Film Legend a Hit

Werner Herzog impressed a SRO crowd at USF with a showing of his latest documentary and a Q&A that followed.

By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 28, 2011) – An overflow crowd showed up recently to see German film director Werner Herzog at the Interdisciplinary Sciences auditorium, an event that included a showing of the award-winning filmmaker’s latest documentary Into the Abyss.


The crowd, brimming with respect and admiration for the filmmaker, hung on every word of his comments following the screening.


Picture of Werner Herzog speaking

German film director Werner Herzog

World Languages German Associate Professor Margit Grieb, who got the ball rolling by inviting Herzog to the University of South Florida, was very happy to be able to provide her students and the USF community with this opportunity to learn from a major film artist. 


“He was very warm and gracious with his answers to questions at the screening and when talking with audience members after the program ended,” said Grieb. 


Herzog explained he never had a planned career and told the audience, made up of many film students, “If you don’t read, you’ll never be a filmmaker. …Read, read, read.” 


He also advised students to learn from not-so-good movies as he did from the Dr. Fu Manchu films of his youth.


“Bad films, really, really bad films were informative for me. I looked at films differently because I had seen such a bad one.”


He credited part of his success to walking, something he started at the age of 14 when he knew that making films was what he wanted to do. “The world reveals itself to those who travel by foot,” he said.


He warned students not to over analyze what they see on the screen. “You don’t ask philosophical questions about music. Cinema has a flow from the screen to the audience almost like music would function.”


And, in the final analysis, he recommended, “Don’t be afraid to fail.”


Grieb was bombarded with positive feedback from students and colleagues following the Nov. 19 appearance.


“They told me how fascinating and deeply educational they found the session and how impressed they were with how forthrightly Herzog presented himself with all his strengths and flaws,” she said.  “One student told me about being inspired to read more and another was surprised he wasn’t more of a grim intellectual and commented that he was actually a pleasant guy.  Other students said they want him to come back.”


And the feeling was mutual. Herzog praised the quality of the questions and was surprised at how many film buffs were in the audience. He told Grieb, “I will have to come back again when I have a new film to show.”


Grieb said, “This, coming from Herzog, was a big endorsement.”


The event was sponsored by the German Embassy, the Humanities Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Departments of Communication, English, History, Humanities and Cultural Studies, Philosophy and World Languages.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.