This Haus of Memories
For eighty years, the Deutsches Haus served as the hub of everything German in New Orleans. It had survived some lean years during World War II, and the general decline of the neighborhood around it, but when Katrina hit, the club’s historic Mid-City home was all but destroyed. That’s when the members pulled together to rebuild the Haus better than it had ever been. The Haus had become a symbol of renewal, and offered New Orleanians a hopeful moment for a city in need of victories.
But even as the volunteers worked, the city announced plans for a massive hospital complex, a project that targeted Lower Mid-City, an area many viewed as being too blighted to save. As part of this plan, the newly renovated and historic clubhouse would have to be bulldozed with the rest of the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the newly renovated and historic clubhouse was bulldozed in 2011 after the city announced plans for a massive hospital complex in lower Mid-City, an area many viewed as being too blighted to save. Shot mostly between May and November of 2010, this 55-minute feature, which includes footage by Loyola students, follows the members of the Deutsches Haus as they prepare for their last Oktoberfest.
Edited from over fifteen hours of interviews and nearly as many hours of live footage, This Haus of Memories follows the club’s member volunteers as they remember the past, prepare for their last Oktoberfest, and contemplate an uncertain future. It is a story about the power of community and the tough choices faced by the residents of New Orleans as they try to rebuild their city in the wake of one of the greatest disasters to befall a major American city.
This Haus of Memories is Justin Nystrom’s first film
About the making of the film:
The film’s genesis came during a freshman seminar class that Nystrom taught in the spring semester of 2010 called “New Orleans, Immigrant City.” Students in that class worked in teams of two and produced simple documentary shorts that reflected some aspect of the immigrant experience in New Orleans. By the end of the semester, the student teams had produced many fine short features. (See them here on Vimeo.) One film in particular, however, stood out. Elizabeth Wadsworth and Kristen Blomeyer, who are now in their senior year at Loyola, made a short film based on interviews that they conducted at the Deutsches Haus in Mid City. Even before their film was done, it was clear that the story that they had uncovered deserved a more thorough treatment. Nystrom called several filmmakers who he hoped might take up the challenge, but when none could, he decided to make the film himself.
Shot mostly between May and November 2010, this fifty-five minute feature follows the members of the Deutsches Haus as they prepare for their last Oktoberfest. It also includes some interview footage shot by Blomeyer and Wadsworth, speaking to the strength of their work. Many people helped along the way, including narrators Brett Massony and Melanie Young, Dean Jo Ann Cruz, the Department of History, and many other Loyola colleagues.