Saturday, January 26, 2008

Little Dieter Needs To Fly

Every once in a while a picture comes along that brings us back down to Earth and reality- a little non-fiction if you will.

I was prompted to dig a little deeper upon learning Christian Bale's latest project, Rescue Dawn, was based on a true story. Furthermore, Director Werner Herzog had not only directed Rescue Dawn but had earlier directed a documentary upon which the film was based, Little Dieter Needs To Fly.

Herzog is more than an ingenius filmmaker, but one who understands and captures those intimate moments of humanity. He has directed a number of fine films least of which is the fairly well known Grizzly Man. You may have heard of that one.

Few have heard of the film Little Dieter Needs To Fly, the basis for Rescue Dawn, but this is a haunting, moving film so extraordinary it's hard to believe it's real. It's also hard to believe the man, Dieter Dengler, remains the kind of quality human being he portrays for us here on film to the people around him every day.

Even more striking this man, once a prisoner of war, walks so comfortably in this life freely leaving his home open to all. Can you imagine a world where you can leave your doors unlocked? It once existed, but is slowly becoming a thing of the past, however for Dieter he has experienced the chains of imprisonment and today happily soaks up freedoms we take for granted. He is indeed a special person.

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This 74 minute feature revisits the dream of German-born Dieter Dengler and his desire to become a United States pilot from the very early years of his life. His impoverished life seemed like one unimaginable challenge after another and yet he persevered. As a young boy during World War II, his family boiled wall paper and glue for sustenance. His grandfather was the only man in his hometown who stood firmly against Adolph Hitler. Life was harsh on his family and for Dieter it would only get harder. Little did he know what awaited him as a prisoner of war during Vietnam.

Dengler never wavered in his mission to become an American citizen. He came to America at 18. Vietnam came along and the story continues as Dengler became a prisoner of war under the control of the Viet Cong after being shot down over Laos. Remarkably, following starvation and torture, he escaped. He refused to sign a paper against the country that gave him his wings. The story might not touch your life, but it should your heart if you have one. He is a simple man who figures himself not a hero, but a survivor. He recounts his day to to day experience weaving a tale of courage. Herzog masterfully chronicles Dieter's life and God bless Dieter Dengler for being the quality human being he is and sharing his story. He's an inspiration.
***
Note: Surprisingly, the trials in Dieter's life have not hardened his heart to show love for strangers even those who once bound his legs and hands and tried to smother his spirit.

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This sequence speaks to the character of a good man, one to proudly call a fellow American. I highly recommend taking time out to see Little Dieter Needs To Fly and to follow up with Rescue Dawn.
Litte Dieter Needs To Fly: A

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