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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

What’s Worth Watching: ‘The Houseboat’ sails with its heartwarming male friendship

After watching Soleil Moon Frye’s “Kid 90” on Hulu over the weekend and having a surprisingly real emotional experience, I thought to myself, “Wow, maybe I should make a habit of watching documentaries about people I’ve never heard of?”

So, I hopped right onto Netflix and found, almost immediately, exactly the kind of show I had in mind.

Netflix’s “Das Hausboot” (“The Houseboat”) follows German celebrities Olli Schulz and Fynn Kliemann’s serendipitous partnership as they set out to remodel the houseboat in which musician Gunter Gabriel lived until his death in 2017.

A singer-songwriter himself and longtime fan of Gabriel, Schulz bought the houseboat on a whim shortly after it was placed on the market.

He had tentative plans to remodel it from the beginning, but those plans only solidified after he met Kliemann, a YouTuber and musician who, although less familiar with Gabriel’s work, brought a great deal of creative energy to the project.

“Olli is my anchor … dragging me down,” Kliemann jokes.

“Fynn is my harbor,” Schulz responds.

In a little more than two hours, the docuseries takes us through Schulz and Kliemann’s months-spanning scheme to turn their rusting, decrepit houseboat into a refuge for creatives.

“Just a little home in Hamburg,” Kliemann says.

Five days after purchasing the boat, Kliemann brings 15 “really cool” people in from Hamburg to help clear out all the detritus.

None of them knew who Gabriel was, and, frankly, neither did I. But, in five hours, everything is out.

Franzi Mulder and Bjarne Mädel, friends of Kliemann and Schulz, knew from the beginning that the project was going to be a lot more work than the pair were expecting.

“The boat was a pile of garbage,” Mädel says.

Two months after the purchase, Schulz and Kliemann start to realize just how wrecked the boat is. But after breaking down and gutting the thing, they’re still determined to finish.

Their optimism shines through in the sign they place by the boat’s moorings in the harbor.

“A beautiful boat is being built here.”

But the boat isn’t the only thing being built.

If it weren’t for the houseboat, Schulz explains, they never would have gotten so close. Kliemann, young and uber-focused on his work, half-jokes that he doesn’t have friends, he has colleagues.

“But you, I take very good care of,” he tells Schulz. “Ja, veil, wir brauchen einander (Because we need each other).”

It’s a fixer-upper. But it’s also just a story about a difficult yet genuinely heartwarming male friendship. And who doesn’t love that?

“The Houseboat” is available on Netflix with English subtitles.