“Hiwe wie Driwwe,” a new documentary exploring the PA Dutch culture and language, made its way across the U.S. this summer, including a sold-out showing at the 2019 Kutztown Folk Festival, and since then demand has been high for the film to be shown locally again.
The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center in Kutztown and the Kutztown Community Partnership hosted the film presentation of “Hiwe wie Driwwe” at Kutztown Strand on Sept. 28 and 29.
“When it was shown up at the Folk Festival it was only (a certain) number of tickets sold and a lot of people were disappointed that they didn’t have a chance to see the movie,” said Sandy Green, Community Liaison between KCP and Kutztown University. “Paul Angstadt was generous enough here at the (Kutztown) Strand Theatre to say, ‘Yes, let’s show the movie.’ It gives the opportunity for those people who have not seen it before a chance to see it.”
Green said it’s a great film that shows the PA Dutch and the relationships with Germany.
“We’re PA Dutch here in Kutztown and this is just a great opportunity for (the community) to take a look at this and understand the relationships between Germany and here in Kutztown,” said Green.
Owner of the Kutztown Strand, Paul Angstadt, said he wanted to show the documentary because much of it was filmed in Kutztown.
“A lot of the people I see in the film are my customers which I didn’t know at the time until I screened it so that makes it even more enjoyable, the idea of knowing that my customers are in the movies,” he said.
Angstadt believes showing the film allows people to feel the friendliness of what the Folk Festival is all about and promotes the continuation of the PA Dutch culture. While he has PA Dutch roots, Angstadt never learned to speak the language.
“My grandparents always used it in a way so that we wouldn’t know what they were talking about and I think this has been a tradition to some homes, that they really were not teaching the children,” said Angstadt.
He hopes that something like this film might encourage people to learn more about the PA Dutch culture and learn to speak the language.
The theater filled up as the film start time approached.
“I’m super excited,” said Johanna Esser, of Kutztown. “I love history… I’m just here to learn because there are a lot of questions that I have about the culture in the area.”
Tom Stokes, of Oley, wanted to see this film since the Folk Festival showing but was not able to see the film until the Sept. 28 showing at Kutztown Strand.
“I love history and local history and local culture. Southeastern Pennsylvania is really my passion so I’ve been trying to learn more about the PA Dutch culture because it’s a part of everyone’s heritage around here,” said Stokes. “Half of my family is PA German. My grandparents didn’t speak the dialect but I’ve always been interested in learning it because of the older neighbors in my community.”
Daryl Levan and his mother Joyce Levan from Kutztown also came out to see the film.
“I grew up PA Dutch. My parents were PA Dutch, my grandparents, so it interests me,” said Daryl.
Paul and Wanda Druzba traveled from Douglassville to see the film.
“I’m very interested in local history,” said Paul, who has written three books on local history. “PA Dutch history is a very important part of local history so here I am.”
“My roots go back 300 years in the county so I just want to see what’s what,” added Wanda.
“I’m just very pleased that Paul (Angstadt) scheduled this movie here because it should be scheduled,” said Paul Druzba. “You can’t have all action adventure movies; it’s good to have something worthwhile once in a while.”
Patrick Donmoyer, director of Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, said this particular film was a partnership in a sense.
“We had film makers in Germany who wanted to highlight local culture so they came to Kutztown because they thought of Kutztown as literally being the Dutchiest town in all of Pennsylvania,” said Donmoyer.
“Hiwe wie Driwwe” explores the roots of PA Dutch and the similarities with the Palatinate region of Germany.
German filmmakers Benjamin Wagener and Christian Schega shot much of the film in Pennsylvania, with large parts filmed at the Kutztown Folk Festival two years ago, as well as in the Palatinate region of Germany. Portions of the film are in German, PA Dutch and English, with subtitles.
“They thought this would be the right place to cultivate speakers of the dialect, people who are local cooks, people who can talk about the way in which the dialect has been integrated into things, like at local preschools, and really exploring the way in which we’re keeping the traditions and the language alive on this side of the Atlantic,” said Donmoyer.
There were many local people featured in the film, including Denise Keim, head teacher and assistant director at Shaynah Kinner Day Care Center in Kutztown, where PA Dutch lessons are included in the preschool program.
Donmoyer is also one of the local people featured in the film, giving a tour of the Heritage Center. He also makes an appearance at the Folk Festival as the Belsnickel, a fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of the Palatinate region.
“(The film) was also designed to help explore the possibilities for what we can do to think about partnerships now presently and also for the future, potential partnerships with the Palatinate, especially the region from where many people originally would have found their roots,” said Donmoyer. “The Palatinate is one of the few areas that maintains a lot of aspects of similarity in language and culture and food ways and so this film explores all of those ways we have connections and the ways we can forge connections for the future.”
The film is for sale on DVD via Masthof Press in Morgantown at https://www.masthof.com/products/hiwwe-wie-driwwe-the-roots-of-the-pennsylvania-dutch-dvd.