“Angel Applicant”: A Captivating World Premiere at SXSW by Filmmaker Ken August Meyer
Award winning documentary film Angel Applicant has its world premiere at SXSW Film Festival on March 13, 2023. L to R: Producer, Cinematographer Jason Roark and Director, Producer, Editor Ken August Meyer. Photo Credit: Wendy Goodman
By Wendy Goodman
“Angel Applicant,” a documentary film directed by Ken August Meyer, premiered at SXSW Film Festival on March 13, 2023. The film, which won the Documentary Feature Grand Jury Award at SXSW, explores the emotional story of Meyer’s life after being diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a life-threatening autoimmune disease.
Meyer draws inspiration from the renowned Swiss-German artist Paul Klee who was inflicted with the same skin condition. Klee, known for his abstract and imaginative artworks, was forced to leave Germany due to the rise of the Nazi regime. Klee’s life and work were deeply influenced by his health and experiences as he fled Nazi Germany. His artistic style evolved throughout his life, encompassing various forms and techniques that reflected his personal journey and the turbulent times he lived in.
Meyer’s connection to Klee’s story adds an intriguing layer to the film and showcases his appreciation for art and its ability to convey profound messages.
Meyer told The Jewish Outlook, “It’s important to acknowledge this defamation from the Nazis—a culture war on all things avant-garde, including modern art—how it impacted Klee’s work, just as equally to his illness. Not just because it shattered his career, but the feeling of isolation it caused as well. His defiance of these circumstances is what I find really inspiring.”
“Angel Applicant,” titled after one of Klee’s works, takes the audience on a deeply introspective journey following Meyer as he fights his disease. The film explores themes of resilience, reflection, self-discovery and the complexities of human connection in a way that leaves a lasting impact on the audience.
As a design major and creative director, Meyer wanted to use the art of film to build awareness for scleroderma while integrating his connection to Klee’s work.
“When I was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma in 2000, I revisited the works of Paul Klee after reading that he also suffered from the disease. I was familiar with his work while studying the Bauhaus when I was in art and design school. Although there have been many books and exhibitions that have gone into specific detail about his illness, I was taken by the fact that a lot of biographies on his life within general art history, usually sum up his last years in just a paragraph or two, despite it being the most productive time of his life. A third of his entire oeuvre is dedicated to his last 6 years, a time when being an expressionist was most vital.
“It felt really important to me to celebrate this massive creative achievement, but to also commemorate one the most influential artists of the 20th century, to make him the celebrity face of scleroderma, beyond his notoriety within the artworld,” said Meyer.
At the end of the film, Meyer embarks on a compelling journey to Switzerland to visit Klee’s home and Zentrum Paul Klee, a significant institution dedicated to preserving and promoting Paul Klee’s work. Zentrum Paul Klee becomes a pivotal setting for the filmmaker’s encounter with Klee’s grandson, Alexander Klee. Within the walls of Zentrum Paul Klee, Meyer and Klee’s grandson have the opportunity to engage in an inspiring conversation about Klee’s late works, his spirituality and his legacy.
“As Alexander conveyed his grandfather’s sentiment of ‘feeling connected to plants… mountains…to something greater…’ that idea of feeling small to something our minds will never comprehend… to me, it is quite humbling and can compel you to feel gracious towards everything and everyone, and a willingness to explore new ideas,” said Meyer.
Still from Angel Applicant, 2023. Photo courtesy of the filmmakers.
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