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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Three Peaks

by writer/director Jan Zabeil

This is a film about mommy’s new boyfriend and how to get rid of him, even if he’s nice. It’s about your girlfriend’s son and how to love him, when you are trying too hard. It’s a blended family portrait: boy, mother and her new partner on a harmless vacation that turns into a classic fight for survival, high up in the mountains, while the old dad is constantly calling his son on the cell phone and the new one pretends he has everything under control.

People don’t seem to like to talk about the consequences of a separation, as if it is some kind of virus one doesn’t want to catch, or as if it is old fashioned to speak about the problems that may come with it. Some years ago, the public discussion would usually come down to one egoistical parent, mostly the father, neglecting the needs of the child, or a stepfather/stepmother who isn’t nice and doesn’t try hard enough. This debate was enriched by more-happy-than-ever-blended-family-stories, and the new conclusion seemed to be, if all the family members can just be sensitive with each other, then the arrangement can be paradise for all. Growing up in Berlin in the ‘80s, every other person I knew lived in a blended family situation. After talking to many of them, and to therapists and family lawyers, I realized the opposite of the clichés mentioned above was just as common, but much less known: It can be tough on all family members, even if all sides are doing and trying their best. If both parents and new partners are fair, respectful, self-aware and loving. Even then it can lead to disaster. This film wants to explore why.

In the conception of it, I asked: What happens when a self-determined, emotionally intelligent and warm-hearted man is able to reflect his emotions, but ultimately struggles to accept his role within the new family? What’s going on inside a little boy when he likes and accepts his mother’s new boyfriend, but at the same time desires nothing more than his father and mother being together again? When moments of closeness ultimately result in a loyalty conflict? And what consequences do these emotions have for the woman and mother?

Three Peaks, one of Northern Italy’s most famous mountains has, as it says, three peaks. For the boy in my story the peaks stand for father, mother and child—next to each other and based on top of the same plateau for all time to come, contrasting the constant movements inside this modern family. Even more, it’s a magical place, a place where images stand before dialogue, where my characters are destined to travel to the core of what they really are and feel, while trying hard not to. A place where soul and mind take different paths, a place to get lost.

If you think your family is a mess, think again after you watch this. It can hardly get worse, although everyone is trying to be good so badly. Enjoy.

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