

I’d love to say it is humor because I think it makes life much easier and of course funnier, but there are maybe one or two things which are more important and could be helpful to save the future of humanity: honesty and tolerance. It’s ok to make mistakes as far as you admit them. It’s also ok to have a different opinion as far as you don’t force someone else to share your opinion or way of living. – BK

Kudos to Barbara Kronenberg for showing the world that perseverance pays off and it’s important to have fun when following your passion. Otherwise, what’s the point?!

Die Ballad Von Ella Plummhoff /The Ballad of Ella Plummhoff is a German language film with English subtitles playing Sunday, July 10, 2016 at the Caplan Theater - University of the Arts – 211 S. Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA. Showtime is 2:30PM. It is part of the qFlix Film Festival’s  fun and fanciful “Damn Danielle” program, a collection of short films for everyone, with stories about family power struggles, revenge and the last laugh.

Share YOUR Comments!

What makes someone a good kisser? How supportive are YOUR loved ones in your chosen profession? If YOU had a pet turtle, what would you name it?

*Special thanks to Mike Nash for contributing to this piece. Images courtesy of Barbara Kronenberg.

 

Monday
Jul132015

Monday Movie Meme: Bar Hopping!

In giving credit to the sponsors who made it possible for this year's qFLIX film festival to bring an excellent program of international stories to Philadelphia's LGBT community, including Tavern on Camac, U bar and The Tavern restaurant, this week's Monday Movie Meme is about leading ladies and leading men congregating at watering holes: Bar Hopping!

Share on your blog or in the comments section, movies featuring scenes that take place in a bar. Here are my selections for this week's Bar Hopping theme, consisting mostly of bar scenes that come to mind when I think of some of the films that premiered at the festival.

Love Jones

An aspiring photographer named Nina orders a glass of white wine at the bar inside of a Chicago jazz lounge, in this romantic drama starring Nia Long, Larenz Tate and Isaiah Washington.

Those People

A painter encounters his first love while hanging with friends at a New York dive bar in this romantic drama about the ability to connect with people, and its contrasting side of the human condition -- never finding that perfect someone to experience true love.

LUV Don't Live Here No More

Longtime friends discuss a public lover's spat, over drinks at a Philly bar in this dramatic narrative about a man who is reluctant to part with the way his life and relationships were before he became severely ill.

Beautiful Something

A published writer interrupts his casual lover's plans to hook up with someone else at a bar in this romantic drama about eternal questions concerning sex, art, love and identity.

All Yours

Co-workers share drinks at a bar during a night out on the town in this romantic comedy drama about the love triangle between an Argentine hustler, a portly Belgian baker and a single mom.

Fourth Man Out

A drunken woman vomits on a car mechanic who’s celebrating his birthday at a bar, in this dramatic comedy about a fun loving group of blue-collar workers in a small town who try to play matchmaker when their buddy comes out of the closet.

What movies have YOU watched that feature bar scenes?

Where was the last bar YOU visited?

Thursday
Jul092015

A qFLIX Foreign Film Showdown - Romance vs. Religion

The documentary 'A Sinner in Mecca,' directed by Parvez Sharma is playing Saturday 5pm at the qFLIX Film Festival.Going to film festivals is like speed dating. There usually comes a time when you must choose between at least two equally promising love interests. It's a fun problem to solve and one that I'm not surprised to be facing at the qFLIX film festival taking place this week in Philly, now through Sunday, July 12th.

Ever since Joseph Graham's romantic drama Beautiful Something set this summer attraction in motion, the 2015 qFlix program lineup has remained so strong that I have yet to come across a movie I didn't enjoy watching. For those of you who like foreign films, there are some tough choices to make as the festival schedule gets busier by the hour, complete with parties at nearby taverns and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.

Among the candidates are Parvez Sharma's documentary A Sinner in Mecca playing at The Prince Theater while husband-wife directors Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guman's romantic drama Sand Dollars lights up the screen at The University of the Arts' Caplan Theater. Both East Coast Premieres, these Centerpiece Films are showing at 5pm on Saturday. So, which one gets the dinner date? This is a tough call since each movie looks like it has a lot to offer audiences. Shot in the U.S., India and Saudi Arabia, A Sinner in Mecca follows Sharma as he embarks on his Hajj pilgrimage, the greatest accomplishment and aspiration within Islam.

Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guman's romantic drama 'Sand Dollars' is playing Saturday 5pm at the qFLIX Film Festival. The journey for Sharma, a gay muslim, is risky because filming is forbidden in Saudi Arabia and homosexuality is punishable by death. This documentary is described by Sharma as telling the story of Islam "like it has never been told before, having endured the biggest jihad there is -- the struggle with the self."
Shot in the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico, Sand Dollars is about an older wealthy European woman's enchantment with a young Dominican girl trying to escape poverty. qFlix describes this unconventional story as involving "turmoil and entanglements over issues of class, money, control, power, jealousy, possessiveness, inequality and exploitation."

To me, the appeal of A Sinner in Mecca comes in part from it being a dangerous Middle Eastern documentary that a man risked his life to make. One the flip side, I find Sand Dollars  to also be worth watching, not just because of it being a Latin American narrative about a complex relationship rarely told on the big screen, but also because it is among a very limited selection of lesbian films playing at this year's qFlix festival. Still, much like finding a romantic partner, everyone has their own preferences in movies.

WATCH the movie trailers here and decide: 

Which of these two qFlix selections is the best match for YOU?

Tickets are available online at qflixphilly.com and at the Box Office!