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LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY

Director: WERNER HERZOG

GERMANY-FRANCE-U.K. • 1997 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DIGITAL VIDEO • 80 MIN


LONG BEFORE MAKING RESCUE DAWN, WERNER HERZOG FILMED THIS DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE GERMAN-AMERICAN PILOT WHO WAS SHOT DOWN AND CAPTURED DURING THE VIETNAM WAR.
A stunning tale of survival in which Herzog once again crafts a portrait of a kindred adventurous spirit, Little Dieter Needs to Fly focuses on Dieter Dengler, a German-American who recounts his youthful dream of being a pilot, his success at fulfilling this aspiration by flying warplanes for the U.S. military during Vietnam, and the terrible ordeal he suffered as a POW in Laos, after being shot down during combat. Using stock footage of Vietnam bombing and evocative singing for his soundtrack, Herzog creates a mood of existential surrealism that’s nearly as gripping as the grounded-in-reality stories told by Dengler, a staunch nonconformist who endured a harsh childhood in post-WWII Germany and who now habitually paints pictures of open doorways—symbols of safe passage and freedom that speak volumes about Dengler’s attempts to come to terms with his horrific past.—Nick Schager.

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