I am obsessed with currywurst.
Ever since returning to Los Angeles from the Berlinale Talent Campus last February, I have been dreaming about that awesome combination of grilled sausage, tomato sauce and curry powder.
Losing my currywurst virginity was my initiation to the city. Jetlagged, hungry and freezing cold after a 12-hour flight, I called my friend and resident food expert In-Ah Lee as soon as I arrived. Before long, I was crammed into a car with four other Germans, including Wanja Mues, the local currywurst aficionado. Within minutes we were queuing at a bright yellow stand that served steaming hot plates of this bizarre dish. Grabbing one of those miniature wooden forks, I stabbed a piece of ketchup-drenched sausage and took a bite. Burning my mouth as I chomped down, I experienced a burst of indescribable flavor that has haunted me ever since. I suddenly felt restored and at home with these newfound friends. I had finally arrived in Berlin.
In days to follow, I could not stop talking about currywurst. I had been warned that Germans were aloof, but instead I found Berliners ready to engage in passionate discussion about this beloved institution. Skin or no skin. Organic versus Not. Curry powder versus curry-infused sausage. Ketchup versus tomato sauce! Debating something so mundane as sausage struck me as both strange and wonderful and our conversations often segued to other topics. Surely if we could bond over currywurst, we could readily discuss other things such as filmmaking, politics, identity, and what was on everyone's minds: the impending US invasion of Iraq.
BEST OF THE WURST will explore the lively neighborhoods of Berlin and various Wurstbuden -- from Curry 36 at Mehringdamm to one of the oldest stands, Konnopke in the Schoenhauser Allee. From the Turkish neighborhood of Kreuzberg to tourist-infested Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburger Tor, we see how currywurst is enjoyed by everyone from school children to Chancellor Schroeder. From taxi drivers to art dealers, police officers to university students, eating currywurst is a pastime that transcends social class, ethnicity, age, and national origin.
Flowing throughout the film is an ongoing meditation on identity and where one can truly feel at home. Although I come from the United States, the "fast food nation" par excellence. I am more comfortable identifying as a Los Angeleno than as a flag-waving uber-American, and wonder if Berliners are Berliners first and Germans second. As a Korean American, I also wonder if my added association with an "axis of evil" power means that its time to leave an America that is maddeningly out of touch with the rest of the world. Is immigrating to Europe actually an option? What if I ended up in Berlin? Would I end up feeling like a guest? Or would I be happy to finally live in a place with good public transportation, a democratic government that answers to its citizens and round-the-clock currywurst?
The search continues...