In her documentary family saga WALCHENSEE FOREVER, director Janna Ji Wonders embarks on a voyage of discovery spanning over a century. In order to uncover the secrets and her role in the generation chain, she leads us from the family café at the Bavarian Walchensee lake via Mexico to San Francisco during the “Summer of Love”, Indian ashrams, a German commune and back again and again to lake Walchensee.
Questions about identity, roots and self-fulfillment are asked through this search for life, love and death.
It is a personal story about the eternal cycle of life.

Directors Statement

A framed picture on the wall: Two young women with a dulcimer and a guitar - my mother and her sister.

This picture always fascinated me when I was a child. Looking at it, I would daydream about being like these two beautiful, adventurous women, who were surrounded by a rebellious aura. It was like a window into my mother’s past. A past which held a dark secret. I never got to meet the woman in the picture next to my mother, she mysteriously died before I was born. Still, her memory hovered above our family like a ghostly shimmer. Her sister’s death was a fracture in my mother’s life. From that moment on, my mother was on a continuous search for meaning, dragging me along. What was it, that my mother was looking for? What happened to the great urge for freedom and the ideals of the late 60s?
My father was far away, in San Francisco. I was pained by his absence. My mother’s inner turmoil carried on within me, torn between father and mother, between California and Bavaria. This is why my grandma was my sanctuary, my refuge. Her down-to-earth character, deeply rooted at lake Walchensee, was the antipode to my mother’s restlessness.

WALCHENSEE FOREVER tells the story of my family over four generations from the point of view of women, each of them defying in their own way the patriarchal structures of their time. It’s about these women’s search for identity, roots and self-fulfillment, it’s about love, pain, longing, loss, psychotic conditions, birth, death - the cycle of life.

Director's Biography

Janna Ji Wonders was born in Mill Valley, California, and lives in Munich, Bavaria. She studied at the University of Television and Film Munich, where she directed numerous music videos, shorts and documentaries. Her award-winning films, including the L.A. Hip-Hop documentary BLING BLING and STREET PUNK MOSCOW about young punks in Russia, were shown at international film festivals around the world. With her band YA-HA! she recently released a debut album. Her love for music shapes her work as a filmmaker.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Janna Ji Wonders

Written by: Janna Ji Wonders, Nico Woche

Produced by: Martin Heisler , Katharina Bergfeld

Cinematography: Janna Ji Wonders, Sven Zellner, Anna Werner

Editing: Anja Pohl

Original Score: Markus Acher, Cico Beck

Sound: Jörg Elsner

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Documentary Selection 2020