Saturday, October 12, 2013

Filming at Pullman City Passau

The Star-Spangled Banner, during the American History Show. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

As  posted earlier, I was back in  Pullman City, a wild west theme park in Bavaria, near Passau, a few weeks ago for some filming on a documentary on “Cowboys, Indians and Europeans” that is being made by the New York filmmaker Riva Freifeld, whose past work includes a documentary on Annie Oakley.
I’ve been exploring and researching the American wild west/American frontier in the European imagination for some years now. Good lord, 10 years in fact — I researched my first article on the topic (a travel piece on Pullman City and other European wild west theme parks for the New York Times) back in the summer of 2003, and already in 2004 I had a visiting scholar fellowship at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles to look into the marketing of the Frontier Myth abroad.

With Riva at Pullman’s Mexican restaurant, after the shoot. Photo: Stefan Grandinetti
What can I say about this latest visit to Pullman? In short -- it was fun — and a bit of old home week, as I caught up with some folks I had met years ago. Best of all, Riva thinks we got some good footage. She and her cameraman, Stefan Grandinetti, filmed me interviewing a variety of people who work (or hang out) at Pullman — from an “18th century minuteman” who has built a cabin in the “authentic section” of the park, where hobbyists and reenactors can construct their own dwellings, to Hunting Wolf, the “half blood Cheyenne” who conducts programs based (in part) on Native American lore; to Detleff Jeschke, a former prize-winner rodeo rider who has long been the park’s program director.
The scene was much as I found it in 2003 and on my subsequent visits (the last time I had been there was at Xmas in 2009, when my country singer friend Willie Jones played Santa -- I posted about that on this blog.
Here are some pictures from the shoot last month:

Hunting Wolf and his buffalos. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Riva and Stefan filming the American History Show. That’s Detty Jeschke on the horse. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

The minuteman hobbyist “Richard Baker” reads the Declaration of Independence during the American History Show. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

In the saloon…. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

I always enjoy going to Pullman City Passau…and also to Pullman City Harz, a sister wild west theme park in north-central Germany. These places become a world of their own.
At Pullman City Passau, the organizers are keen to emphasize that it is a “living” western town, because of the “Authentic Area” where hobbyists actually live — on weekends and vacation time. Some come even in the winter, modeling their “real imaginary” lifestyles on the 19th century past, even in the bitter cold.
A number of songs have been written about both Pullmans.  They tend to play on the country music trope of “home” that make “Country Roads” and “Sweet Home Alabama” so popular….
Here’s the official Pullman City song, declaring that Pullman City is “my home town.”

And this one seems to have been written by a fan