The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival─showcasing German language film and more─ starts Thursday, January 14, at the Castro
The Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, America’s largest festival of new cinema from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and beyond, kicks off Thursday evening, January 14 at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. The festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with an impressive line-up of 24 features, documentaries and shorts, some very special tributes and what promises to be a dazzling closing night fusion of silent film and music. The focus of the festival is German language cinema but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make Berlin & Beyond such a stand-out. Also, this fest is a must-do for cinephiles in the German-speaking community and there’s something undeniably special about hearing crisp German spoken all around the theatre. B & B rolls out in three venues this year: the Castro Theatre from Thursday-Sunday which has awards, special guests and parties; the Goethe-Institut, San Francisco, from Monday-Wednesday (Jan 18-20, 2016) and on Sunday, January 31, 2016 at Pacific’s Janet Leigh Theatre in Stockton.
It all begins Thursday evening at 6 PM with an Opening Night Party at the Castro Theatre mezzanine that will include appetizers and drinks and many special friends of the festival who have been involved over the years. At 8 PM, the festival officially starts with a celebration of Berliner Tom Schilling who will be honored with the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival’s Spotlight Award in Acting. Afterwards, Baran bo Odar’s blockbuster thriller Who Am I – No System is Safe (105 min, 2014) screens. Schilling plays Ben, a computer geek who catches the eye of a radical group that wants to use his phenomenal hacking skills to overturn the system. He joins their group and their edgy lifestyle quickly loses its appeal when he becomes a wanted man. The film fuses high-stakes information age intrigue with the age-old search for identity and belonging. The evening includes a Q&A with Schilling. His impressive performance in Peter Sehr and Marie Noëlle’s period drama Ludwig II (2012), the centerpiece film at Berlin & Beyond 2014, will undoubtedly also be discussed.
On Saturday at 9:30 PM, Schilling stars in the 6-time German Film Award winner A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy) (86 min, 2012). For a debut-feature, writer-director Jan Ole Gerster got everything darn near perfect in this comedic portrait of prolonged adolescence, a plight that, sadly, seems global. The film, shot in black and white, unfolds in a day-in-the-life manner. Schilling plays Nikko, an apathetic twentysomething who has quit law school but neglected to tell his dad, who continues to pay his living expenses under the assumption he’s a student. As Nikko searches for a place to get a cup of coffee, Gerster draws us in to a world that is insanely frustrating to those who keep schedules and live by standards of accountability. Obtuse Nikko skates along, falters, has insane interactions with nearly everyone he encounters and, oddly, we find ourselves fully engaged and desperately wondering about that coffee.
The Castro Theatre segment closes on Sunday with a restored version of Walther Ruttman’s 1927 silent documentary Berlin: Symphony of a Great City with live music created and performed by the Berlin-based band ALP, a Berlin band that “mixes rock band dynamics, improvisation and laptop electronics.” Ruttman, a pioneer of modern multimedia art, was influenced heavily by the Russians, especially the montage theories of Dziga Vertov. Ruttman’s visual poem, in conjunction with ALP’s innovative rhythm, will take people back to a bygone era and capture a full day, from morning to midnight, in this bustling metropolis.
Details: The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is January 14-16, 2016 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco and January 17-20 at the Goethe-Institut, 530 Bush Street, San Francisco. Tickets: $11 to $15 per screening and there are also passes that offer discounts on multiple screenings and parties. For more information and tickets: www.berlinbeyond.com
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