Discrimination and Equality

in 38th FilmFest Munich

by Marco Lombardi

A festival program is something you can’t fully control: aside from the capacity of its director to grab the best works available, and aside from the need to select films that are artistically close to the mission of the festival itself, much depends on randomness as many eligible films are not ready in time, or have some distribution hitches. Consequently, if a festival program includes films dealing with a specific theme, it means that it represents something central within society.

All films selected for the New German Cinema in FilmFest München 2021 were about discrimination, proving that all our ongoing talks about the equality of human beings are not enough. In Germany, as in every part of the planet.

The film we awarded for the FIPRESCI, Monday um Zehn (2021) by Mareille Klein, is about the fake interest that the bourgeois world addresses to the lives of people from other European countries, as this ostensible interest is just a tool to stress differences, distances, and hierarchies.

The program included two more films about some contemporary forms of racism: The shadow hour (Schattenstunde, 2020) by Benjamin Martins is a wonderfully theatrical story about the secular sacredness of family institution: the film tells of a mother, a father, and a daughter who decide to commit suicide, which is to them the only way to stop the Nazis to separate their family. Precious Ivie (Ivie wie Ivie, 2021) by Sarah Blasskiewitz is tougher than Monday um Zehn as it reveals the marginalization against black people born in Germany behind an apparent form of solidarity dressed up as love.

Two more films are about historical and ideological discrimination taking place during the East German dictatorship. The last execution (Nahschuss, 2021) by Franziska Stünkel is based on the true story of Werner Teske, a young man working as a spy for the Foreign Office, who was the last person condemned to death by the regime because of his insubordination towards the lies and violence of his government. Dear Thomas (Lieber Thomas, 2020) by Andreas Kleinert is the biography of Thomas Brasch, a tormented artist that became a dissident and left East Berlin to get to the West, where he lived and worked until 2001.

Ça va sans dire that nowadays, the theme of sexual discrimination is at its peak. TransI got life (2021) by Imogen Kimmel and Doris Metz is a documentary that, without taking sides, shows the medical treatments and reasons why people decide to change sex and their fight against social intolerance. The Strong Sex (Das Starke Geschlecht, 2020) by Jonas Rothlaender is another documentary that shows how men must pretend to be the indestructible people they’re not, as presenting themselves as vulnerable persons would signify rejection from a society that still describes them as unbreakable machos.

Conformity is another cause of social isolation. The Girl with the Golden Hand (Das Mädchen mit den Goldenen Händen, 2021) by Katharina Marie Schubert is about a woman who has to fight against old friends who don’t care about the destruction of social and political memories. The protagonist of Heiko’s World (Heiko’s Welt, 2021) by Dominik Galizia is a “not so cool” guy, still living with his mother, that people get rid of and cheat. (2020) by Dietrich Brüggemann is about a young family that dares to show difficulties in their relationship and parenthood into a society in which people are terrified to seem “human”. As a consequence of social conformity, people who risk revealing their feelings find themselves marginalized for their perceived weakness. This is the recurrent theme of Viva Forever (Viva Forever – About the Birds and the Bees, 2021) by Sinje Köhler as well, which relates the story of a group of girls who have been friends for a long time, and in Commitment Phobia (Generation Beziehungsunfähig, 2021) by Helena Hufnagel, about two people in love with each other who keep on behaving as they were teenagers. One also finds the theme of revealed weakness in My Son (Mein Sohn, 2019) by Lena Stahl between a mother and her son who never dared to speak about themselves and taking their masks off.

Finally, childhood trauma can lead a person to self-exclusion, led by an alibi of purity that hides the fear to face his past such as in A pure place (2019) by Nikias Chryssos.

Marco Lombardi 
Edited by Anne-Christine Loranger