Synopsis“At the very beginning it was almost 100 % German, aber jetz ham wir schon viel Ausländer [english: but meanwhile we have a lot of foreigners here],“ tells Diane Moltz from New Braunfels, TX. The small town was founded 150 years ago by German immigrants, just like many other cities in central Texas.
The documentary “Pretzels, Polka and The Pursuit Of Happiness“ takes a German journey through Texas. The film presents modern Americans of German descent. Four pairs of protagonists introduce us to an environment that seems stunningly German. In the Lone Star State, tacos, chips, and barbecue exist alongside sweet pretzels and stollen. People sing German songs, celebrate Octoberfests, and wear Dirndls and Lederhosn. Cowboys with German surnames use
wild game to make traditional German sausage. Some represent a generation of Texans who spoke German as a first language and proudly maintain the language and traditions, even as they remain staunch American patriots. The film challenges stereotypes: How do Americans of German descent picture today‘s Germany? And what about their self-perception in reverse?
Old cowboy Presley Arhelger can’t really see a difference between the United States and Germany. At least on television Germans and Americans look pretty much alike. But he considers the American right to own guns a clear advantage over Germany’s restrictions on firearms. After all, he is a proud member of the National Rifle Association who has defended his family and cattle from rattlesnakes
In contrast, the two students, Erin and Louise, have a more current view of the cultural differences between the two countries. On their German-language radio show that airs on the university station, they discuss whether German nonfat sausage will be successful on the American market.
Rodney Koenig, a lawyer from Houston, affectionately calls his animals “Schneebaer” [Snowbear], “Katze” [Cat], and “Gewurztraminer.” Even though he is a big fan of Germany, he appreciates the virtues of the American system: for he and his wife, the American dream has come true. Despite their poor family backgrounds, they were able to become successful professionals through education and hard work.
The retirees Bill and Diane Moltz have devotedly committed themselves to improving the image of Germany in the U.S.: They point out that Hitler was actually Austrian, not German. In their view, Hitler has done some productive things for society, like inventing the Autobahn.
The film’s central issue is a discussion of identity. Throughout this historical document, German-Americans experience and celebrate their cultural heritage in unique and interesting ways. We, as viewers, discover how identity shapes the people we choose to be.