My favorite movies of the Berlinale – over 20 films in one post

Feeling somewhat depressive and lost in space, but also finally being able to get some sleep after 10 days of this 60th Berlinale, I would like to bring some order into the over 20 movies I have seen during the last two weeks. I’ll mention all of them here!

my eyes are 16:9

my eyes are 16:9

Generally, I really liked all of this year’s movies. There was none that I would have happily left out, or that I regretted. At the contrary! But let me highlight some of my favourites, totally in disregard of the section. By the way, I saw more competition movies than in other years, but maybe simply due to the fact that I saw a lot of movies, or that there are no other movies being shown at 9 am. Well, maybe I should have simply slept until the next function a little later in the day.

The top three (and more)

Here are my top three: The movies that I probably liked best were

  • the Japanese Sawako Decides (Kawa no soko kara konnichi wa, by Ishii Yuya), hilarious in mixing comedy, drama, and even a musical scene.
  • The hermetic Bolivian family and society study Southern District (Zona Sur, by Juan Carlos Valdivia), which showed the changing society in Bolivia through the little changes in a once rich upper class family.
  • Then I’d add the beautiful animation film The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet, about an old-fashioned magician who is on his way down professionally, when he meets a little girl who still believes in his magic. It reminded me very much of the melancholy and beautifulness of Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day.

But of course I can not miss  mentioning the epic Taiwanese underground thriller Monga by Niu Chen-Zer Doze, the Japanese Lee Harvey Oswald variation Golden Slumber (Goruden Sarumba, by Yoshihiro Nakumara), and the latest masterpiece of Yoji Yamada, About her brother (Otouto), portraying once again, an outsider and looser in a society that looks at professional and personal success, with a job, a wife, children and all that. Unfortunately, I did not make it for his movie in the forum – Kyoto Story. About her Brother was in a way also a variation of the themes of family unity, taking decisions and dealing with death, that made the Danish competition entry A Family (En Familie, by Pernille Fischer Christensen) a very personal, and very strong movie on being faced by the decisions life confronts us with.

shahada in snowThe German production Shahada, by Burhan Qurbani, has been criticised a lot in the German media, but I really liked for its somehow unbound energy and the will to tell a story, I miss in so many other productions. Its characters, mostly Muslim Germans, feel new and fresh, and maybe not always as round as they could be. But it is important that they finally find their place as main characters in the stories of German cinema.

My maybe favourite Q&A statement was by the lead actor Rodrigo Vélez of the Colombian movie Crab Trab (El vuelco del cangrejo, by Oscar Ruíz Navia), who said that the movie had to adjust its “movie” time to the “real” time of the village and its people it was playing in. A new and intense experience. German movie Im Schatten (In the Shadows, by Thomas Arslan) captures a similar necessity with its direct and focussed images, showing what needs to be shown, and leaving everything else aside. Driving, driving, and slowly building up the plot, that disintegrates without any reason, and without being able to do anything about it.

Failed men we saw a lot

Eastern Europe seems to be full of failed men. Romanian competition entry If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluier, by Florin Serban), shows how the imprisoned 19-year old Silviu tries to make sure his brother is still there once he gets out, and not taken by his mother to Italy. Afraid of being alone, afraid of not knowing what to do, without a task, confronted with society.

Breaking out of the environment you’re in is difficult when you’re in the drug business. Eastern Drift (Indigène d’Eurasie by Sharunas Bartas) mixes Vilnius, Moscow, Poland and Paris, dark and hopeless streets and clubs and rooms populated by futureless people that have nothing to say, nor to each other, nor to the world. Where Igor Voloshin dived into the Goth-Trash scene in 2006′s Nirwana, he goes back to his own live entitling his latest production I am (Ya), depositing the audience right into the lostness of a change of society in Glasnost Russia and with the freedoms of drugs of the early 90s, creating the need to create a new, your own religion.

A Czech movie, Kawasaki’s Rose (Kawasakiho ruze, by Jan Hrebejk), looks at the construction and de-construction of ideals, in an imperfect world.  A great reflection of dealing with a past in which everyone had its share on what society was. The only thing I didn’t understand is why on earth the daughter of the main character had to had a unique disease, and her husband had to play around with Buddhist philosophy to explain why he did cheat on her. Another failed man we see in On the Path (Na Putu, by Jasmila Zbanic) where a husband tries to find his way, or rather looses it, when radicalising his beliefs.

The Korean movies Our Fantastic 21st Century (Neo-wa na-eui i-shib-il-seki, by Ryu Hyung-ki) and I’m in Trouble (Na-neun gon-kyeong-e cheo-haet-da!, by So Sang-min) were nice stories, but did not compete with Park Chan-Woks Sympathy series that grabs you and rattles your bones. With a final twist the Japanese shared flat thriller Parade, by Isao Yukisada, asks who is normal of these four young Japanese who share a flat – and a monster – and maybe it is simply the gay callboy, as he states himself. A Somewhat Gentle Man (En ganske snill mann, by Hans Petter Moland) was a simple black comedy, the perfect movie for a mid-way Berlinale late night show.

The Documentaries

The Oath by Laura Poitras really surprised me as provoking and shifting thoughts through the unusual, unique and human perspective the story of Al Qaeda was told. Also, the other documentary I saw, Sona, the other myself (Sona, mo hitori no watashi, by Yang Yonghi), the story of little Sona growing up in North Korea, surprised through an unusual, very personal perspective that allowed to get a glimpse of North Korean society. Small details were hidden in images and the daily live of people, such as the songs sung by little Sona, that were always about the Great Leader Kim Yong-Il.

And some shorter movies

The Mexican recollection of short movies on the occasion of centenary of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 Revolución, has some very strong little movies, such as La Tienda de Raya, by Mariano Chenillo and Lindo y Querido by Patricia Riggen, and some weaker ones. It struggled with getting all contributions under one banner and limited itself of basically showing any kind of revolutionary action.

As part of the Perspective Deutsches Kino I saw the amazing Glebs Film by Christian Hornung, portraying a hairdresser who tells his clients the story of a film he would like to see in the movies and that he has invented – every hair-cut a new scene, a new aspect of the story. The best though is the hairdresser himself who would not let go of the microphone after the screening.

Talking about microphones, a new technology that really surprised me were the films done with a RED ONE camera, such as the Ugandan film Imani, by Caroline Kamya. Really amazing quality, especially with regards to contrast.

A lot of movies. And so many I did not see and had to add to my ever-growing list of unseen movies.

I hope you get hold of the one or other movie that I mentioned here in this post. And let me know what you think!


Discovering Extra Life

While thinking what to write for the little post on this year’s Berlinale, and share with you my favourites of the the more than 20 movies I saw, I came across this crazy music video of Extra Life’s Head Shrinker on Stereogum. The video tries a little bit too hard to be weird, but the music is great. I very much love the sax solo! And the cool guitars.  It’s the first time I hear about these Brooklyn based guys.

Extra Life – Headshrinker from LOAF:TV on Vimeo.

And I hope I get my Berlinale post to you soon!

berlin: sinfonie der grosstadt

Berlin Sinfonie Poster

A grey day in Berlin. One of the manies in March. After sleeping long but without really wanting to go outside I read the programme of the Arsenal and found this little jewel of a silent movie that I have been wanting to see for a long time. Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt is a film by German experimental film director Walter Ruttmann, who employed a range of new visual and editing techniques to portray one day of Berlin. The “movie-track” to Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz in a way.

The film transfers you back in time into a city that does not exist like this anymore, the scene as the train enters the then imposing Anhalter Bahnhof might stand symbolically. Now, people play football on the fields where the rails used to be. Only a piece of wall remains to remind.

But more impressive than the portray of the lively, crowded and vibrating life of the modern Berlin of the 20′s, is the atmosphere and freshness of the film. The rhythm of the images suck you in and make you live the day yourself, get you working, have lunch, cross the street when there is a little space, and dance the nights in Berlin.

Modern times were the times of greasy machine turning and producing. And the metros passing and stopping spitting out people. Machines and traffic made the world. But also entertainment: I loved the hommage to Charlie Chaplin, whose shoes can be seen shortly on the movie screen. Chaplin took up the theme in his movie Modern Times in 1936.

But Ruttmann also showed the other side of the pulsating Berlin, the poor, the beggars, the homeless kids on the streets.

After this wonderful play of light and darkness, of images composed to be felt, I left the cinema to the rainy streets of the Leipziger Platz, surrounded by skyscrapers (built as in Berlin Babylon, 2001). Constructing my own movie of my Berlin.

You can watch the movie here.

Morning in Berlin, 2008

Morning in Berlin, 2008

Adieu Mères

There are few movie theatres in Rabat. The Institute Française shows movies in their little theatre on Saturday’s and Sunday’s at 6:30pm. But then there’s the theatre 7ème Art, just in the centre of the city. A quite modern building with a Bauhausian name sign above the entrance, at one side of a plaza next to the city centre’s main avenue Mohamed V.

Adieu Mères

Since I arrived two weeks ago, they have been showing the same movie, Adieu mères (Goodbye Mothers) by Mohamed Ismail, his fourth film. If you have a look at the poster, you might not necessarily feel very attracted to go see it. But entrance is 15 Dirham (1 Euro 50), it’s part of Moroccan culture, and it deals with a topic, Jewish emigration in the 60′s, that is being discussed recently in Morocco and was on the cover of one of the main weekly magazines, TelQuel, that titled last week: The Jew in Us (story in French). So tonight was the night. Function was on at 9pm, as every night. I went with a friend and we got our ticket from the ticket counter, right next to the entrance that leads directly into the one big hall, with the hallway in the middle (where usually the best seats are). Comfortable, red, slightly run-down and squeaking seats. But it gives you this feeling of a movie theatre. Not a multiplex, but really a place to appreciate a film. Not many were there to appreciate tonight’s function though. It started of with a Moroccan short movie, called Liberé Provisoire that although with some parts in Arabic, had a nice little plot of a man who leaves prison, picks up the money he had hidden, and looses it when he goes into a bar following a woman making him eyes… and a surprising ending.

Adieu Mères is telling the story of a Jewish community in Morocco, filmed on the background of Jewish emigration to Israel in the 60s, where a thousand year long history of Jewish population exists. Today only about 2,000 remain, while in 1950 there were nearly 250,000 on 10 million Moroccans. The story turns around the impossible love between a young Jewish girl and the Muslim boy, and a father, who feels he has to leave family and his best friend behind for a better living.

The film is tragic, very tragic and touches on the deepest feelings of human nature, home (what we call in German “Heimat”), friendship, love, sorrow, and family. It is different in a sense that it doesn’t use the acting, cutting and story telling in a way we are used, and the score is somewhere between Once upon a time and Titanic, but the feelings can be understood anywhere. So I’ll be back for more, whenever the programme may change.

By the way, the movie is nominated for best foreign movie for next year’s Oscars celebration and talking about Hollywood, for Hollywood movies go to the Medina, where the latest can be found for just 10 Dirham (about 1 Euro). One might think sometimes even before they are out in the USA.