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The Global Film Village: Farewell-First Zeppelin flight around the World

Farewell poster 

by Marc Halperin

One of the films I looked forward to watching at the LA Film Festival was Farewell which premiered last November at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. Ever since I was a child I have had a fascination for these stately airships. Maybe it was the archival footage of the Hindenburg or just the Led Zeppelin album cover?

Farewell tells the story of Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, the only female passenger on the first journey around the world of the Graf Zeppelin in 1929. The film was meticulously pieced together over 9 years with archival materials from the extensive newsreel footage shot at the time. There are extraordinary moments captured in this film. The filmmakers have done a marvelous job finding footage that melds the story they have constructed from both fact and fiction into a cohesive  whole. There is plenty of adventure with tension over Russia and  an encounter with a monumental storm.

 

This was not the first flight of the Zeppelin nor Grace's first trip on it. She previously flew on the first transatlantic flight aboard the Graf Zeppelin from Germany to America with five other journalists including Hearst colleague Karl von Wiegand. The film establishes that the two were lovers. One can only wonder if they established "the mile high club" on one of these adventures. In March of 1929, Lady Drummond Hay and Karl von Wiegand were once again aboard the Graf Zeppelin, for the ship’s “Orient Flight” to Palestine.

When William Randolph Hearst co-sponsored Graf Zeppelin’s historic Round-the-World flight later in 1929, Lady Drummond-Hay was  again his immediate choice to cover the woman's point of view.  She was the only woman among the 60 male passengers and crew. Although their relationship was secret, one can only speculate that Hearst may have known or suspected what was going on between them. His instincts were rewarded as Drummond-Hay’s reporting from the ship as it circled the globe captivated the public and made a media star of Grace.

We learned during the Q&A that the film's dialogue was not written by Lady Drummond-Hay, but by Dutch filmmaker Ditteke Mensink, who spent over a year writing the script based on hundreds of actual love letters written by Grace to Karl along with newspaper clippings of the flight. The final version retained only 30% of Grace's original words but evokes the period and the relationship beautifully. Farewell tells their story but also much about the world of the time and gives the viewer an amazing sense of what it must have been like to travel in this manner 80 years ago before the birth of intercontinental flights that allow us to whisk anywhere in the world usually in less than a day. A few weeks after they completed their journey in New York City with a ticker tape parade, Wall Street crashed and a dark period in history began it was Farewell to many hopes and dreams especially zeppelins.

.

 Farewell trailer here 

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.

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