News & Updates
- April 6, 2016 @ 4:22 pmClip from Meet the Hitlers: “Editors’ Pick” at The AtlanticClick to read more: The Atlantic
- April 6, 2016 @ 4:22 pmMeet the Hitler’s Film Review by Under The RadarClick to read more: Under The Radar
- April 6, 2016 @ 4:21 pmMeet the Hitlers featured in Daily Mail InterviewIn a interview with Isador Heath Campbel, the Daily Mail goes into details about his role in Meet the Hitlers, read more here: Daily Mail
- April 6, 2016 @ 4:20 pmNew York Post Article on Isador Heath CampbellMeet the Hitlers' Isador Heath Campbell speaks out about his children being taken from him. Read the full article here: New York Post
- March 6, 2015 @ 3:42 pmScreening at Cleveland International Film FestivalMeet the Hitlers is screening at the Cleveland International Film Festival in Cleveland, Ohio on March 25 and 26, 2015.
- February 18, 2015 @ 5:00 pmScreening at Cinequest Film Festival
Meet the Hitlers is screening at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA on March 1, 2, and 7
For tickets and more information, go to cinequest.org
- February 18, 2015 @ 4:55 pmScreening at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Meet the Hitlers is screening at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana on February 14 and 15, 2015.
More info at bigskyfilmfest.org
- October 6, 2014 @ 12:00 amScreening at the New Orleans Film Festival
Meet the Hitlers is screening at the New Orleans Film Festival!
Screening times and locations:
Friday Oct 17, 2014 7:15pm The Theatres at Canal Place #9
Sunday Oct 19, 2014 5:15pm at the Contemporary Arts Center
For more information and buy tickets go to: http://neworleansfilmfestival.org/film/info/2104/meet-the-hitlers
- September 23, 2014 @ 3:21 pmMeet the Hitlers Interactive Experience Launching Soon
- September 22, 2014 @ 3:28 pmVice Talks to Matt Ogens, Director of Meet the HitlersFrom Vice:
There are Far More People Named Hitler than You'd Think
BY: JAMIE CLIFTON
MONDAY, SEP 22, 2014
Names are important. Without one, it’s very hard to buy personalized mugs or introduce yourself to people. However, they can also be a burden. One of my ninth-grade teachers was called Mr. Hyman, for instance, which can’t have been easy. And put yourself in the shoes of Mr. Dick Assman, or anyone who shares a name with Justin Lee Collins. That can’t be easy, either.
In his new documentary Meet the Hitlers, director Matt Ogens—the guy behind Confessions of a Superhero – explores just how much a name can influence an identity. Meeting a diverse group of people with the surname Hitler (or Hittler), which arguably comes with more baggage than literally any other name in existence, the film looks at how their lives have been affected, for better or worse.
I gave Matt a call to speak about the making of the film.
VICE: Hi, Matt. Why did you decide to track down loads of Hitlers?
Matt Ogens: I have a friend from college who married a guy by the last name of Hitler. I remember visiting them and seeing the name on the buzzer. I would get Christmas cards saying, “Happy Holidays from the Hitlers!”, and there was something quirky about it. It got me thinking what it must be like to take on that name or to be born with that name. How it would affect your life, positively or negatively.
How your name plays into your identity.
Exactly. We all have our names, but if you don’t have an odd name you usually just take it for granted. If you have an odd name, how might that affect you? How would that shape your life? I wanted to take what is arguably one of the most notorious names in history and do a social study from that perspective.
Was it hard getting people to take part? I’d imagine quite a few Hitlers would be happy to keep the name, but not necessarily want to make a big song and dance about it.
For a start, a lot of people with that name don’t list it because they don’t want prank calls. And yeah, it’s also hard to get people to say yes, unfortunately. They assume it’s going to be a judgment thing, but one of the points of the film is to not judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge someone by their name; judge them by their actions. There are good people with that name in the film and not so good people with that name in the film.
Did you meet anyone who’s really struggled with the name?
I can go through a couple of scenarios. I mean, you have a guy like Jean Hitler, an older guy—he’s probably 83 now—with four daughters, a wife, and a very nice life. He’d say he kept it because it was a family name that was around before Adolf Hitler. Why should he have to change it, you know? He said it didn’t affect him, but for his four daughters going through school... it’s probably going to have had an effect on them. One of his daughters ran for, I think, class president, but got heckled off stage and didn’t win. So people were affected in some way or another, some worse than others.
Were there any people who were totally cool with it? Anyone whose peace with it surprised you?
You have a girl like Emily Hittler, who—at the time we filmed her—was 16. She lives in a small town outside of St. Louis, so she’s insulated by her friends and family. Though, we don’t know what it’s going to be like if she goes to college, gets a job, or leaves town. My other theory with her is that she’s another generation removed from World War II, the Holocaust, and Adolf Hitler. So a 16-year-old today may not have as strong an opinion on Hitler as we did. Maybe if her name was Bin Laden it would be way worse for her.
I was going to mention that—whether you came across opinions on the name specifically colored by age or culture? Like how there are clothing stores in India named “Hitler” because the name isn't as big a part of the region's history as in Europe or America.
Absolutely. We explored all of that stuff. We explored stuff like that as a storyline in the film—we even explored other names to include in the storyline—but we didn’t go there. But the name has a different effect on different cultures. Like you said, there’s the store in India. In fact, most of them are gone now, but a few years ago there were also Hitler-themed restaurants.
What are your thoughts on the family featured in the film who named their kid Adolf Hitler?
I’m a documentary filmmaker, so I should be objective. But I’m also a human being. Some people would say it’s a First Amendment right—that you can name your kid whatever you want. But, to me, when you’re naming a kid something like that, that’s going to affect a kid the rest of their life. I don’t feel it was down to anything other than the father, Heath Campbell, who’s a neo-Nazi. Those are his beliefs. He’s got swastika tattoos. He did it to make a statement. It wasn’t about the kid; it was about himself.
Yeah. Did you expect to meet neo-Nazis when you started production on the film?
The scary thing about making a documentary is that you don’t know the ending when you start; things change as you go deeper and deeper. At first, I thought, Hey, I’m going to make this quirky film about people with the name Hitler. Sort of a dark comedy. But it went deeper than that. It’s still a character-driven film; it’s not about saving the whales, or anything like that. It’s people. The thread is this connection between name and identity.
How connected do you think those two things are?
I think your name can affect how people react to you from an early age, which is when your brain is shaping and your identity is forming. So, for example, if you got made fun of as a kid because of your name, that may affect your identity.
Would you have kept the name Hitler if you were born with it?
If you’re born with that name, you’re born with that name. If it were me personally—I’m Jewish—I wouldn’t keep that name. And I wouldn’t give my kids that name. I get the whole reasoning of it being a family name, but to me it’s not worth going through the burden of life with it. It’s not worth putting my kids through it. But that’s just me.
I respect the decision of someone like Jean Hitler, though, who’s had the name in his family since the 1700s. I respect that, and I appreciate that he decided to keep it. So I try to be not judgmental about it. With someone like Heath Campbell—who wasn’t born with the name Hitler, but named his kid Adolf Hitler for a very specific reason—that’s a different story. That’s harder to swallow for me.
Makes sense. What else did you take away from the making of the film?
There’s a character in our film named Jim Riswold. He’s an iconic advertising creative but does a lot of conceptual satirical art on the side. One of his series pokes fun at dictators, and he did some stuff with Hitler. In a way, he’s kind of the voice of reason in the film. What he says is that people talk about Hitler in hushed tones, but that if Hitler were alive today, or watching from hell, he would like that: ‘They revere me.’ He wanted to do something in his art that would piss Hitler off and make fun of Hitler. So it’s sort of like saying, “If you mock it, you beat it.”
Besides that point, that people should be judged by their actions and who they are as people—something that says much more about you than your name.
The first screening of Meet the Hitlers is at the New Orleans Film Festival on Friday, October 17, but until then you can take part in the #whatsinaname project, which is cataloguing the stories behind a number of unusual names from around the world.
- September 18, 2014 @ 3:46 pmMeet the Hitlers Featured on RYOT
This Trailer for ‘Meet the Hitlers’ Shows Us What’s in a Name
BY: REBECCA LUXTON
THURSDAY, SEP 18, 2014
What’s in a name? If you’re named Marijuana Pepsi, can you be a guidance counselor? Should the name “Lady Gaga” belong to a girl or a boy? Is Batman always a masked defender, or could he — or she — be an ordinary person?
A new documentary from director/producer Matt Ogens and executive producers Joshua Evan Greenberg and Bryn Mooser seeks to answer the question of how our names are tied to who we are.
Meet the Hitlers explores the lives of a diverse group of people linked by the fact that they’re all named “Hitler” and the way the name has colored their experiences.
Just because a person’s name hearkens back to the world’s most universally hated man doesn’t mean that he or she will follow in Hitler’s footsteps. But we can’t ignore that our names, like it or not, play an integral — and intensely personal — role in our identities.
When do labels make a difference? Should they ever? Is being a Hitler any different from being a Smith, a Wong, or a Gupta?
To add your thoughts, visit whatsinaname.me to share your name and what it means to you with the hashtag #whatsinaname. And check out the trailer to find out what it means — and what it doesn’t mean — to be a Hitler.
“Meet the Hitlers” will be screened at the New Orleans Film Festival on 10/17 and 10/19. Click here to pre-order the film. Check back at meetthehitlers.com for an interactive experience.
- September 11, 2014 @ 2:48 pmMeet The Hitlers in AdweekFrom Adweek:
Meet the Adman Who Really, Really Likes Laughing at Adolf HitlerBY: TIM NUDD
W+K's Jim Riswold on disarming the hatred
THURSDAY, SEP 11, 2014 AT 2:48 PM
Anyone who knows Jim Riswold knows he has a bit of a Hitler obsession—or more specifically, an obsession with making the Nazi leader look stupid through art. Speaking to Vice in 2011, the legendary Wieden + Kennedy copywriter explained:
"Bad guys don't mind being called bad guys. But bad guys don't like to be laughed at. I have always thought humour could diffuse fears and deflate even the most evil of egos. Voltaire said, 'I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.' I made Hitler look ridiculous. Hitler is ridiculous. But please don't tell him I said so."
Now, Riswold gets to show off some of his Hitler work in a new documentary called Meet the Hitlers. Directed by Tool's Matt Ogens (who also created the acclaimed doc Confessions of a Superhero), the film explores people named Hitler or related to Hitler, and how keeping that name has molded their lives.
As part of the film, Ogens profiles Riswold, who documents Nazi-themed objects as a way of disarming the hatred and making fun of the consumer culture behind Nazis and Hitler. Check out a scene from the documentary here:
Meet the Hitlers is also launching a digital campaign that includes whatsinaname.me (created by Trust), which looks at many people with absurd names (including some named Hitler from the movie) and how those names helped to shape their lives.
Soon, an interactive experience at meetthehitlers.com will allow users to experience what it might be like if their last name were Hitler.
Here's the trailer for Meet the Hitlers:
- August 30, 2014 @ 3:26 pmMeet the Hitlers Screening at the New Orleans Film Festival October 17th and 19th
- July 25, 2014 @ 1:39 pmRyot Films and Bryn Mooser, co-Founder of Ryot (www.ryot.org) joins Meet the Hitlers as an executive producer
- July 10, 2014 @ 8:00 amRope of Silicon Features Meet the Hitlers TrailerFrom RopeOfSilicon.com:
What's in a Name? Trailer for 'Meet the Hitlers', a New DocumentaryBY: BRAD BREVET
A new documentary taking a look at people linked by the name Hitler
TUESDAY, JUL 8, 2014 AT 10:46 AM
I came across the following trailer for Meet the Hitlers, an upcoming documentary directed by Matt Ogens taking a look at the connection between names and identity, by exploring the lives of people who are linked by the most infamous name in the world: Hitler.
I couldn't find much else out about the doc outside of the cast listing on IMDB and various casting announcements, but I think the trailer pretty much speaks for itself. Looks like it could be a fascinating film.
- January 16, 2014 @ 1:51 pmCameras Used to Film Meet the HitlersFrom DigitalCinemaReport.com:
Understanding the Changing Nature of Filmed StoriesBY NICK DAGER
WEDNESDAY, JAN 8, 2014 AT 12:42 PM
Filmmaker Matt Ogens latest effort is a feature length documentary called Meet the Hitlers. When he selects the right for any of his projects his first thought, though, is how best to tell the story is wants to convey. “It all comes down to telling great stories,” said Ogens. “There are different types of stories, and the nature of the story itself may change how I capture it on film. To decide on that, I collaborate with a director of photography and ask what type of camera he or she thinks is best for each project from a creative perspective, but sometimes the reality of a budget may also dictate what cameras are available to me. We will discuss the look I want for the story and then the DP and I will choose the camera.”
Ogens specializes in directing commercials and documentaries and his latest projects have relied on Canon Cinema EOS C300 digital cameras, EOS 5D Mark III cameras and EOS 7D digital SLR cameras.
Ogens’ recent assignments shot on Canon equipment include two shorts for Stand Up To Cancer, which aired in prime time to millions of viewers, a commercial for a major automotive brand, and an upcoming feature documentary entitled Meet the Hitlers, which examines the impact that names have on personal identity. The EOS C300 camera was used to shoot one of the shorts, as well as the automotive commercial, while the feature documentary used the EOS C300, the EOS 5D Mark III, as well as EOS 7D cameras. The second short for Stand Up To Cancer was captured using only a 5D Mark III camera.
“You want to use capture equipment that is not complicated,” Ogens explained. “I don’t want to spend too much time dealing with technology; the technology should just work. Although I can’t speak to the technical aspects of various cameras, I can say that – for me – the Canon cameras satisfy my requirements and they also just have the cinematic and filmic look I like.”
Ogens can, however, speak to the operational advantages of particular cameras in terms of his needs as a director. “The camera must serve the story and not take away from it,” he noted. “We filmed part of the car campaign in a manufacturing plant. We had to shoot in tight spaces, so we needed a camera that wasn’t big and cumbersome. We also couldn’t bring in a lot of people or a big array of lighting equipment. We needed a camera that was flexible with lighting and that would work well with the illumination already in the plant. The Canon EOS C300 camera was a perfect fit.”
With a camera body weighing just over 3 lbs., the Canon EOS C300 camera can accommodate virtually any shooting setup. It can be hand-held by using its removable, rotating side hand grip, or its detachable top handle, or used with a wide variety of third-party support devices.
“I love the Canon EOS C300 camera,” Ogens elaborated. “I think it’s a great camera, especially for its price range. I like the look of the EOS C300 camera, it’s great with low light, and it’s very flexible in different lighting conditions. I like how the slow-motion works almost like a film camera in that it’s done in-camera and you don’t have to slow it down in post. The EOS C300 camera is also compatible with a lot of different lenses.” “Lens choice depends on the project,” Ogens added. “I have used Canon EF prime and zoom lenses, and pretty much every other kind of Canon lens, and I think they’re all great. I own a couple that I use on my personal Canon EOS 7D camera.
Shooting in hospitals, homes, and on inner-city streets, the high mobility of the Canon EOS C300 cinema camera and the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 7D Digital HD SLR cameras also proved essential for Ogens’ two Stand Up to Cancer shorts and his Meet The Hitlers documentary.
“We shot in hospitals, homes, and all kinds of situations,” he said. “We reported on a retired police officer in Baltimore and filmed some of the old neighborhoods where he worked, K9 dogs, and the inside of police stations. It was essential to keep a low profile in all of those environments, and the compact design of these Canon cameras was great for that. The EOS C300, EOS 5D Mark III, and EOS 7D cameras are also user-friendly, so you can use a much smaller crew and not have a big footprint. For the most part, we used natural light, except for interview setups.”
Ogens shot interviews in Germany, Ecuador, and the U.S. for Meet The Hitlers, and found that the still-photography “look” of the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 7D Digital SLR camera bodies helped make his subjects more comfortable as he filmed HD interviews with them.
“Aiming a camera at a person will always change their behavior in some way, but by using the EOS 5D Mark III and the EOS 7D cameras we made them more comfortable than they would have been facing a big camera and crew,” he noted. “Using the EOS 5D Mark III and the EOS 7D cameras was also great for keeping other people in the street from getting in the way during location shots and street interviews. We mainly used natural light for almost the entire film.”
Ogens was also involved in the edit bay and the color-correction post-production sessions for his projects. “I can tell you that there were no post issues with these Canon cameras,” he said. “It was a smooth process. My DP shot in Canon Log with the EOS C300 camera, so there was plenty of room to adjust the visuals in post. Canon seems like it’s really connecting with filmmakers in terms of its outreach,” he observed. “I see a consistency with Canon and I really like what they’re doing.”