German theater owners got some good news Thursday night with mini-major Constantin Film unveiling that it has greenlit a sequel to Manitou’s Shoe, the blockbuster comedy Western from Michael “Bully” Herbig and one of the most successful German movies of all time.
Herbig broke the news to an industry crowd at the Munich Filmweek Thursday night, confirming he was returning to direct and star in The Canoe of Manitou, the sequel to his 2001 hit. He also posted a confirmation on his Instagram feed, noting that the movie will hit theaters next year.
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Herbig will reprise his role as Apache chief Abahachi, with the original co-stars from the first movie, Christian Tramitz and Rick Kavanian returning to play Ranger and Dimitri.
Manitou’s Shoe is a parody of the Winnetou Westerns of the 1960s, European-shot movies inspired by the writings of Karl May, a 19th-century German writer of Wild West adventure tales who had no real-life experience of the cultures he was describing. While the movies were tremendously successful, and reruns remain a staple of German matinee TV, both May and the Winnetou films have been sharply criticized as brazen examples of cultural appropriation. Not least because the titular hero of the films, the “Apache” Winnetou, was played by the white Frenchman Pierre Brice.
In 2022, a Winnetou prequel film, The Young Chief Winnetou, was dogged by protests and a German publisher pulled two tie-in children’s books from its lineup amid accusations of racism.
No such protest accompanied the release of Herbig’s Manitou’s Shoe, which was a monster hit, grossing more than $65 million in Germany alone, making it one of the most successful German-language films of all time.
Herbig pokes fun at many of the culturally inappropriate aspects of the Winnetou films — including the “redfacing” casting of Brice — but the parody is gentle and affectionate toward the original movies. It remains to be seen how that approach will land in the current, more polarized, cultural moment.
For Herbig, The Canoe of Manitou is a return to his comedic roots after directing the 2018 East Berlin escape thriller Balloon and 2022’s A Thousand Lines, a look at a real-life fake news scandal that rocked the German media establishment. Both films were critically acclaimed but did not deliver at the box office.
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