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Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival─showcasing German language film and more─ starts Thursday, January 14, at the Castro

The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, January 14-20, 2016, celebrates the on-going career achievement of Berliner Tom Schilling by honoring him with a Spotlight Award in Acting, and screening two of his most recent sensations: the blockbuster thriller “Who Am I - No System is Safe” (2014) on Opening Night and the 6-time German Film Award winner, the wry comedy, A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy)(2012 on Saturday, January 16, 2016. Image: Berlin & Beyond

The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, January 14-20, 2016, celebrates the ongoing career achievement of Berliner Tom Schilling by honoring him with a Spotlight Award in Acting and screening two of his most recent sensations: the blockbuster thriller “Who Am I – No System is Safe” (2014) on Opening Night and the 6-time German Film Award winner, the wry comedy, “A Coffee in Berlin” (Oh Boy) (2012) on Saturday, January 16, 2016. Image: Berlin & Beyond

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.

Coffee in Berlin

Thomas Schilling in a scene from Jan Ole Gerster’s “A Coffee in Berlin” (Oh Boy) (2012)

 

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.

 

A scene from Walther Ruttman’s 1927 silent film “Berlin, Symphony of a Great City” which screens Sunday, January 17, 2016 at the 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. The festival celebrates its 20th anniversary with a restored version of this film fused with music created by the Berlin-based band ALP. Ruttman, a pioneer of modern multimedia art, was influenced by the Russians, especially the montage theories of Dziga Vertov. His 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. Image: courtesy Berlin & Beyond

A scene from Walther Ruttman’s 1927 silent film “Berlin, Symphony of a Great City. ” Berlin & Beyond celebrates its 20th anniversary with a restored version of this film with live music created and performed by the Berlin-based band ALP. Image: courtesy Berlin & Beyond

Daniel Carsenly’s “After Spring Comes Fall” (2015) has its North American premiere at the 20th Berlin & Beyond.  Mina (Halima Ilter), a young Kurdish woman flees Syria after her neighborhood is stormed by the military and her husband is badly injured.  As she starts a new life in Berlin, she works illegally and sends money to her family in Syria to pay for husband’s mounting medical expenses.  The Syrian Security Service traces her transactions and finds her. Through intimidation and threats of violence, they force her to work as an informant.  Over time, Mina gains the trust of the Syrian opposition and uses this to relay information on the Syrian Resistance to her handlers.  Screens: Saturday, January 16, 4 PM, Castro Theatre

Daniel Carsenly’s “After Spring Comes Fall” (2015) has its North American premiere at the 20th Berlin & Beyond. Mina (Halima Ilter), a young Kurdish woman flees Syria after her neighborhood is stormed by the military and her husband is badly injured. As she starts a new life in Berlin, she works illegally and sends money to her family in Syria to pay for husband’s mounting medical expenses. The Syrian Security Service traces her transactions and finds her. Through intimidation and threats of violence, they force her to work as an informant. Over time, Mina gains the trust of the Syrian opposition and uses this to relay information on the Syrian Resistance to her handlers. Screens: Saturday, January 16, 4 PM, Castro Theatre

A scene from Iraqi filmmaker Samir’s 3D documentary epic “Iraqi Odyssey 3D” (2014), Switzerland’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Tracing the emigrations of his Iraqi family for more than half a century, the expatriate director, who lives in Switzerland, creates a vital portrait of the impact of Iraq’s tragic history on one large middle class family that has been uprooted and scattered all over the world. 163 minutes. In Arabic, English, German with English subtitles. Screens: Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 1 PM

A scene from Iraqi filmmaker Samir’s 3D documentary epic “Iraqi Odyssey 3D” (2014), Switzerland’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Tracing the emigrations of his Iraqi family for more than half a century, the expatriate director, who lives in Switzerland, creates a vital portrait of the impact of Iraq’s tragic history on one large middle class family that has been uprooted and scattered all over the world. 163 minutes. In Arabic, English, German with English subtitles. Screens: Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 1 PM

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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January 13, 2016 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Lovers! Tonight is your night…. Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” (“Die Wand”) screens at 8:45 at the Smith Rafael…part of a week of screenings of foreign Oscar nominees

As the only human survivor after an unexplained global tragedy, German actress Marina Gedeck bonds tightly with her loyal dog in Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” a film that is true to Marlen Haushofer’s exceptional novel . Image: courtesy of Music Box Films

As the only human survivor after an unexplained global tragedy, German actress Martina Gedeck bonds tightly with her loyal dog in Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” a film that is true to Marlen Haushofer’s exceptional novel . Image: courtesy of Music Box Films

I wouldn’t be ARThound if I didn’t do a special shout-out for Lynx, the amazing hound that co-stars in  The Wall (Die Wand, 2012) which screens tonight (Wed) at 8:45 PM at the Smith Rafael (Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center)  as part of their week of exceptional screenings of foreign Oscar nominations from around the world…. I can’t say it enough… consistently awesome programming!

The Wall (Die Wand):  Austrian director Julian Roman Pölsler’s film is based on Marlen Haushofer’s 1962 dystopian hit novel of the same name (just re-printed in English). The film stars German actress Martina Gedeck from the brilliant 2006 Stassi thriller The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and tells the story of a completely ordinary middle-aged woman (Gedeck) who is vacationing with friends in a remote mountain hunting lodge.  Her friends go out to a pub and she stays back with the dog and when they don’t come back, she makes a very creepy discovery.  She is imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, behind which there seems to be no life.  She appears to be the sole remaining human on earth, along with the dog (a red hound that will steal your heart),a cow, a cat, and a kitten, with which she forms a tight-knit family.

The film rests entirely on Gedeck’s shoulders and she is riveting, delivering a very credible performance that will leave you shivering and running home to snuggle with your dog.  The odd beauty of this film is that this last survivor scenario may be your own romanticized idea of heaven, or hell (Who hasn’t said  “Fuck the world! I’m sick of people…give me just my dog!), but watching Gedeck use her time laboring hard, protecting her pack, and introspectively processing her present life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow. (Screens Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8:45 PM, Smith Rafael)

I first reviewed The Wall when it screened at last year’s Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors—a noteworthy jewel in the huge array of festivals.  This year, the 18th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, kicks off this evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with Georg Maas’ Two Lives (Zwei Leben, 2012), Germany’s official entry, short-listed for the best foreign language Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards.  Click here to read ARThound’s coverage of this year’s Berlin & Beyond.)  Two Lives also screens tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 PM at the Smith Rafael and filmmaker Maas will be in attendance for what will be a riveting Q&A.  So, in San Rafael, you’ve got the opportunity to see two great German-language films back-to-back as part of their foreign Oscar nominee programming and, in San Francisco, Berlin & Beyond offers 30 feature length German-language films and 7 shorts over the next week (including six North American premieres and two US premieres).

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January 15, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the best and newest in German Language Cinema, starts Wednesday, January 15, 2014, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre

Georg Maas’ “Two Lives” (Zwei Leben, 2012), Germany’s official entry into the 2014 Academy Awards, kicks off  the 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, January 15-21, 2014, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre and the Goethe-Institut.   Europe in 1990—the Berlin Wall has just crumbled.  Katrine is a Norwegian "war child," raised in East Germany, who has been living in Norway for the past 20 years.  She enjoys a happy life with her mother, her husband, daughter, and granddaughter. When a lawyer asks Katrine and her mother to testify in a trial against the Norwegian state on behalf of the war children, she resists.  A web of tightly-held secrets and deceit is unveiled.  This drama addresses an important but taboo topic in Norwegian history: the way Norwegian women who had relationships with German occupation soldiers were treated by their country after World War II, and what happened to them under the Stasi regime in the former East Germany. The film features the legendary Liv Ullmann in a rare performance.  Filmmaker Georg Maas will attend.

Georg Maas’ “Two Lives” (Zwei Leben, 2012), Germany’s official entry, short-listed for the best foreign language Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards, kicks off the 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, January 15-21, 2014, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre and the Goethe-Institut. Europe in 1990—the Berlin Wall has just crumbled and the Cold War has ended. Katrine (Juliane Koehler) has been living in Norway for the past 20 years but is is a Norwegian “war child.” Her father was a soldier in the German occupying troops during WWII and she was sent to and raised in totalitarian East Germany, only able to reunite with her Norwegian mother (Norwegian legend Liv Ullmann) long after WWII’s end. When a lawyer asks Katrine and her mother to testify in a trial against the Norwegian state on behalf of the war children who were relocated, she resists. A web of tightly-held secrets and deceit about Katrine’s true identity is unveiled. This drama addresses an important but taboo topic in Norwegian history: the way Norway, after World War II, treated Norwegian women who had relationships with German occupation soldiers and what happened to their children, many of whom were transported to what became Stasi-ruled East Germany. Adaptation of the novel “Eiszeten” by Hannelore Hippe. Filmmaker Georg Maas will attend.

For film lovers in the Bay Area, the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is an essential—it’s where one goes to see the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders.  The focus is Germany and German language 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 this relatively small scale festival a stand-out in the myriad of festivals that are cropping up everywhere.  The festival will mark its 18th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage and will screen 30 feature length films and 7 shorts, including six North American premieres and two US premieres.  Festival director Sophoan Sorn, at the helm for his fourth year now, has collaborated with Festival President Sabine Erlenwein to select films that showcase this year’s theme “Courage in Motion”—delivering cinematic stories that embrace overcoming life’s myriad of obstacles.  The festival kicks off Wednesday evening with Germany’s official entry into the 2014 Academy Awards, Two Lives (Zwei Leben, 2012) and an opening night party at Tank18, one of the City’s finest wine bars.  It closes (at the Castro venue) with the North American premiere of Nana Nuel’s Silent Summer (Stiller Sommer, 2013), with Nuel and renowned actor Hans-Jochen Wagner in attendance.   This year’s festival pays special tribute to legendary author, film producer, screenwriter and filmmaker, Peter Sehr, with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting.  Mr. Sehr, who had a knack for the political period drama, passed in May 2013 from cancer, but his wife and creative partner, director Marie Noëlle, will be present at the festival to receive the posthumous award and will appear in person at the screening of their final film, festival centerpiece Ludwig II (2012), at the Castro Theatre on January 17th, at 5:30 PM.  It all begins Wednesday, January 15, and runs Sunday, January 19, in San Francisco, at the historic Castro Theatre, with additional evening screenings on January 20-21 at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street).

The festival marks its 18th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage—Ali Saghri (producer, Breaking Horizons); Anne Thoma (director/writer, Miles & War); Aylin Tezel (director, Inhale (short film); actor, Breaking Horizons & BFF 2012 Opener Almanya); Christian Schwochow (director, West); Georg Maas (director/screenwriter, Two Lives, The Real World of Peter Gabriel); Hans-Jochen Wagner (actor, Silent Summer); Katja von Garnier (director, Windstorm); Marie Noëlle (director/screenwriter, Ludwig II); Nana Neul (director/screenwriter, Silent Summer); Udo Kramer (production designer, LOLA nominee for Measuring the World 3D); Marc Rothemund (director, The Girl with Nine Wigs; nominee, Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 2006 for Sophie Scholl – The Final Days); Walter Steffen (director/writer, Munich in India); Xavier Koller (director, The Black Brothers; winner, Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 1991 for Journey of Hope.  For more information and tickets, browse the festival’s official website and stay tuned to ARThound for coverage.

The lineup for the 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival:

Castro Theatre:

Wednesday, January 15
4:00 pm Sensational Seven – Short Films 2014
7:00 pm Opening Night Film: Two Lives
9:30 pm Opening Night Party at Tank18

Thursday, January 16
1:00 pm Windstorm
4:00 pm The Shine of Day
6:30 pm Hanna’s Journey
9:00 pm Gold

Friday, January 17
11:30 am Your Beauty Is Worth Nothing
3:00 pm Lullaby Ride
5:30 pm Centerpiece: Ludwig II
9:15 pm Shores of Hope

Saturday, January 18
11:15 am Sound of Heimat – Germany Sings
1:45 pm The Girl With Nine Wings
4:30 pm Miles & War
7:00 pm West
9:45 pm Late Show: Measuring the World (3D)

Sunday, January 19
11:30 am Munich In India
2:00 pm The Black Brothers
4:30 pm Breaking Horizons and Inhale
8:00 pm Castro Closing Night Film: Silent Summer

GOETHE-INSTITUT AUDITORIUM

Monday, January 20
6:00 pm More Than Honey
8:30 pm Free Fall

Tuesday, January 21
6:00 pm Redemption Impossible
8:30 pm Shifting The Blame

January 12, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival showcases the best new films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, starts next Thursday, September 27, 2012

Christian’s Petzold’s “Barbara,” opens the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival at the historic Castro Theatre, September 27-Ocotber 4, 2012. Set in East Germany in 1980, and starring Nina Hoss, the film is the German contender for this year’s Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film. Image courtesy: Hans Fromm.

For film lovers in the Bay Area, the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is an essential—it’s where one goes to see the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders.  The focus is Germany and German language 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 this relatively small scale festival such a stand-out in the myriad of festivals that are cropping up everywhere.  The festival will mark its 17th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage and will screen 26 feature length films and 6 shorts, including four North American premieres and three US premieres. It will pay special tribute to legendary stage and screen star Mario Adorf with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting.  Mr. Adorf will be present at the festival to receive the award and will appear in person for two films of his four-film tribute.  It all begins next Thursday, September 27, and runs through October 4, 2012, in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, with additional screenings at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street).

The festival will mark its 17th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage.  It will pay special tribute to legendary stage and screen star Mario Adorf with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting.  Mr. Adorf will be present at the festival to receive the award and will appear in person for two films of his four-film tribute. Also attending are Alina Levshin, the German Ukranian star of David Wendt’s Combat Girls (Kriegerin) which screens Wednesday October 3 and won Best Film (Bronze), Best Screenplay and Best Actress in the 2012 German Film Awards, and sensational directors Veit Helmer and Anno Saul and many more.  Stay tuned to ARThound for coverage.

Festival Highlights:

Opening Night: On Thursday, September 27th, the festival’s Opening Night screens Berlin school writer/director Christian Petzold’s Barbara, winner of both the 2012 Berlinale Silver Bear for Best Director and the 2012 German Film Award’s Best Film.  This masterful period film is set in the very restrictive GDR in the 1980’s and stars Nina Hoss in a brilliantly nuanced performance as an accomplished doctor in East Berlin’s largest clinic who has been transferred to a rural medical clinic following her application for an exit visa to the West where she hoped to join her lover Jörg (Mark Waschke).  She is forced to choose between personal freedom and saving the lives of others and her growing affection for André (Ronald Zehrfeld), her new supervisor.  Barbara is Germany’s entry to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Film category.

Director Christain Petzold is Germany’s most acclaimed director (Yella (2007), Jerichow (2008), Dreileben (2001) a key figure in the Berlin School and he’s from the former GDR, meaning he nails the physical details and psychological ambiance with authenticity.  His camerawork is exceptional too in enforcing the drama—the camera is held just below eyelevel throughout most of the film and the scenes meld into one another.  His collaboration with Hoss began in 2003 with Something To Remind Me; two years later she appeared in his Wolfsburg, for which she won the Adolf Grimme Award; in 2007, she starred in his Yella, winning the Silver Bear for Best Actress in 2007 and the German Film Award in 2008.  In Barbara, Petzold gives her a challenging role he created especially for her, while capturing her regal and haunting beauty against a backdrop that is austere but vividly humanized by his own history. You’ll probably be able to see Barbara screening elsewhere in the Bay Area several months later but nothing beats seeing a film early in a setting like the Castro.

Following the screening, the Opening Night party begins 9:15 PM on Castro’s beloved Mezzanine, where film fans are invited to celebrate the start of another great year with delicious German beer and wine and delectable amuse-bouche.

Legendary German actor Mario Adorf (left) stars in “The Rhino and the Dragonfly,” which has its world premiere at the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. Adorf will receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Acting on Friday, September 28, 2012. Image: NFP/COIN Film.

Mario Adorf Tribute:  New German Cinema is unthinkable without the legendary German actor Mario Adorf.  In addition to The Tin Drum (1978) and Lola (1981), Adorf was integral to Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970), Volker Schlöndorff’s The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975), Reinhard Hauff’s The Main Character (1977), and the omnibus movie Germany in Autumn (1978).  Adorf has played more than 200 roles in cinema and television and the tally of directors he has worked with reads like a hit list of world cinema: Sam Peckinpah, Franco Rossi, Wolfgang Staudte, Edgar Reitz, Billy Wilder, Helmut Dietl, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Claude Chabrol and Sergio Corbucci and Volker Schlöndorff.

The festival will honor Adorf with a lifetime achievement award in acting at the international and North American premiere screening of his most recent film The Rhino and the Dragonfly (2012) directed by Loal Randl, on Friday, September 28th at 6:15PM.  It will screen three more of his classics—the recently released director’s cut of The Tin Drum (Saturday Sept 29th, 8:45PM), Ship of the Dead (Friday, Sept 28th, 4:30PM) and Lola (Tuesday, Oct 2nd, 6:00PM).  Mr. Adorf participate in a Q&A following the special screening of The Tin Drum.  Berlin & Beyond’s Lifetime Achievement Award was last given to Wim Wenders in 2009.  This is the first time Mr. Adorf has been honored at a major US Festival.

The Late Show:  Alexander Sokurov’s Faust, winner of the prestigious Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Film Festival screens Friday at 9 PM.  The Russian director is most known for his historical feature film, Russian Ark (2002), which made a big splash at 2002 Cannes Film Fesitval and was filmed entirely in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum and was a single 96-minute continuous unedited shot.

Alexander’s Sokurov’s “Faust” screens Friday, September 28, 2012, at the 17th Berlin and Beyond Film Festival. The psychologically jolting film won the prestigious Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Film Festival and retells Goethe’s classic fable with some hellish twists. Image: courtesy Films Boutique

Faust is the fourth and final film in his mesmerizing tetralogy of films about the evil that is borne out of too much power and it follows Moloch (1999) about Hitler, Taurus (2001) about Lenin, and The Sun (2004) about Emperor Hirohito.  The psychologically jolting Faust stars the Austrian Johannes Zeiler as Faust and Russian Anton Adasinskiy as an utterly creepy and misshapen pawnbroker/Mephistopheles and retells Goethe’s classic fable with some hellish twists that will have you experiencing disturbing flashbacks for days.  The obsessive and impoverished Dr. Faust hungers for knowledge about the human soul and dissects human corpses in a futile attempt to its locus.  When he falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Margarete (Isolda Dychauk), he grows obsessed and cuts a deal with the moneylender, signing over his soul to possess her.  Sokurov’s distinctive visual mark is his sepia-bathed cinematography and stunning lighting and it’s present in spades here.  What he’s chosen to emphasize though isn’t pretty—the film opens with a full on shot of a corpse’s penis and heaps of entrails and, from there, takes us straight into the highly unsanitary 16th century.  But it is Faust’s extreme loneliness and his desire for connection that grips us and we accompany him on this sick hallucinatory eternal journey crafted so impeccably by Sokurov.  The existential film is a dark meditation on many things but Sokurov takes a few jabs at Germany.  If you’re going to see it, take someone along to process it with afterwards…it will help.

Centerpiece Screening:  The Festival’s Centerpiece screening, Baikonur (2011), Veit Helmer’s newest comedy, is about a young Kazakh man obsessed with outer space and with a beautiful French space traveler whose capsule crash lands in a field in Khazakstan near his yurt.  The rest unfolds like a fairy tale in the countryside—he carries the unconscious beauty to his yurt and wakens her with a kiss but she has amnesia and isn’t herself when she agrees to marry him.  Helmer will appear at the festival for a Q&A about the largely Kazakh production, which proceeds in Russian and English. (Screens Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 6:15 PM)

Marten Persiel’s “This Ain’t California” is the closing film of the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. The documentary looks at the underground skater culture in East Germany in the 1980’s. Director Persiel and Producer Ronald Vietz will attend the screening, which is also the film’s California premiere. Image courtesy: Harald Schmitt.

Closing Night Film:  Marten Persiel’s This Ain’t California (2012) was a big success at the 2012 Berlinale where it won the “Dialogue in Perspective” award.  The film takes place in the 1980s, the last years of the GDR and tells the hair-raising story of one of the first skateboarding crews behind the Berlin Wall.  Drawing from Marten Persiel’s background as a commercial director, this first feature combines classic skate footage, kitschy commercials and first-person interviews to insightfully draw the audience into the maelstrom of excitement and controversy surrounding the sport’s early years in East Germany.  In Kate Gellene’s interview with Persiel on May 29, 2012, which appears in Rooftop Films (click here), Persiel says, “I started skating 29 years ago as a little kid in western Germany and never really stopped. I am super grateful for the friends I made in all those years and for the stuff I experienced skateboarding. It’s been a life vest and a guide through life… In the film, there is a sense that stupidly goofing around on the streets can shape whole biographies. It’s how you look at your city, the buildings around you, the streets. It’s how much you allow yourself to say ‘this is my world too, I want to play here’. To think like that could basically get you arrested in a totalitarian and militarized system like the GDR. … oh wait.. it can get you arrested in NY too! Hm.”

Closing Night party: After the screening, the closing night bash takes place at 9:30 pm on the Castro Mezzanine, celebrating the conclusion of another year of innovative programming with an assortment of local tastes and German drinks in the company of director Persiel, producer Ronald Vietz and other special guests in attendance.

ARThound’s Picks:

As the only human survivor after an unexplained global tragedy, German actress Marina Gedeck bonds tightly with her loyal dog in Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” a film that is true to Marlen Haushofer’s exceptional novel. Image: courtesy of Music Box Films

The Wall (Die Wand):  Austrian director Julian Roman Pölsler’s film is based on Marlen Haushofer’s 1962 dystopian hit novel of the same name (about to be re-printed in English later this year).  The film stars German actress Martina Gedeck from the brilliant 2006 Stassi thriller The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and tells the story of a completely ordinary middle-aged woman (Gedeck) who is vacationing with friends in a remote mountain hunting lodge.  Her friends go out to a pub and she stays back with the dog and when they don’t come back, she makes a very creepy discovery.  She is imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, behind which there seems to be no life.  She appears to be the sole remaining human on earth, along with the dog (a red hound that will steal your heart), a cat, some kittens, and a cow, with which she forms a tight-knit family.

The film rests entirely on Gedeck’s shoulders and she is riveting, delivering a very credible performance that will leave you shivering and running home to snuggle with your dog.  The odd beauty of this film is that this last survivor scenario may be your own romanticized idea of heaven, or hell (Who hasn’t said “Fuck the world! I’m sick of people…give me just my dog!), but watching Gedeck use her time laboring hard, protecting her pack, and introspectively processing her life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow. (Screens Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 4 PM, Castro Theatre)

Max Hubacher (left) stars in Swiss director Markus Imboden’s “Foster Boy” (“Der Verdingbub”), which has its US premiere at the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. Image courtesy: Global Screen.

Foster Boy: Markus Imboden’s Foster Boy (Der Verdingbub), the most successful Swiss film of the last 5 years, has its US premiere at the festival. The film is set in the 1950’s and revisits a dark and nearly forgotten period in the Switzerland’s recent history, when the government occasionally intervened to take children from parents who were deemed unfit, depriving them of custody, and sending their children to work, mainly on farms, a practice that lasted from the early 1800s until the 1960s. The story is focused on a young orphan, Max (Max Hubacher), who was sold to the Bösiger family of poor farmers and on another “Verdingbub,” (contract child) in that family, Berteli, a girl who was taken from her impoverished widowed mother. The gripping story follows the miserable life of physical, emotional and sexual abuse that the children underwent in a household that was supposed to provide foster parenting but instead used them as slave labor.

Hubacher, Switzerland’s 2012 Shotting Star award winner, gives a brilliant and nuanced performance as the emotionally and physically brutalized Max, whose only solace is his accordion and his dream of escaping to Argentina.  Through its story, the film directly exposes and challenges a grave injustice.  It also highlights the important role that an observant and caring outsider can play in reporting abuse IF the authorities to whom the complaint is made are not themselves complicit.  Stay tuned to ARThound for a full review. (Screens: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 4 PM, Castro Theatre)

Festival Details:  The 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is September 27-October 4, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (at market Street) in San Francisco.  Parking can be difficult.  Allow AMPLE time to find parking if arriving by car.  Some programming is at the Goethe-Institut SF Auditorium (530 Bush Street (at Grant).  Tickets:  Price varies per program ($12 for most Castro Theatre screenings and $10 for most Goethe-Institut screenings).  Advance tickets for all shows are available at Brown Paper Tickets.  Online ticket sales end 10:00 pm prior to the day of show for each film.  For information on purchasing advance tickets and day of show tickets in person at the Goethe-Institut or at the Castro Theatre, click here.

September 22, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment