Written by Christine Beebe
I first met Felix back in 2003. With the ascot, the airs, the high intellect and the ability to speak multiple languages fluently I had a vague assumption that he was an aristocrat, someone from an old European family. Soon I was invited to a cocktail party at his home. Expecting a large Hollywood Hills estate my curiosity was piqued when I arrived at a single room efficiency near the notoriously gang-ridden MacArthur Park in East LA. Who was Felix Pfeifle? And why did the building directory list him, unfittingly, as “Brian” Pfeifle?
Everybody has a story but not everybody presents a mystery, or offers such a suggestive relation to world history. From that evening onward, I set out to create a compelling, honest and humanist film about Felix, along with two unlikely but important secondary characters, a little known mensch named Herbert Hinkel and the last living heir to the Habsburg empire, Archduke Otto von Habsburg. Together, their stories invoke big ideas as the film delicately weaves together themes of identity, transformation, being gay in America, the interconnectedness of history, father-figures, and ultimately, one’s own mortality.
At the heart of this film is a ticking bomb: Felix’s secret genetic curse. We meet Felix at 35, the same age his father was when he first started showing signs of the deadly Huntington’s Disease. With a 50% chance of inheriting the disease, will Felix take the test to determine whether he, too, has it? The results of the test will change his outlook on his entire life. Forever. It’s a heavier decision than any normal human being has to face. The weight is almost unthinkable – will he be healthy and happy for the rest of his life, or will he start showing signs of a disease that he watched destroy his family?
From the onset, it was very important to me to set this film apart from others about Huntington’s Disease and to make sure that the film had universal ideas that viewers could take in multiple directions. Also, despite treating themes of mortality and disease, the film needed to have a positive overall message and, above all, to entertain, taking the audience far, far away into a world they’d never experienced before.
What a disease like this does to the psyche as well as all the other threads in FELIX AUSTRIA! are so worth exploring way beyond this film.