Jeffrey van Davis - Filmmaker, Writer, Jazz Drummer
a DVD - Martin Heidegger and Nazism: Only A God Can Save Us
See interview with Jeffrey van Davis done by Professor Stephen Hicks, Rockford College, about van Davis' documentary on Martin Heidegger, Only A God Can Save Us:
Jeffrey van Davis: Filmmaker / Writer
Drummer with LOOMIS featuring Edith Speck, jazz vocalist.
Jeffrey van Davis studied philosophy and theology at St. Pious X Seminary, Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa from 1960 to 1962. There he was introduced to the philosophy of Martin Heidegger by a priest professor. Realizing the priesthood was not for him, he dropped out.
After escaping the seminary in the middle of the night, he soon received notice from the Selective Service about his obligation to serve in the U.S. Army. He spent 6 months at the U.S. Army Language School in Monterey, California, where he underwent a total immersion course in the German language. In May of 1963 he was then assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA) and trained as a German linguist for Army Intelligence where he worked from September 1963 to August 1965 along the East German border, in Berlin, Frankfurt and Nuremberg. He was discharged from the Army in Germany and travelled throughout Europe for a year and attended lectures in philosophy and history at the University of Tübingen. In August of 1966 van Davis returned to the United States after spending three months in Spain following in the footsteps of two of his favorite writers, George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway. Hanging out with university students in Barcelona, van Davis came under the surveillance of the Guardia Civil who raided a meeting of student activists in which he was a participant. Escaping through a back room exit to the rooftop, he took a night train to Madrid where he flew back to the U.S. leaving his camera, journals, short stories and clothes in a pension near the Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Upon his return to the United States he became active in the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-Vietnam war movement which eventually lead to his joining the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Students United for Racial Equality. A pacifist and non -violent communtiy organizer, he later quit SDS in part as a protest to the actions of the Weathermen.
Picture Jeff took of Terry (left) at Washington D.C. antiwar rally, 1967. They saw Norman Mailer and Noam Chomsky get arrested.
He received a B.A. in English Literature in 1969 from San Jose State University and attended graduate school in Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Illinois where he recieved an M.A. in 1972. He returned to Germany and began studies for his doctorate in Political Science and Philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilian Universität Munich. From 1973 to 1983 he took a position as a lecturer in American Cultural History at the American Studies Department. At the same time he attended classes in Film and Television at the Hochschule für Film and Fernsehen (Munich Film Academy) where he also lectured about American popular culture with an emphasis on American Cinema.
In Munich he joined forces with a German journalist to start a production company which made cultural films for German television. He won several prizes from the German Film Institute, The German Film Board in Berlin, and the Bavarian Film Board. His documentary, Jazz Expatriates, was broadcast on German television, American TV, was awarded a "Predikat Wertvoll" from the German FIlm Institute and distributed by the Filmverlag der Autoren in over 70 theatres in Germany. His next feature length documentary, Norman Mailer: The Sanction To Write, was shot during Mailer's visit to the University of Munich and was showcased at the Munich International Film Festival in a special tribute to Mailer as well as being broadcast on PBS and USA Network in the United States. It had its world premiere at the Thalia Theatre in New York with Mailer being present for questions after the viewing. On April 9, 2008, outtakes from Norman Mailer: The Sanction To Write were edited together with other films in a tribute to Norman Mailer at Carnegie Hall.
Reveille to Taps, about the Illinois writer James Jones, author of From Here To Eternity, was broadcast on PBS nationwide. Funded by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council and the National Endowment of the Humanities, van Davis was the writer, producer and director. He was also awarded Artist in Residence status by the Illinois Arts Council.
14th Place, written and directed by van Davis, was a narrative film (fiction) about teenagers growing up in an urban housing project.
Funded by a grant from the Illinois Community Action Agency, 14th Place won a Silver Plaque Award (second place) at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Citizen Welles, a work in progress about Orson Welles, was also shown at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Black Forest Train, a music video featuring the German country band Southern Railway, ran for six months on German television and won "Honorable Mention" at the Berkeley International Film and Video Festival.
Only A God Can Save Us (Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten) is a feature length documentary about the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger which was completed in 2009.
Van Davis has taught filmmaking, scriptwriting and film history at the University of Illinois, University of Arizona, and the University of Munich. He is also a jazz drummer fronting with Loomis, which plays regularly in jazz clubs in Germany and he is the drummer in a German country band, Southern Railway. Presently he directs the Salem International College Jazz Band and the Video Film Club. He regularly organizes jazz workshops and spends as much time as possible on his sail boat on Lake Constance.
Above left: Interviewing Victor Farias in Berlin for Only A God Can Save Us.
Carl Herse, cameraman in background.
Above right: Carl Herse shoots the filmmaker somewhere in Germany.
left: Our trusty Canon XL1. right: My favorite pastime.
My other favorite pastime - sailing on
Lake Constance, one of the longest (over 70 miles) and deepest (ca. 900 feet) fresh water lakes near the Alps.
The beautiful Lake Constance (Bodensee)
Salem International College (Schloss Spetzgart) where I teach. Switzerland is across the lake, far left is Austria.