Teenage resistance

Teenage resistance

Credit: Storyhaus Media

Knoxville/Tennessee filmmaker Douglas McDaniel was at EFM DocSalon 2020 to raise finance on a number of projects, including Löttken: Rising Nationalism Then and Now about a woman who, as a 15-year-old girl, acted as a courier for the German Resistance during WW2.


The film concerns writer Charlotte Hugues Self and presents “the Hitler years seen through the eyes of a child,” says McDaniel. Charlotte’s mother was a divorced doctor who took in Jews and gypsies, before arranging for their transportation into Austria. Charlotte played a key role in the operation as courier, travelling by train to help effect their liberation every couple of months. 


Based on the writings of Charlotte, the film is also “a concern on the rise of fascism and nationalism today,” stresses McDaniel. “This is not a Holocaust documentary – it is about the fact that there were good Germans who watched the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s. As we say in the South, this is about the rising temperature of the pot – the frogs are boiling and nobody realises. And [in her writing] Charlotte saw parallels to today in the rise of nationalism, not just in the US but around the world.”


McDaniel has completed a 15-minute short and is looking to raise $40,000 to make a 60-80 minute feature. “We have enough [archive] for a feature, including lots of family footage of people who hated what Charlotte and her mother were doing, so we have a huge archival task ahead of us,” continues McDaniel. “And we want to interview former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who just wrote the book “Fascism: A Warning” to bring a lot more contemporary analysis of the sociology behind nationalism.”


Of interest to European music and LGBT doc audiences will be Songs in the Key of H, about Judybats lead singer Jeff Heiskell, contemporary of REM and The Violent Femmes. After being nationally outed in 1994 within the Advocate magazine, “Heiskell turned his back on a machine that sought to relegate his identity to that of an American gay cliché,” McDaniel says.


“So he really started creating his songs in the key of H, which we know doesn’t exist – but his last name his Heiskell! What we like to say is that he has created his own genre of Appalachian Hillbilly glamrock, so it’s like southern David Bowie in a post-modern context.”


The feature-length doc is in production, with $60,000 needed to finish the film to cover such as music licensing and remastering music videos.


“What a lot of people don’t realise, when you think of the US and gay culture, you’re mind immediately goes to San Francisco, but the hills of Appalachia were a lot more tolerant of gay culture earlier on,” says McDaniel. “It was a much more accepting [place] than people realised, and I think that message needs to resonate as it goes against the stereotype of the southern US.”