MEMORIES OF A WANDERING JEW
HD | 60 minutes | USA, 2020
Filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley embarks on a three-year voyage of discovery following the trials and tribulations of renowned cinematographer Peter Paul Weinschenk. The research will take him first to Berlin and Mainz, then to Barcelona and Madrid, and finally to several locations in Argentina and, ultimately, New York.
In Berlin, Montes-Bradley starts the journey at the house where Paul Weinschenk was born in 1910. Following an unpredictable series of events leading to the Revolution of 1918, the film traces Paul to Switzerland, where he lives with his father and younger sister. At age 8, Paul has already survived a near civil war, riots, and the Spanish Influenza causing the death of nearly 300,000 in Germany alone. During this first of many exiles in the Swiss Alps, Paul's father emerges as a prominent artistic influence on the future cinematographer.
The following years will find Paul living with his grandparents in French-occupied Mainz. In 1927, Paul graduated high school with a degree from the prestigious Rabanus-Maurus-Gymnasium. The same year he enrolled at the Lette-Verein School of design in Berlin, from which he graduated two years later to join Werner Graeff as an assistant professor at the Reimann School. Montes-Bradley pays particular attention to the relationship between Weinschenk and Graeff, at the time a highly influential precursor of modern photography and pioneer of the avant-garde movement emerging from Bauhaus during the Weimar Republic.
Parallel to his role as an assistant professor at the Reimann School, Weinschenk is initiated as an apprentice to cameraman Curt Oertel, with whom he will work on Das Grüne Monokel (Rudolf Meinert, 1929); Das Donkosakenlied and Revolte im Erziehungshaus (Georg Asagaroff, 1930); Jagd auf Dich (Ernst Angel, 1930) and The Sino-Swedish Expedition to the North-western Provinces of China by Paul Liberanz, 1931.
In January of 1933, regulations preventing Jews from working in academia and the film industry, the Reinmann School terminated Weinschenk's contract. The events will signal the beginning of the second exile of Peter Paul Weinschenk. Following a Gestapo raid of his apartment in May of 1933, Weinschenk left Germany for Spain, where he arrived a month later.
In Barcelona, Weinschenk joined other German Jewish refugees working for Ibérica Films, a mega production effort led by veteran producer David Oliver. During the following years, Weinschenk will work as an assistant cameraman on Doña Francisquita, directed by the Berliner Hans Behrendt; Una semana de Felicidad (Max Nosseck); Vidas rotas (Eusebio Fernández Ardavín); Hombres contra hombres, (Antonio Momplet); El Malvado Carabel, (Edgar Neville); 60 horas en el cielo (Raymond Chevalier); La farándula, (Antonio Momplet); Poderoso caballero, (Max Nosseck), and a series of propaganda documentaries produced for the Anarchist movement in Catalonia between 1936-1937. Embedded with the Columna Durruti as a documentarian, Weinschenk filmed multiple combats scenes during the Spanish Civil War, which would later be edited and released as Aguiluchos de las FAI por tierras de Aragón, a three-part documentary and Fury Over Spain that was released in New York and reviewed by The New York Times. Fury Over Spain had been made with the support of Emma Goldman, a Russian-American activist under surveillance by the FBI. The name association prevented Weinschenk from obtaining an immigrant visa, as with many other German-Jewish who came to Hollywood. The United Kingdom, Mexico, and other countries also rejected his requests. Paul Weinschenk was ultimately granted a visa and safe passage to Uruguay. He embarked on the South American country in October of 1937. Once in Uruguay, Paul Weinschenk negotiated legal passage to Buenos Aires by paying off the General Consul of Argentina in Montevideo in exchange for a resident visa.
Stressing over the actions of the German embassy in Buenos Aires, Peter Paul Weinschenk adopted the screen name Pablo Tabernero. From now on, Weinschenk will enjoy the peace and the recognition of the film industry and the critics for his contribution to more than forty movies, including classics such as Nace un amor (Luis Saslavsky) and Prisioneros de la Tierra (Mario Soffici). During the following decade, Weinschenk-Tabernero grew professionally and enjoyed the favors of Evita Peron, only to fall in disgrace with the Revolution of 1955, which ended the Peronist regime.
The following decade will find Pablo Weinschenk-Tabernero working as a technical advisor at Alex, the leading film laboratory in Argentina, and also working as a consultant as a professor of cinematography. In this capacity, he had an opportunity to contribute to developing the next generation of film photographers in Argentina that will carry the legacy of Tabernero's name as an extraordinary teacher.
In 1966, following yet another revolution, and the university's intervention where Tabernero was teaching, the 56-year-old veteran embarks on a fourth and final exile to the United States. He died in New York in 1996.