German Films

in 53rd Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival

by Katharina Dockhorn

59 films German films were shown during the Berlin Film Festival. A new record. Never before had there been so many German productions. It is obvious that Dieter Kossllick was able to encourage German filmmakers to come to Berlin.

The capital and its surroundings seems to be now the most interesting region to shoot in. The trio in the competition deals with their past and the problems of present day Berlin and Brandenburg. Wolfgang Becker`s comedy “Good Bye Lenin” shows a young boy conservating the G.D.R. for his mother who fell into a coma before the fall of the wall and regains consciousness eight months later. The international press recognized well the balance of bitter and sweet scenes in the film produced by the Berlin based company X-Filme Creative Pool. “Good Bye Lenin“ was awarded the Blue Angel for the Best European Film in Competition.

The FIPRESCI Prize was given to Hans-Christian Schmid for “Distant Lights”. The “ensemble film” links five different stories from both sides of the Oder-Borderline between Germany and Poland. Ukraine refugees, a Polish taxidriver and two young female interpreters, German cigarette smugglers, a shopkeeper on the brink of ruin and a young architect facing his first big project – they are all fighting for a life of dignity.

Last but not least in competition was “Fear” by Oskar Roehler, a very personal story also written by the filmmaker. He tells the story of a conflict-filled love affair, about feelings of guilt und hopelessness and mainly about the difficilties to stay in love and to trust each other.

Eight German films were shown in the Panorama section which can not all be reviewed here. “Wolfsburg“ by Christian Petzold was awarded a FIPRESCI prize. The film was made for television, but worked also on the big screen. Petzold varies his favorite subject – guilt and punishment – by telling the story of the relationship of a hit-and-run driver who killed a little boy causing the mother of the child to look for the murderer.

“Gallant Girls” made by Barbara Teufel is a sensible portrait of seven independent and anarchist women living in an apartment in Berlin-Kreuzberg in the late 1980s. For the director it was also a trip into her own past. She brings alive the spirit of the time by mixing interviews with her former girlfriends, archive footage and dramatised scenes.

A surprise was “Devot” by Igor Zaritzky, the story of young couple connected by a one-night-stand. The young director made his feature-film-debut with this extraordinary thriller full of dramatic turns. Andreas Dresen proves his great ability to observe people in the documentary “Herr Wichman von der CDU”. During the election-campaign of the summer 2002 he followed the 25- year-old candidate of the Christian Democrats in a sparcely populated and nearly forgotten region in northwest Germany.

Nine German films were presented in the programme of the Forum. Romuald Kamarkar`s “196 BPM” documents three moments of the 2002 Berlin Love Parade which were each shot in single takes and shown without dialogue or commentary. Barbara and Winfried Junge`s “Actually I wanted to be a Forester – Bernd from Golzow” is the 18th part in this documentation of a school class in Golzow near the Polish border and the eighth long-term portrait of one of the children. The audience was impressed by the sensibility of the filmmakers to show the biography of a man whose children were grown up und who started a new life in Norway some years ago.

In the footsteps of Barbara and Winfried Junge was Ulrich Gaulke and Jeanette Eggert’s “Marry me” which follows the relationship between Gladis, one of the protagonists of their former documentary “Havanna mi amor”, and Erik from Hamburg over a period of two years. The film shows the difficulties of Gladis to deal with the daily life in Germany and not to give up her independence and as well Erik`s struggle for his love and small family.

The great quality of German documentaries was also obvious in the Perspektiven Deutsches Kino. “Greetings from Dachau” is a walk trough the town connected worldwide with the name of a concentration camp. The director grew up in Dachau and observes the town and its inhabitants by searching for a present day „normality“. Martina Döcker`s “Bernau is on Sea” has a similar subject. Her film is a disturbing and strongly discussed portrait of a judge working in a little town near Berlin and one of his radical right-wing convicts who wants to escape from the scene.

Violence against coloured people and football, love and betrayal, hope and hopelessness in a ficticious small town in Eastern Germany – this is Norbert Baumgarte`s feature film debut “Liberated Zone”. The ensemble film picked up well the feeling of people waiting for flowering landscapes promised by the former German chancellor. The second “ensemble film” of the Perspektiven was Stephan Krohme`s “They Got Knut”, a profound satirical statement on left-wing political activism and commune hedonism in the 1980s.

Finally, the Perspektiven took a short look at short movies made by German Film Schools during the last years. “Kiki and Tiger” by Alain Gsponer is the story of the impossible friendship of an Albanian and a Serb living in Germany and leads to the roots of hate. Robin von Hardenber`s “The Shadow” tells a human and warm story of a young family divided during the Vietnam-War.

Katharina Dockhorn