The Giving Tree (Germany, 9 minutes 39 seconds )

Subtitles: English

Directed by: Claudia Bracholdt

In the Dodau Forest in Germany, a 500-year-old oak tree has been connecting people from all over the world in a simple, yet special way. Since 1927, the tree has had its own zip code. Five to six letters arrive each day, written by people searching for true love, life advice or even just a penpal. Visitors of all ages come to the tree, climb up a wooden ladder and fumble for the letters stored in the tree's knothole.

Karl Heinz Martens has been delivering letters to the oak tree for more than 20 years. Now retired, he reflects on its popularity and the nostalgia people feel reading handwritten letters from strangers in a forest environment that feels much calmer than the outside world.

Review:

The Giving Tree

By Alexia Amoriello.

The Bridegroom’s Oak is a tree that has its very own zip code. The tree is over 500 years old and is located in the Dodau Forest in Germany. For those unaware of the existence of this remarkable tree, Claudia Bracholdt’s short documentary The Giving Tree will be sure to evoke curiosity. For those already familiar with the Bridegroom’s Oak, the film will provide an in-depth look at the tree’s fascinating history.
Bracholdt’s film is wonderfully informative about such a unique and incredible subject matter, but it is also unexpectedly endearing. The Giving Tree is a documentary that almost feels more like a romantic fairytale.
A young couple once used the tree’s knothole as a mailbox to exchange letters, and in 1891 that couple got married under the tree. Ever since this event, the tree has been referred to as the “Bridegroom’s Oak.” Subsequently, in 1927 Germany granted the tree its own zip code and the German post accepted the tree into the local delivery route. Since then, people have been sending letters to the tree in search of advice or in an attempt to find true love. The tree has essentially taken on the role of a matchmaker of sorts. The Giving Tree charmingly captures people as they visit the tree and read the letters from the tree’s knothole.
Additionally, Bracholdt interviews retired postman Karl Heinz Martens, who delivered letters to the tree for over two decades. Martens’ perspective is both insightful and incredibly moving. The juxtaposition between shots of people visiting the tree and Martens’ distinct commentary allows The Giving Tree to reveal the way in which the tree is capable of reaching people on both a universal and personal level.
The Giving Tree is an accomplishment in documentary filmmaking as Bracholdt captures so much of the tree’s extensive history in a matter of only 10 minutes. The film is also striking for the way in which Bracholdt beautifully films the tree during the changing seasons. It is quite evident that Bracholdt put a tremendous amount of effort into The Giving Tree, and all of her effort certainly pays off. The story of the Bridegroom’s Oak is effectively a real life fairy tale and The Giving Tree is a pleasant and uplifting film. There is nothing quite like the Bridegroom’s Oak and therefore The Giving Tree is undeniably a must-see film.
The Giving Tree is an official selection of the New York City Independent Film Festival and will be shown during the festival on October 12-18, 2015.