Geneva Anderson digs into art

Berlin and Beyond’s 27th festival of new German cinema is March 23-28—sehr interessant!

A still from Martin Persiel’s “Everything Will Change,” starring Noah Saavedra, Jessamine-Bliss Bell and Paul G. Raymond, Wim Wenders.  Persiel is known internationally for his award-winning documentary “This Ain’t California” (2012) about skateboarding culture in the 1980s GDR, which screened at Berlin and Beyond 2012. 

As if we don’t know where we’re heading as a planet, Martin Persiel’s ecological drama, Everything will Change” lays it out in an ominous eco-drama set in 2054. Wildlife has disappeared from Earth and three friends, who inhabit a bleak concrete world, set out on a time-travel road trip to find out what happened.  They learn their answer lies in the decade of the 2020’s when people knew how fragile biodiversity on Earth was but failed to take action.  Persiel’s unconventional knitting of fact and fiction has garnered him many awards and this latest drama, a blatant call for action, opens this year’s Berlin and Beyond festival on Thursday March 22 at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater. This beloved festival of new German cinema includes ten features and four short films and runs March 22-25 and the 28th at the Castro; March 26th virtually, and the evening of March 27th at Berkeley’s Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. 

Two huge breaks with tradition: This is first time that the festival is presenting an opening night film that is not in German—Persil’s film is in English. “The Forger,”(“Der Passfälscher”), the more traditional period drama that follows on Thursday evening at 9 p.m., is in German as are all of the other films in the festival. So there’s ample opportunity to have that undeniably special experience of immersing yourself in crisp German. The venue has also changed, from the Castro Theater, the hub since inception, to the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District. As the 2023 festival opens a new era of sorts, Festival director, Sophoan Sorn, now in his 13th season, remains committed to providing cinema with exceptional storytelling, intense drama and an almost complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects. The festival is still securing guests, so check the website for updates.

Here are a few films that grabbed my attention:

Thursday, March 23, 9pm: “The Forger” (Der Passfälscher) :

Louis Hofmann in “The Forger.” (“Der Passfälscher, “), 2022. Image: DREIFILM

Berlin and Beyond always includes a riveting period drama, usually set during the Halocaust.  Maggie Peren’s “The Forger,” unfolds in Nazi-occupied Berlin in 1942-43. Louis Hoffmann (Neflix’s “Dark” series 2017-2020) stars as 21-year-old Cioma Schönhaus, a young man with an incredible zest for life who has the misfortune of being Jewish when the hunt for Jews is in full swing. Drawing on his art school background as a graphic artist, Cioma, along with his friend, Det (Jonathan Berlin), joins a network of underground rescuers and forges brilliant IDs that allow hundreds of Jews to escape deportation. At the same time, he re-creates his own identity, as a marine officer, and he and Det embrace Berlin’s night life with gusto, living extravagantly in plain sight of the Nazis as if there were no tomorrow. Cioma’s talent lands him in trouble and his survival will depend on one last great forgery. Based on a true story and adapted from Cioma Schönhaus’s 2008 novel. (Germany, 2022, 116 minutes German w/English subtitles)

Friday, March 24, 8:30 pm: “Family Affairs” (Der Nachname), US Premiere

A still from Sönke Wortmann’s “Family Affairs” (“Der Nachname”), 2022. Image: Constantine Film.

What was intended as a lovely family gathering on the beach of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, soon dissolves into mass confusion and arguments when the matriarch, Dorothee (Iris Berben), 68, drops a scandalous bomb on her middle-age children and their partners.  She announces that she and René, her adopted adult son, have just married and she has taken on his name and is now Dorothee König.  The siblings are appalled that their mother has married their adopted brother and, even worse, rejected their name: Böttcher.  With Sönke Wortmann at the helm you can expect family drama at its wittiest and a deep dive into cultural norms. The translation of Der Nachname is, “The Last Name, and the film is a sequel to Wortmann’s highly successful first film, Der Vorname 2018 (“The First Name”), which was based on the French play Le Prénom.  All the members of the original cast are back again.  Wortmann’s pitch perfect satire, “How about Adolf?”(2019) was a smash at Berlin and Beyond 2020 (87 min, German w/ English subtitles)

Saturday, March 25, 1 pm, “Radical Dreamer,” Northern CA Premiere

Werner Herzog, in a still from Thomas von Steinaecker’s documentary “Radical Dreamer,” (2022)  Image: © Copyright 3B Produktion

For some 60 years, Werner Herzog has traversed every corner of the globe in search of the most rapturous dreams and captured them on film, over 80 so far—fictional features and documentaries often so bizarre, they have trumped his fiction. Once again, the camera is turned again on the charismatic Herzog by director, novelist and journalist, Thomas von Steinaecker in “Radical Dreamer.”  The documentary includes never before seen archive footage, captivating anecdotes from Herzog about his filming exploits and eternal search for beauty, and conversations with luminaries who know and have worked with him: directors Chloé Zhao, Joshua Oppenheimer and Wim Wenders; singer Patti Smith; and actors Nicole Kidman, Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson.  Iconic excerpts from his feature films and documentaries, and his cameos in cartoon series such as “The Simpsons” have been selected with care, creating a portrait of this illusive subject.  (103 min, German and English w/ English subtitles)

Saturday, March 25, 8:45 pm: “Rhinegold,” North American Premiere

Emilio Sakraya (L) as Giwar Hajabi in a still from “Rhinegold,” 2022. Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Gordon Timpen.

Opera fans will recognize the film title’s apt reference to “Das Rhinegold” from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, about the legendary gold in the Rhine river that will grant immortal life to whoever owns it and, as long as the gold stays at the bottom of the river, all is well with the world.  German Turkish director Fatih Akin’s new film is a loose adaptation of German rapper Xatar’s autobiography “All or Nothing” which traces the path of refugee Kurdish/German rapper Giwar Hajabi’s  (aka Xatar) life from a rough childhood and involvement in the drug underworld to the top of the music charts.  His story turns on a gold heist gone awry. The music is phenomenal. Fatih Akin won the Golden Bear at the 54th Berlinale, 2004, for “Head-On” (“Gegen die Wand” 2004) 138 min. Arabic, Dutch, English, German, Kurdish, Turkish w/ English subtitles.)

Tuesday, March 28, 6:30pm, “All Quiet on the Western Front in 35mm,” Closing Night, special presentation

Felix Kammerer in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” (2022) Netflix/Reiner Bajo.

Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front in 35mm” (2022), nominated for 9 Academy Awards and 7 BAFTA’s, is the sobering saga of an idealistic young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. This is a German’s director’s first stab and the first German language adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s world-renowned bestseller of the same name. The story follows Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), a bright 17-year-old just out of high school, who, along with other classmates, was inspired by an ultra-nationalist teacher to join the German army in its crusade to conquer France.  The naïve new recruits excitedly sing their way to the front lines and then descend into utter terror as they discover the nightmare of trench warfare. Everything about this sensory epic is extravagant, including its full-on assault of incessant violence. A soon-to-be disclosed Special Presentation follows the screening. (147 min., German with English subtitles).


Thursday, March 23 – Roxie Theater, San Francisco:
6:00 PM: Everything Will Change 93 min.
9:00 PM: The Forger 116 min.

Friday, March 24 – Roxie Theater, San Francisco:
10:00 AM: The Ordinaries 112 min. (invitation only/at capacity)
6:00 PM: Piaffe 86 min.
8:30 PM: Family Affairs 87 min.

Friday, March 24 – Vogue Theatre, San Francisco:
11:30 AM: The Ordinaries 112 min. (invitation only/at capacity)

Saturday, March 25 – Roxie Theater, San Francisco:
1:00 PM: Werner Herzog – Radical Dreamer 102 min.
3:15 PM: Golden Years 92 min.
6:00 PM: Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush 119 min.
8:45 PM: Rhinegold 138 min.

Sunday, March 26 – Virtual:
8:00AM-11:00 PM: Axiom 98 min. (Viewable in select NorCal counties)
8:00AM-11:00 PM: Shorts Program 100 min. (Viewable in California)

Monday, March 27 – Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, Berkeley:
6:00 PM: Everything Will Change 93 min.
8:30 PM: Family Affairs 87 min.

Tuesday, March 28 – Roxie, SF – Closing Night:
6:30 PM: All Quiet on the Western Front in 35mm 138 min.


The 27th Berlin and Beyond is March 23-28, 2023, main venue is Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street at Valencia, San Francisco.  Parking is difficult in the Mission District. Allow AMPLE time to find parking if arriving by car.  March 27: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College Ave at Ashby, Berkeley

Tickets:  Opening Night Film (Roxie Theater)$25.00 general (no senior discount); Single Tickets (Roxie and Elmwood screenings, excluding Roxie Opening Night Film and Youth 4 German Cinema) $16.00 general, $13.00 senior (62+) & ADA, $9.00 student (at door with ID. Single tickets for each film can be purchased via individual film pages.

Roxie Priority Film Pass (priority entry to Roxie screenings on March 23-25, excluding Youth 4 German Cinema screening. No admission for special events.)
$125.00 general public.  Click here to purchase.

Virtual Programs: $12.00 per virtual program (24-hour viewing window)
Purchase Virtual Rental: Axiom | Shorts Program

Youth 4 German Cinema screening of “The Ordinaries”: By invitation only. Now at capacity.

March 7, 2023 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment