Impressions are Made of This By Elfriede Schmitt

in 58th Berlinale

by Elfriede Schmitt

After the festival is before the festival or what stays in mind, what will one forget quickly?

My most intensive impressions of the 58th Berlinale are images, talks and thoughts of children and young people and their future. In the opening ceremony, festival director Dieter Kosslick said “Hello” to his four year old son Fridolin, whom he knew would sit in front of the television at home watching the opening ceremony. One can judge Kosslick’s gesture as one of someone who has lost it. Another way of looking upon his gesture is that he is fully aware that he is the director of one of the biggest film festivals on earth, but even so, and more importantly, he never forgets his family and his son.

The question of family and children are one focus of Natalie Assouline in her film Shahida — Brides of Allah. She questions young Palestinian women who are in prison in Jerusalem for planning or assisting suicide bombers. Why would a young woman who is pregnant want to blow herself up, does she not see a future for herself and her baby? One answer is that not only doesn’t she see a future for herself and her baby, but also this is the only way for her to become ‘famous’, or better to become a star in the male dominated Muslim society as a suicide bomber. Only then, there is a future even if this means that one will be dead. One will not only become a martyr, only then she becomes one of the brides of Allah.

Natalie Assouline said that meanwhile posters of suicide bombers are put up on the walls. In Gaza some of the people who successfully blew themselves up, have become as famous as pop stars. In a discussion she said that she has no hope that this will end soon as there are no political changes on the way. The Palestinians are living under terrible conditions and as long as politicians do not start to change these conditions this war and the suicide bombing will go on.

War and its traumatic memories also are the topic of the feature debut Night Before Eyes (Nacht vor Augen) by German director Brigitte Bertele. German soldier David returns to his home town from Afghanistan where he took part in a so called ‘peace-deployment’. He is haunted by his memories and nobody listens to him. Brigitte Bertele’s film is right on the spot as the question whether the German army should get much more involved in Afghanistan is a big discussion at the moment in Germany.

In different ways the conditions of living and the question of the future comes up in many of the films at Berlinale. In Son of a Lion,by German-born director Benjamin Gilmore (who lives in Sydney), eleven years old Niaz wants to go to school instead of working in his father’s gun shop. The film was filmed on location in the small Pakistan city of Darra Adam Khel. You hear and see shooting all the time as the gun-makers test the gun outside their shops, somewhat bizarre scenery. The director worked for more than three years on his debut film. He developed the screenplay together with his non-professional actors, all of them are members of the Pashtun people. This resulted in authentic dialogues and scenes that allow a rare glimpse into this region of the world.

Another important focus of films at this year’s festival was the examination of role models. In Ain’t Scared (Regarde-moi) director Audrey Estrougo shows that on one side there are close relationships within the boy’s clique and the girl’s clique in housing projects in the suburbs. But there is no such attitude as young people versus old people or kids versus parents, but more important is the strict division of genders. The audience deciphers that when Audrey Estrougo changes to narrate the story from the perspective of her female characters. It’s a perspective that normally is not chosen. With Gaumont the film has a strong co-producer, so it may hopefully get a broad theatrical release in Germany.

At the closing party of the Forum section, Forum director Christoph Terhechte said that at this party he always feels very sad as he knows that the festival is nearly over now. I can understand his feelings as the festival stirs up an enormous public awareness for political questions as well combining serenity as well as the opportunity of meeting with many people from different spots in the world, one feels like a big growing family. So somehow it starts and ends with family feelings. The only way to cope with this sadness or feeling of loss is the preparation of next year’s festival, so let it be!