Friday, January 1, 2016

In the Thick of the Extractivist Wars

35 years ago, Margaret Thatcher's election in the UK and Ronald Reagan's in the US started a campaign of domination on the part of an extremely small world-wide elite that has become accustomed to acting with complete impunity and pure self-interest.  In terms of distribution of wealth, there has been a huge backward slide in the intervening years.  At the same time, the human population explosion has been accompanied by massive exploitation of the earth's resources, much of them controlled by this same elite, to the point of seriously threatening the earth's carrying capacity. 

Individuals have been anesthetized by consumerism (George Bush asking Americans to shop more after the September 11th attacks), alienated by design (and devices; see Adam Curtis' excellent series, Century of the Self).  Societies have lost their centers and poverty and desperation abound, even in the richest countries of the world.  In the developed world, ours is the first generation to fare worse economically than our parents.  In the developing world, it is entirely unclear that the nascent middle classes are even remotely sustainable (a particularly poignant example is the choking air pollution in Beijing).

I think we have a hard time imagining what it must be like to be in the epicenter of the resource wars, the Middle East, former cradle of civilization.  It's not just the indiscriminate bombing (e.g., the U.S. feeling within its rights to bomb a Doctors without Borders hospital last November), but the drones, described as so stealthy that their victims may not even know they are there.  This must feel like an invisible predator present at all times and I can barely imagine what it must be like to live under this threat (see Jeremy Scahill's excellent work).  When I do try, my heart races and my palms start to sweat.  I don't want anyone to ever have to live under this threat of instantaneous extra-judicial execution.  Yet the government of the country where I was born carries this out almost daily.

Jared Diamond wrote the important book Collapse about 10 years ago, to illustrate where we earthlings are headed.  Just as on Easter Island or with the Incas, let's be cognizant that it will be the elite, off in their hilltop palaces with massive security forces and bunkers full of food and water, that will be the last to go. The very elite that is responsible for putting the rest of us in the position we are in now (wondering how many refugees Germany is truly inclined to shelter; wondering if/when Berlin, like Paris, will see mass murderers roaming the streets; or at least wondering how much more Pegida will continue growing). Meanwhile the clearer-eyed wager as to when the coal/oil/gas will run out and if that will be before or after the water wars begin in earnest.

I never thought of myself as a doomsayer, but I have to say the last decade has severely tried my innate optimism.  Naomi Klein had a good crack at the state of affairs in her recent book, This Changes Everything, but I don't think she captured the importance of the bellicosity of current world affairs.  Perhaps Noam Chomsky is one of the few intelligent enough to grasp and communicate how all these issues are interrelated and of utmost urgency. One may not agree with how far Chomsky goes, but he is one of the few thinkers capable of putting all the issues together, who gets any air time at all these days.

Although it may be coincidence, it is to me quite significant that Paris, less than a month after suffering brutal attacks in November, hosted yet another climate change summit where it was a fore-gone conclusion that the elites, and the nations they control, would once again fail to take decisive action to right the extreme injustice of international extractivism (Klein's term).

Though these issues may seem disparate, in reality the waves of desperate refugees from the oil-producing Middle East, the production lines of young men rabidly angry at the European elite, the destruction of priceless world heritage sites and incessant government surveillance are all symptoms of the same problem.  There is no denying it; you can call them what you want, but we are now in the thick of the climate/extractivist/resource wars, and 2015 has been a very clear manifestation of the future that no longer awaits us.  It is now upon us.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Berlinale Ticket Burn

Months later, here's a topic that still irks: Berlinale ticket prices this year.  It's my ninth and I can´t say if I think there will be a tenth.  The value just isn't there -- as much as 13 euros for competition films which nearly always are picked up and distributed later anyway.  Maybe here I´m missing the point a bit, by not getting on the ¨I-Saw-It-At-The-Berlinale-Premiere¨ bandwagon. But I am perfectly willing to wait a few months to not stand in line for an hour or more to pay 13 euros to stand in line again to try to get a seat less than a quarter of a kilometer from the screen in a packed film Palast. 

Na gut, my strategy this year was to emphasize the Generation films with which I have had pretty good luck in the past and the Forum films screened at the Arsenal, as I explained in my previous post.  This worked out well because the Arsenal, which often sells out during the festival, screens Forum highlights the following week.  This meant I was able to get tickets for a Mongolian (!) version of Kafka´s The Castle, appropriately titled simply K.  The German subtitles were a bit too difficult and flashed by too fast for me to grasp it all.  This only augmented the Kafka-esque experience of it all, the and I was quite happy with myself for having chosen the film.

I took the Pirate, J. and A. to see Madare Ghalbe Atoom, a morality tale, which, given the negative press that Tehran´s rich kids have been getting over the last year, is particularly timely.  The Pirate was the only one who seems to have completely perceived the ending, which was nearly too quick for the human eye.  Spoilers here on A.'s das Blog.

Berlinale Kinotag, for which I had three tickets, two Panorama films and the Peter Greenaway competition film, yielded nothing of interest.  Indeed, the Greenaway film was pretty much as unwatchable (although admittedly stylistically beautiful) as most of his previous work -- what on earth was I thinking, scheduling this as my 3rd film of the last day of the festival??  Being packed into a Friedrichstadt Palast seat unsuitable for anyone over 170 cm tall didn´t help.

The stand-out film for me in the Generation category was Mina Walking from Afghanistan, about a young, lower-class girl whose only protection against a junkie father and a grandfather suffering from dementia was her own quick-wittedness. Min lilla syster deserves a mention for the beautiful detail of its close-up nature cinematography as a counterpoint to its difficult but compellingly-addressed topic of eating disorders. But in contrast, I found Prins, the Generation section premiere, yet another dull attempt at a U.S.-style gangster movie by a Northern European society that is clueless about real neighborhood-level violence.  Very bad choice on the part of the Generation jury.

Having spent only 70 euros for 13 films, this was my cheapest Berlinale ever. This year´s budget ticket-buying strategy brought the Berlinale´s value back to me, although it did limit my viewing to primarily documentaries and youth films.  But these are often areas where the Berlinale excels.  The Arsenal option also effectively extended the festival for me, over 14 instead of 10 days, which helps with movie-going fatigue.  And films like K, Koza and Mina Walking, to me, remain the reason why I keep going back to the Berlinale.  Where else does one have the opportunity to see such obscure film from across the world?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Berlinale 2015

Halfway through another Berlinale (my ninth!), I want to quickly note that really objectionable ticket prices have significantly reduced my ability to see the film that most interests me, meaning Eastern European film presented in the Panorama and Forum sections.  The Berlinale is now charging 10 euros for these tickets, aside from the final day for the public, which it has maintained at a reasonable 6 euros.  I have 3 films scheduled for then, but in the meantime I joined the Arsenal Kino, which is Berlin's cinematheque, and which offers a six month membership for 12 euros and a discount card of 6 films for 24 euros.

The Arsenal is a Forum venue, and the three films I´ve seen to this point from this division serve as rather interesting examples of the boundary between documentary and feature films that is just the sort of thing that the Forum does well.  I especially want to recommend Koza (Goat) from Slovakia.  This is my first Slovakian film, and just as with film from the Balkan region, I am impressed.  It´s not an easy film, somewhat in the vein of An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker from Bosnia that won the 2013 Silver Bear.  The acting is spare, the story minimalist, but the emotional undercurrents in the background are so strongly present, that they could almost represent a separate character in their own right.  I very much liked the scarcely seen but omnipresent female main character of the film.  The last chance to see this film is Friday the 13th at the CineStar.

The other two films were, for me, more like filmed philosophical examinations of culture than what moviegoers are used to seeing.   Spain´s Sueñan los Androides (Androids Dream), is a loose adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, and in that sense is probably more accessible than Mexico´s La Maldad. But both would be much more meaningful to people already familiar with the current realities within their respective countries.  So for those of you Spaniards and Mexicans out there, I suggest these films are worth trying to track them down, though I can't imagine it will be that easy! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Berlinale 2014

Coming soon, a more fleshed-out review of this year's Berlinale....  These few months have been a busy time for me, so I was not as active as usual, but I did quite like a few of the eight films for which I managed to get tickets:

Na kathese ke na kitas from Greece
Obietnica from just across the way in Szcezin, Poland
Difret from Ethiopia, which was my favorite.

In the end, I realized they are all, in different ways, about female rage against men, a topic the Berlinale does actually very well.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Best of Berlin's Craigslist, 2014

Phew, the wave of really intense spamming via blog comments in 2013 has either died down or this blog provider has finally figured out how to screen them out. My monthly page hits in December are way down, to several hundred, which would seem to imply the former, while at the same time regular readers have undoubtedly given up on me.  I have written very little in the last ten months or so because it's seriously discouraging to think one is being read only by bots. 

Perhaps in 2014 I'll eschew the Internet entirely, given how clear it is that our every move is tracked.  For now, my new year's offering is a couple of spectacular personal ads.  Chocolate Guy, who has turned Berlin's Craigslist into something of a personal blog over the last couple of years, which in my mind qualifies as E-performance art, gives us this:

Umm, yeah. Yeah! So... - 39 (Berlin) 

I don't know if it just because I am getting older; it might be that bike and that fucking hill; or it might be my feverish pursuit of inappropriate women too many years my junior; but my knees are hurting. I could solve the problem quite easily in one fell swoop by buying a car. No really, I've heard that is that simple, two birds one stone, one bird two stones would even work ok. Stoned birds? That's only the fantasy of a man with bad knees.
One stoned bird with her own car? A taxi fair [sic] clutched in the hand of a drunken woman? Ah, I should be a taxi driver... Angry football fans shouting and puking in the back of my car? No, scrub that, reassess, re-imagine...

Inappropriate woman seeks older man with bad knees and no car? You just don't see that sort of thing much.

The title alone has me smiling, but by "inappropriate woman seeks...", I am guffawing, and this is the third time in two days I've read it.  It was a really good day yesterday, perusing the ads, because I found what has to be a new kid in town, unless he's been there all along and my German just wasn't good enough to grasp the heavy layers of sarcasm.  I only had a couple of stumbles: Geschüttelter and "Was bei drei nicht auf dem Baum ist" [I looked it up -- ouch!]  The final line is the icing on the cake... and a nice contrast to his offer of a 10-year-old cock shot.  I tossed around the idea of sending a photo of my little finger from 1992.  But, really, who sends out photos in these brave new days? 

Suche Gestörte für Drama - m4w - 42 (Xberg)

Midlifecrisisgeschüttelter 42jähriger (jünger aussehend sagen heutzutage alle) auf der verzweifelten Flucht vor dem Eheglück und kleinen Kindern sucht Abwechslung der sexuellen und/oder romantischen Natur. Nehme alles, was bei drei nicht auf dem Baum ist, kann natürlich nicht dafür zahlen (Frau kontrolliert Konten/bin arbeitslos/geizig), und biete daher emotionalen Mißbrauch, Drama, Chaos und Verwesung als Gegenleistung. Zehn Jahre alte Schwanzbilder gerne auf Anfrage, für alles andere bin ich zu feige.
Am liebsten eine 21jährige Studentin mit Papakomplex und Borderlinerin, alternativ auch beziehungsgestörte Mittdreissigerinnen mit Jugendlichkeitskomplex oder übergewichtige Hausfrauen. Eventuell sozialschwache Frauen in emotionalen Abhängigkeitsverhältnissen.

Ernstgemeinte Antworten bitte nur mit Foto.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Never Too Late or Why Men Never Turn Off

The 70-year-old father of a friend of mine has a new, well, how shall I say?  Girlfriend is too sophomoric.  Companion is too sedate. Partner is rather doubtful given his history.  Well then, his new woman (for lack of a better term) is some 20 years his junior.  None of this would be particularly remarkable, of course, except that my friend has rather a difficult time counting up all the women, throughout the 30 years or so that he´s been at it.  A few days ago she arrived at seven, but then remembered one she´d forgot, so perhaps it's eight.

My tendency is to shrug in my matter-of-fact, men-will-be-men sort of way, except that Daddy has a penchant for whisking his women off to Spain where my friend lives.  If she´s lucky, in between focussing nearly all his attention on the woman of the moment, he might carve out time for a dinner or two for his only daughter.  Number 8 (or is it 9?) seems to be the straw that is breaking the camel's back; when my friend told me the newest this afternoon, it was the first time I'd heard her deploy some rather choice Latinamerican curses.

Now, I recall my father telling me about his mid-life crisis, and confessing the affair that had happened soon after I left for college, of which I hadn't been aware.  This was a few years after the fact, and it made quite a large impression on little 20-something me.  At the same time I remember him saying that at age 50 or so, he felt his sex drive slacken. 

Recently, the Pirate casually tossed out the best description I think I have ever heard with respect to men's sexuality.  He said, it's as if we are constantly looking for the off switch [which is nowhere to be found].  I have been mulling this over, quite delighted, for days now.  That is exactly it.  And whether my father's switch finally turned off at 50, and my friend's father's never will, is rather hard to say.

Because it seems that at the same time, we can never seem to get by, without that need to go out and find, somebody to love....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Women Turn Off

Womyn, you know as well as I do that there comes a time when that man who used to make you so hot begins to leave you completely cold (and I mean quick-unpleasant-shiver-up-the-spine-little-shake-of-revulsion sort of cold).  It can happen as quickly as from one day to the next.  In my own case, I woke up one morning, packed the car (back in my California days) and drove off into the desert, away from a terrible marriage that I rarely even admit to these days.

Periodically I have men ask me exactly why women turn off like this.  They may have been married for years and years and may still very much love their wives.  But their wives are just not having anything to do with them physically.  Whereas women may be perfectly content to stay in a sexless marriage for the children, for the financial security, or even because of what the neighbors think, this, to a man's way of thinking, is probably pretty close to voluntarily cutting off his (ahem) "little friend".

I don't tend to give lengthy descriptions of that feeling of one's skin shrinking at the thought of a man's touch, although it would certainly be a good thing for men to be aware of.  Instead I try to tell them, having experienced it probably dozens of times, that I think there must be a sort of physiological reason for women turning off.  It feels to me like something strongly instinctual, that may have to do with pregnancy.  We can all imagine endless scenarios that leave a woman saddled with a child she is not sufficiently prepared to raise alone; these are especially acute in the modern nuclear family mindset, without extensive family and tribal help with child-rearing.  So men's subtle selfishness, lack of whole-hearted involvement and even a gradual relaxation of those special little attentions that we women used to enjoy at the beginning of a relationship, start to kill our sex drives.  Maybe it's not because we are solely materialistic b*tches, but rather that we sense instinctively that a man who's mentally withdrawn is not a good potential father.  And maybe our bodies tell us, despite our heads knowing that we are perfectly safe with our modern birth control, to avoid sex with such men.

Enough said about the sad examples of partners of many years,  but what about the out-and-out bad boys?  They are tougher, now aren't they?  Because they tend to have that raging testosterone that screams to us women, "Evolutionary Wonder"!!!  We want them in the most visceral of ways and they know it and they use us unmercifully. These are the males with whom, back in the good ol' non-monagamist days, we sneaked away from the tribe for a good tumble in the bushes (and the ones that a not insignificant number of modern women continue to cheat with).  I can only say, woe betide she who fantasizes of domesticating one of these creatures!

I've had a few of these types and with them, often virtually from the very beginning, I spend most of my time fantasizing about my well-developed turn-off switch, hoping and praying that it will kick in, feeling frustrated with myself when it takes months or even years.  All the while the bad boy in question is blowing me off, keeping me waiting and waiting and waiting, and generally doing his best to completely ignore me.  When the last straw finally breaks, I feel an amazing feeling of relief to be free of the (if you'll excuse my language) little prick.

So now, decent, committed men (and the many who are at least making an attempt), pay attention to your women!  Remember they need those speciai little attentions and romantic gestures to continue to desire you.  Laziness on your part will soon enough have you staring into the unpleasantly stony eyes of your woman, asking yourself what on earth went wrong.  And believe me, once this happens, there is very little chance of going back.

As for those bad-boy pricks, womyn, do yourselves a favor, keep them in the bushes where they belong. Find yourselves a decent man and don't be shy about reminding him every now and then what a fabulous creature you are.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The End of the World as We Know It

My mother wished me a happy fourth of July today.  I couldn't help but reply that I would take a moment to reflect on the large amount of freedom and justice the US disseminates throughout the world.  My sarcasm was perhaps not fully appreciated (ahem).

Let's think now about what exactly I should be celebrating.  The fact that the country of my birth rains down random faceless terror from the sky onto people with which it is not at war, whom it has never even accused of a crime, much less tried in a court of law? The fact that some sort of monolithic shadow entity is shredding the personal privacy of people around the world?  Or that corruption of unimaginable cynicism and greed is responsible for plunging millions if not billions into privation and want during the previous half decade?

I want to be one of those Americans that Evo Morales describes in this speech, touching down last night in La Paz after having been excluded from the airspace of American puppet governments in, of all places, Europe. 

Morales says (minute 1.30), " Es importante buscar alianza con los inmigrantes norteamericanos que sean nuestros aliados para acabar con políticas que tratan de seguir dominando y seguir humillando a los pueblos del mundo." [It's important to seek alliances among the U.S. immigrants that are our allies to try to end the policies that try to dominate and humiliate the people of the world.]  Thanks to The Guardian newspaper for the video and its excellent work pounding away at American empire.

This world of ours needs to end as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

1000 Words Away

Commited non-monogamists tend to concur with the small-is-beautiful anarchist's romantic view of tribes.  For a long time I was sceptical of how women's quality of life might have been, back in the good old pre-agricultural days. I am slowly but increasingly convinced, by writers such as Sarah Hrdy, the Ryan and Jetha team, and even Paul Shepard.  So when I read this interesting article in Common Dreams, using Dunbar's number to re-examine world economic crisis and societal disfunction, I immediately thought of non-monogamists' ideas about communitarian sexual relations in the context of a tribe of 150 individuals or so.  That led me to this lovely quote of Dunbar's here: "Words are slippery; a touch is worth a 1,000 words any day."  This couldn't possibly resonate any stronger with this modern woman, blogging in the vast obscurity of the modern-day Internet.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gloomiest Winter Ever

On February 28th, German newspapers were full of reports like this:

Der Winter 2012/2013 ist der sonnenscheinärmste seit Beginn der flächendeckenden Wetteraufzeichnungen im Jahr 1951. Der Deutsche Wetterdienst bezeichnete den Januar und Februar als "ungewöhnlich trüb". Seit Anfang Dezember gab es in Deutschland im Schnitt nur 96 Sonnenstunden, normal sind 154.

The winter of 2012-13 had the least hours of sunshine since comprehensive weather record-keeping began in 1951.  The German Weather Service characterized January and February as unusually overcast.  Since the beginning of December there were on average only 96 hours of sunshine, compared to 154 normally.

Please keep in mind that we are talking here about 96 hours in 3 months, or an average of all of one hour of sunshine per day.   I have to wonder what counts as sunshine here, however, with such an anemic northern sun that barely casts a shadow from Thansgiving to well past the Berlinale.  And I really don't know why they didn't include November, which to me was one of the dampest, coldest and grayest I have yet seen. Winter's gotten even more insistent, though, in March, with two significant snowfalls, one of which has actually remained on the ground for a week now (not at all common in Berlin, where everything usually melts away within a day or two).  And it's been down around -10C  for two different periods, several nights running.

Even I, who have become quite fond of the mental peace and quiet that months with little or no sun engender in me, am really rather sick of it all.  More than anything, I'm tired of having worn the same ugly green winter coat for seven winters now, to the point that the down filling has lost its loft and is in no way sufficient for such cold. And that's not to mention months of clunking around everywhere in heavy winter boots. Spring will feel mighty good this year, if and when it finally arrives.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fire and Brimstone Upon Them

There is nothing I can say about the Iraq war that hasn't already been said more eloquently elsewhere, by the victims and the eyewitnesses on the ground.  In my case, it represented the point in time that I gave up on human nature for good.  It was the ultimate triumph of the crushing know-nothingness of my country: for me, the most depressing thing of all. It was the mind-numbing banality of the U.S.'s own particular axis of evil (Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld-Powell).

My inexpressible outrage that morphed into sheer impotent rage has since dwindled to the gut-wrenching certainty that none of them will ever be held responsible.  I intend to continue to hold fast to my vow of ten years ago to never again knowingly pay another penny into the U.S. war machine.  But really, who gives a damn about my simple-minded pacifist principles when so many people's lives have been destroyed?

On a more upscale note, we have a new Pope.  God be praised.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nobody Does it Better

A couple of years back (in Madrid), I had a British man with a Spanish mother who'd divided most of his adult life between those two countries and the U.S., tell me something quite edifying. As faithful readers may recall, I've written about how we from the New World have more energy, somehow, a sort of can-do/will-do attitude that contrasts with European inertia. After all, quite a number of our forebears left Europe probably for just that reason: the crushing weight of so many centuries of history. My general approach here in Europe is to raise an eyebrow in quizzical amusement when confronted with the all-too-present fatalism of this place. And then just forge on ahead in my typical American way, which endears me to some (often of the female variety) and sends others (often of the penile-bearing persuasion) running in the opposite direction.

Ah well, I was trying to tell you what this British guy said.... [drum roll] ... "when it comes to sex, Americans are the best". That caused my jaw to drop, I can tell you, when I heard it. And of course I immediately started to turn over all of the frustrations of so many past years in Berlin and Madrid. I´ve known quite a number of Latinamericans in both places, and the energy level to which I was so accustomed back in the New World is strikingly absent.

Why is this? There are a number of possible factors, of course. Latinamericans in Europe don't tend to have easy lives or much spare time. And in Berlin they are quite exotic and sought after.  In Madrid, where I am theoretically exotically fair-skinned and willowy (as in Latinamerica), Latinamerican men seem adopt all too easily the extreme languor with which I would characterize the Spanish approach to sex. I don't know why this is. Maybe it's what happens when one immigrates to heartland of the former colonizer. [If I were to move to Great Britain, would I become instantly obsessed with Royal Family millinery and spend my weekends eating fish-n-chips at the local pub?]

Getting back to the question at hand, plenty of American states (14 to be exact) up until ten years ago still had bizarre laws outlawing biblical "misdeeds" that practically everyone does, like sodomy. And their right-wing wackos continue to battle a U.S. Supreme Court decision annulling those laws (see this report). Gays are still fighting for the right to legally marry in most of the U.S. In contrast, Spain, previously a Catholic dictatorship for many decades, was the third country in the world to legislate gay marriage, eight years ago, a decision that was recently upheld by its Supreme Court.

OK, then, it´s not the U.S.'s judicially backwards attitude to sex, so it must be ...  [drum roll] ...  the fact that nobody does porn better than the U.S., in particular, world porn headquarters: California's San Fernando Valley.  Except wait, now anyone with a webcam is making porn...

Hmmm, I still can't say what it is that is special about us...  And in truth, I can't really say that American men in Europe are doing all that much better than Latinos here.  So perhaps it would be interesting to explicitly seek New World men who are equally unnerved by the unsexiness of the locals.  But then, dear readers, I swore off Craigslist a couple of years ago.  Still, I guess it's my super-charged American sex drive that can't seem to keep me peeking again every year or so....  It's incumbent on a blogger to keep current on things, after all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Run, Don't Walk to See Krugovi

The amazing Serbian filmmaking team of and , which brought us Klopka (The Trap, which I reviewed here) is back with their 3rd film, Krugovi (Circles).   But I barely managed to see it, as yesterday I somehow lost 3 Berlinale tix; I'm still not sure where or how.  It's the first time it's happened in 7 years now.  Yesterday I'd just arrived at Zoo train station and reached for them in my special Berlinale coat pocket which was inexplicably unzipped and the three tickets I'd put there gone.  ARRRGGGGHHHH.  What to do, what to do?

I had the presence of mind, at least, to remember that this was a Serbian film, but I hadn't researched this particular offering.  Klopka is the film that first turned me into an avid follower of Serbian cinema, such that I now buy any Serbian film presented by the Berlinale, on the basis of its nationality alone.  So I swallowed hard and bought a second nine-euro ticket (prices have risen by one euro this year) from someone selling an extra one.

The Berlinale master of ceremonies first introduced the director, from whose mouth came that magic title, Klopka, and the memory from 6 years before of its premier in that very same theater, the Delphi Filmpalast.  Lo and behold, I found myself at the Berlinale premier of his third film (which has, by the way, recently also premiered at Sundance).  I'm still not happy about those lost tickets, of course (it's not the 25 euros or so, but more the several hours standing in line to get them that hurts the most). But I was pretty damn pleased that despite it all, I had managed to be sitting in that theater at that very moment.

Golubovic and company have presented only 3 films, each spaced six years apart, starting with Absolute Hundred in 2001. They are all taut and smart, with similar themes of men struggling to do the right thing under tremendously difficult odds.  But each film's situation is unique, with complex interwoven relationships between numerous characters that are masterfully acted.  This is exactly why I go to the Berlinale -- to see film from Eastern Europe that is unlikely to be commercially released.  Serbia in particular is special; there seems to be a cabal of talent that has found a way to work collaboratively, unhurriedly, for as many years as it takes to construct high-quality film from the bottom up.

I compare their work to the Croatian film I saw on Saturday, Obrana I Zastita (A Stranger), which I found muted and lifeless (which admittedly may have been the point).  My response to the Georgian film, Chemi Sanis Naketsi (A Fold in My Blanket), that opened the Panorama section was little better.  It has an interesting Picnic-at-Hanging-Rock vibe but I found it too obscure and introspective to speak to this film freak from an admittedly very different culture.  I can't argue with the young director's response to my question as to whether something can be too minimalist: he sees his work primarily as a work of art, and I am one to give artists tremendous leeway.

It's an interesting debate: what makes a brilliant cinema?   And if cinema is brilliant, will it definitionally appeal to a broad international audience?  We can examine such questions endlessly, but what I am looking for in a film is thoughtfulness coupled with a certain energy.  I find it in both feature films and documentaries.  It exposes the universality of the struggle of and for humanity in its infinitely varied forms.  Turtles Can Fly.  Breaking the Waves.  Sophie's Choice.  The Last Wave. Claire Denis' Chocolat.  Grizzly Man.  The Times of Harvey Milk.
It's not much of a contest, as this is definitely not one of the better Berlinale years. But I will predict that Krugovi is the best film of 2013, just as Klopka was in 2007.  My lost tickets be damned: now I can close my program only 5 days into the festival and go home happy.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Size Post - Part III: Le Petit

I happened upon an ancient (2006) BBC report on penis size in the subcontinent here and wanted to add it to my Size Post series.  It ends with a typically trite penile-centric quote at the end, "It's not size, it's what you do with it that matters".  Yawn (start here for my previous comments on the topic).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sex Tip #10

I understand that it's not for everyone to be a dogmatic anti-monogamist crusader. So I've been trying to think how my readers can contribute to changing the system in a modest way.  My previous post ended with a gentle suggestion to my fellow females, to give These Men the benefit of the doubt.  After all, we have to keep in mind that the poor dears are dealing with a stream of pornographic images (PI) pumping through their brains on something like, what do I know, a millisecond basis... [my original PI post is here].  Whereas even Katchita, who definitely rates as a red-blooded American female, doesn't experience more than half a dozen on her best days and sometimes can go for days with nary a one.

It certainly never crossed my mind when I started, but over the years I've gotten used to men seeing my blog as an open invitation to send me dirty pix of their pride and joy or their favorite Internet porn or even once a personal home video (!)  It finally dawned on me that they're simply aching for the opportunity to show off their special friends.  Analyzing this phenomenon in my Katchita way, I began to think of my blog as providing a certain outlet for men who have a strong need to express themselves sexually but are forbidden to do so in many ways by law, and in many more by societal censure.

I'm personally a long way from the point where a flasher, for example, could elicit more from me than a giggle and a cursory look-see (on the off chance he's packing something interesting there inside his trench coat).  But I can remember a time in my life when that would have been terribly intimidating or even frightening.  An extreme example perhaps, but You Men really need to remember that most women don't have the PI problem. They find it not only extremely difficult to understand how prevalent it is in your lives, but also really quite uncomfortable to even contemplate.  Sort of like a flasher.  Not to mention that some have suffered, sometimes terribly, at the hands of your fellow Men's Club members.

You already have a feel for this, of course, but for some reason many of you still tend to write women off as frigid bitches when we slam you for throwing your PI issues in our faces.  You see, to many of us, it seems crass and Neanderthal to give us even the slightest inkling of how much you would like to drag us by the hair back to your caves and slam us with your mighty clubs till the sun comes up.  We don't like it, not in the least...  or, at least not until the appropriate moment!

Many of us women love innuendo and subtlety.  It's a sign that there might be some depth hiding somewhere buried inside the big ape.  Don't despair, though, because there often IS an appropriate moment to show your Neanderthal side, as I'm sure some of you have figured out.  Try to think of it as part of the thrill of the hunt to get the timing just right. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The (Anti) Monogamy Post, Part III

It's becoming increasingly obvious where this is going. So, for those of you who are pretty much reading this blog for one thing and one thing only (and to whom I'm increasingly catering), I've added a new label, "Non-Monogamy". Now, between this and the "Sex Tips", you can quickly and easily access what may be the best of Sexless Berlin.

Non-monogamous is what I've been, I suppose, since having something akin to a coming-out experience in my late 20s.  Recently, however, I've felt more and more that it's necessary to be militantly anti-monogamous, so as to continue to chip away at this monolith of monogamy constantly bearing down on us.  This blog has become almost exclusively my attempt, directed at both women and men, to do just that.  With sexism, misogyny, sexual harrassment, sexual abuse, rape and worst of all, pedophilia, so rampant in so many societies, I know we can do better.

As I am not in the least inclined to force my beliefs on others, it's incumbent upon me to recognize that the last thing that many of the people out there, who have suffered various traumas thanks to the monogamist monolith, would want is something that implies that they are responsible for servicing more people!  It's tricky, you see.  I have only two tools, it would seem: my eloquent (ahem!) writing and my ability to lead by example.

For those of you out there who've escaped serious damage and are perhaps willing to be swayed (and here I am speaking to women because most men, whether they admit it or not, would really prefer non-monogamy), how do I begin?  An Email exchange with a young and beautiful friend of mine brought me back to this topic which I've been mulling over in my head.  The question is: why do beautiful women so often castigate men who find them attractive?  It's quite simple: in our twenties the attention can become overwhelming, as I've blogged before.  And don't forget how intensely our societies trivialize women, reducing us to nothing more than our physical appearances.  The whole thing becomes at best confusing and at worst damaging.  Is it any wonder we get to the point where we wish we could make it all just go away?

Let's imagine instead a society where the important thing is not looks (or possessions or prestige or power), but sharing.  This is the world that Sex at Dawn envisions for us, where sharing includes everything, down to our own bodies.   Imagine what it might be like for you to be most valued for your desire and ability to contribute to and support the other members of your tribe or group.  Now imagine all the pathologies that would do away with.

Given that we women cannot just flick a switch and enter this alternate world, how might we begin to change things, little by little?  Let's start by trying to just assume innocent until proven guilty. After all, does it take a woman more than three minutes to figure out if a man, in addition to being attracted to her beauty, is interested in her mind/character/accomplishments/personal power?  I think not.

As a first step then, we can give These Men a chance.  After all, how easy can it be to talk to a beautiful, self-assured woman?  How many times are men cruelly shot down just because they try?  Shoot them down for being shallow, sexist, fascist, unintelligent, incurious, unthoughtful, etc., etc.  But not for simply daring to talk to someone who appeals to them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Best of Berlin´s Craigslist 2012

Hats off to you, Honest Man, for the most original Berlin CL personal ad of the year (reproduced in its entirety below).  Just one note: girls and girlfriends are for little boys.  If you want to learn to be a man, you´ll need a real woman to play this game!

Honest man seeks faithless slut - 29
Datum: 2012-09-04, 5:17PM CEST

It occurred to me recently that I've been pretty lucky in my past relationships -- not incredibly lucky, mind you, being 29 and single, but lucky enough to have avoided most of the things that people call "relationship drama": infidelity, lying, emotional manipulation, on-again-off-again nonsense, and so on. I've never cheated, never told someone I hate them when I really love them (or vice versa), hardly ever even raised my voice. People who should know tell me that hate sex and revenge sex and things like that are great, but I've never done them and never even been motivated to try. You know, the kinds of relationships that people have in novels and films and things. As a result I kind of feel like I'm missing out on something.

So, if you're the type of girl who thinks escalation is a good solution to conflict and mind games are a good way to get what you want, if you can't resist hurting people to keep them from getting too close, if you're familiar with using your body to get things you want, if the one thing you want above all is attention, if you're incapable of respecting anyone who respects you, if you still sleep with your exes even though you can't stand them, if the path of your love life has been a trail of broken hearts (yours and theirs)...

Be my girlfriend.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Laying it Bare

Let´s strip it down to the bone, shall we, now?  Or in this case, the bare flesh.  Because if we envision our premodern ancestors dutifully copulating in a cheerfully egalitarian free-for-all, a la Sex at Dawn, then eroticism, pornography, fetishism, etc. all seem rather beside the point.  What I mean to say is that all of these elaborate constructs (which I´m fond of referring to as pathologies) around sex may have developed strictly because of our extensive limitations on our own sexual activity.

Now then, do men have stunted sex drives?  Well, why wouldn´t they?  If they really let loose [1], they´re liable to be accused of being the worst sorts of pigs.  Or, what must be even worse for the poor dears, they become so anxious about the whole thing, that they´re unable to (ahem) get it up in the first place. 

Do women have stunted sex drives?  We certainly do.  After all, we spend half of our time wondering if he´ll respect us in the morning, not to mention agonizing as to whether he´ll call us back the day after tomorrow.   It makes it pretty damn hard to just let go, I can tell you that.

But I digress, as my point here is to take up the issue of eroticism, by which I imagine Fulcanelli means something like diaphanous negligées, as opposed to interracial 3-on-1´s.  I hardly need point out, I´m sure, that fishnet stockings didn´t figure in the cheerful orgy to which I´m referring above, likely preceded by a successful hunt and happy bellies filled with antelope.

Let´s turn to the root of the word.  Eros, the Greek god of love, has with time, commonly been understood to represent physical love.  The erotic, then, rather than just relating to love in general, is thought of as that which causes sexual desire.  Well, pornography certain generates plenty of that, wouldn´t you agree?  Still, Fulcanelli sees porn as different from his image of a woman reclining in beautiful lingerie.  Wouldn´t this, however, have been just as pornographic to our Victorian ancestors, who apparently believed a woman should submit to her husband in the dark, under the covers, while remaining clothed in white from neck to toes?

Going back to our ancestors, wasn´t sex (as I´ve argued before) just as natural as tearing into that antelope together?  And if I were truly a modern liberated woman, wouldn´t I be as free to invite you into my bed as to have a coffee with you?  I could put on a diaphanous negligée first... or a long white nightgown...  as you like!

[1] Obviously here I am referring to consensual sexual activity among adults.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Pornography Post

Now I ask you, given the possibility of a steady supply of sex from multiple willing partners, how much time do you suppose men would spend wanking in front of their computers?  Picture this scenario if you will: ¨No, Miranda and/or Mandy, I couldn´t possibly service you right here and now as I have to go and watch for the 50th time that money shot where the Italian Stallion hits the voluptuous redhead square in the eye¨.  NO.  WRONG.  AIN´T GONNA HAPPEN.

Pornography is a perfect example of the damage caused by monogamy.   With so little sex happening and with men under pain of punishment for inappropriate sexual behavior, ranging from social ostracization to prison to a lifetime on the sex-offender´s list, what are the poor creatures to do?  I happen to think that them spending an hour or two a day watching flat-chested blondes ride well-hung dwarfs is a reasonable way to keep their hormones under control.  I also happen to think that a lot of monogamous relationships should give grateful thanks to pornography because I can hardly imagine how they would survive without it.

What do I as a woman think of porn?  I think it is horrifyingly male-centered. I think it is frequently yawningly repetitive and coldly plastic.  I think there is no doubt that it commodifies women.  I think it takes little account of women´s desire, sexuality and physiology, giving men next to no idea of how to interact with us, much less of our needs or how to please us.

I also on occasion enjoy it, particularly as a window into the desires of the men I´m involved with.  I even believe some porn is quite good, though it´s an unfortunately small minority.  Recently I´ve thought about asking for reader participation, to send me porn clips where they believe the women are actually climaxing (not the usual faking) and (even more rare) where the film-maker doesn´t immediately cut away from a woman´s climax. So what do you think, Sexless Berlin readers?  Do you have some good quality porn to share with me?  If so, post a comment with the link in the form of a URL.  And thanks to Anonymous whose comment prompted this post.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sex Tip #9

Here's how it works, grrls.  In order to avoid having to constantly massage his ego, you need to look for a self-confident man.  But keep in mind that men are self-confident for a number of reasons.  They're tall.  They're good-looking.  They're rich.  Or they're powerful.  It's a safe bet that these specimens should be discarded immediately, if you, like me, want a man who's good in bed.  Look for the ones who, despite having none of the above qualities, are still self-confident.  It will mean they may have that special talent you're seeking; at a minimum they'll be worth trying out (refer back to Sex Tip #8 for screening techniques).

The One I Like Best isn't tall.  He isn't good-looking. He isn't rich and he definitely isn't powerful.  But yesterday as I was walking in Lavapiés thinking about when I'll finally get back to Berlin to see him again, some guy walking by broke out into a passionate piropo praising my looks. It must have been written all over my face: man alive does The One I Like Best keep me going back for more.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bad Boys Ravish Our Young Girls, But Violet Gives Willingly

I'm as tired as any woman out there of being treated by men as a sexual commodity to be begged, borrowed or stolen. I'm also tired of giving freely to men who give nothing in return or (the worst) act as if they've gotten away with something. But unlike most women, perhaps, I don't blame it on their base animal natures. [I myself am hardly immune when it  comes to a base animal nature.]  No, for me it became much easier to get along in this world when I was able to ascribe the moronic behavior of These Men to the shitty socialization to which this society subjects us all.

Capitalism has taught us women that our sexuality is a desired commodity to be carefully rationed. In contrast, men are conditioned to try to get something (booty, in this case) for free. We all know what an extremely disagreeable tension this causes. As an extreme example, let's look at what happens in a sex club.  Women get in free most places in Berlin or, in Madrid, pay at most pay 10 euros (with a cocktail typically thrown in).  Men pay five or more times this price, unless accompanied by a woman, which generally at least halves the entry.  It's hardly surprising when inside, many behave like animals -- after all, they've paid for the right.

What sort of attitude does this engender in women?  Getting into a club for free (the eternal ladies' nights) gives us women the rather smug feeling that we're getting away with something.  I'm not sure many of us stop to think how we're being sexually commodified.  Well then, and the men?  I imagine they're very aware of the true cost of a "lay" -- so many euros to get in, so many minutes of cheap lines and stupid small talk before a woman loosens up, so many drinks to get her well lubricated (pun unintended), and, above all, a tangible chance of failure in the end.  Male readers, feel free to weigh in on this topic, but if I were you, I think I'd find it frustrating and unfair. Even so, you know those clubs, don't you, as you seem to show up as if on cue, within a half-hour of the close of ladies' night hours?

Sigh.  Does it really need to be this way?  The insane hormonal rollercoaster on which I currently find myself tells me clearly I am meant to get as much of that "good thang" as I possibly can before my time's up. My intellect tells me that I, and women like me, are prisoners of this system just as much as men are, and it will always be extremely difficult or impossible for us to freely and unselfconsciously act on and enjoy our own sexuality.

Given the personality with which I've been saddled, it really is so hard for me to give up without a fight. The Pirate says, "there you go, moving forward, creating new imprints and conditioning - consciously, not just the random hubris of a mechanical system of lowest common denominators".  Guilty as charged! I keep thinking and puzzling and pushing the envelope pretty much just as far as I dare.  And that's because there's a reason that's much, much bigger than just myself.

In this regard, the other week I consulted my dearly beloved Ex, who was visiting me in Madrid and like me seems to have spent the last few years observing first-hand some really horrendous sexual pathology.  My question to him was how much pathology is due to this mentality of sexuality as some sort of precious limited resource, instead of something that should be as free and abundant as the air we breathe.  Because here's the crux of the matter: if eschewing our shitty socialization would get rid of even a fraction of the sexual abuse of children and women, shouldn't we advocate it?  Militantly?  I really rather think the answer is yes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mother Nature

As Sarah Hrdy puts it in her excellent book, after which I've named this blog post (see an excerpt here), "Underlying tensions between males striving for quantity and females for quality (a simplification I will clarify later) are as old as humanity."   Yeah, so, we've heard plenty of times that it's men's evolutionary imperative to sow wild oats and women's to keep the home fires burning.  After all, this dichotomy is one strong reason for our evolutionary success.  I've done enough science in my life, plus this blog is supposed to be fun...  So I'll leave the long-winded arguments to people like Hrdy and Ryan and Jathá.  I'm here to say that there's substantial truth in the wild oats/home fires model.  But also that there's rather more similarity between the sexes than our shitty socialization has led us to believe.

Let me turn to a little anecdote based on my own ancient personal history.  The first time I lived in Nicaragua was at the high point of the illegal U.S. contra war.  Eugene Hassenfus, the arms-running pilot who was free-lancing for the CIA, was shot down in November 1986, at which time I was working on farmerworker health and safety for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health in León.  I watched up close and personal how that single event blew the lid off the Iran-Contra scandal.  Given my tender age at the time, I was as young as many of the young Nicaraguan men who served in the Sandinista army army in the '80s.  The consequences of that became very clear to me during my second stint in Nicaragua, 1999-2000, when there was clearly a shortage of men my age.  Estimates of casualties during the contra war range from 50 to 200K, in a country of 4 million (albeit with some 1 million living abroad thanks to extreme economic desperation). The war was devastating and by and large it was young men who died. 

Now bear with me as I recount another anecdote, about the bar on the south side of town where my lover during my second stint in León would sometimes take me.  According to him, everyone knew about this place, where married men who take their liaisons to lunch before packing them off to one of the sex hotels on the bypass for a little afternoon delight.  I remember once spotting a journalist friend of mine there who I knew in his public life (meaning I also knew his wife, father-in-law and children), with a woman who was definitively not his wife.  With both of these men later on, after I worked out the math, I tried out my argument.  For simplicity's sake, it went roughly this way: for our generation there was a shortage of some 100,000 men in a population of 1 million, meaning there were about 4 men to every 5 women.

Now Nicaragua tacitly accepted, or even benignly encouraged, men's "true nature", so I spent a fair amount of time trying to puzzle out exactly who all these women might be, that were providing the abundant cads and bounders the opportunity to sow all those wild oats? Because I had a hard time coming up with more than a ratio of about 1 and a quarter women per man.  I presented the only three possible options I could see.  First, there were a handful of single women happily servicing far more men than those men were servicing women. Second, there were a lot of prostitutes busy servicing all those Nicaraguan men. Or finally, those men's own wives were giving them a darn good run for their money.  

This brings me to an interesting digression, which is that Giles Tremlett in Ghosts of Spain cites the statistic that one of every 17 Spanish men has been to a prostitute. And this number pales with respect to the estimate of 39% in this horrifying article my ex recently sent me. I can feel a blog post detailing the pathology of sex in Spain coming on, but for now I'll limit myself to saying that my current housemate, who is a non-monogamist of the strongest sort and the first time I have thought I could be friends, actual friends (!), with a Spanish man, tells me, "en España, no follamos" -- in Spain we just don't screw.

Returning to the state of affairs in Sandinista Nicaragua, I can guarantee you that men, even if they wanted to, just didn't have the money to do much patronizing of prostitutes. And though I'm sure there were some happy single girls in circulation, it seemed to me always that there were more unhappy ones who wouldn't have much of anything at all to do with these men. So you see, I always ended up back at the conclusion that the girlfriends and wives, no matter how sedate and even virginal they seemed, had to have been up to their own tricks. Needless to say, these men didn't care too much for my arguments!

Although I've believed since my late 20s that I myself am not monogamous, I think that gradually throughout my 30s, it became clear to me that humans in general probably aren't.  Books like Open Marriage and The Ethical Slut in my 20s, which seemed to imply that non-monogamy was a lifestyle choice were replaced by The Third Chimpanzee and Mother Nature, that seemed to imply it is a biological imperative.  In my circle of intellectuals, I've initiated a debate as to whether we can separate our true nature from our socialization.  I think yes; but many of them think no. When I asked D. if we have fatally lost our way, she said "We have ..., indeed.  And we may be very old (or dead!) when the old order dies."

Now the problem is, I'm an American. You know:  land of the free, home of the brave.  This means I'm constitutionally incapable of accepting that there's no solution to this problem.  And so I'll just have to keep chewing away at the whole puzzle of what needs to be done.  Stay tuned to Sexless Berlin.  Although the blog posts may seem to come far too infrequently for my biggest fans, I'd like to think I'm delivering far more quality than quantity these days.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Just In from Chocolate Guy

This link and these words from Chocolate Guy: "It's even penetrated as far as the Guardian! That must be progress, or at least a pun." It's not just the Bay Area any more...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sex Tip #8

Slow Poke, who's turned into my number one fan, is out there in cyberspace cracking the whip again, so let me just take the easy way out and slap up this post, which I found nearly finished in my drafts folder. It takes us back to one of my favorite topics: screening out the duds.

At a party this past New Year's, A., who'd recently rolled out a new on-line profile, was asking, "is it too much to ask that they be able to put a coherent sentence together?". I responded, "on the contrary, it's absolutely critical." Because a man who can't write at least competently is never going to have the brain power to keep sex interesting beyond the handful of times it takes for the novelty to wear off. And maybe some of you men have figured out that the converse is true, because, incredible as it may seem, some of you actually say you want to bag a thinking woman. This, then, is where on-line dating really lends itself to screening, because typically by the second or third Email, you'll know just about as much as you need to know about the brain-power involved.d

However, on occasion even Katchita, intrepid on-line maven that she is, meets men in "normal" contexts -- at gatherings of friends, film festivals, even the pool. In that case I generally prefer exchanging Email addresses instead of phone numbers, so as to get back to the cyberforum where I'm most comfortable going through the preliminaries. I then attempt to gently introduce the fact that I blog, and that my blog is not exactly the typical "look, Mom, here's what I've been doing on my European adventure". If leafing through Sexless Berlin doesn't send a man running in the opposite direction, then it's most likely his writing skills that will win him a chance at an in-person encounter.

Now, I've complained more than enough about pretty boys and the well-endowed (but still never miss a chance to link to the pertinent post here). Hopefully I've made it clear that a woman can only expect them to treat her right if they have a kink unusual enough that most of the feminine persuasion are disinclined to play along. Still, there are no guarantees, so let me introduce a further technique that serves me really quite well. And that is to make at least the first couple of meetings play sessions.

What do I mean by play sessions? I mean, if I could be so blunt, that I highly recommend avoiding what most of us understand by the F-word. The biggest mistake a woman can make on a trial run with the well-endowed is to allow him to go at her with his (ahem) battering ram. If that's the only trick in his repertoire, believe me, you might as well find out immediately, before you find yourself lying on your back stifling a yawn after a scant handful of encounters. I suggest a moratorium on penetration for at least the first couple of sessions. The other, shall we say, tools at his disposal, are more than enough, trust me, to judge both the man's inclination to please you, the level of sexual rapport between the two of you, and his inventiveness.

The less well-endowed and those who have occasional problems with, well, maintaining stiffness, are, in my opinion, not to be immediately discarded and this screening technique is designed to give them a chance. They will have learned compensatory techniques that can be very well appreciated by the experienced woman who likes her sex served up as a mixture of multiple different courses, like a fine meal. To all of my readers, male and female, I would say, think of it this way: the old in-and-out is best left as an occasional dessert.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Berlinale 2012 Wrap-Up

All in all, folks, this sadly wasn't a great Berlinale year. I felt fairly ambivalent about most of what I saw; two were really pretty bad, and only two were really good. So how nice is it to be able to say that my favorite film, Unter Männer: Schwul in der DDR, was the documentary to which The Director himself invited me, along with the Pirate?! Documentaries are tricky, aren't they, because they don't have the benefit that feature films do of providing (often strictly gratuitous) entertainment. But a good documentary will take us places we can never go on our own, giving us glimpses of people we can never be. And that is, after all, one of the main reasons I'm a film addict (see here).

The material for Unter Männer came from writer and co-director Ringo Rösener. But I'm guessing it was The Director's masterful editing that gives the film its energy. It must be quite a challenge to build various disconnected interviews into a well-paced and cohesive product. This film fully captured, for me, the wistfulness of lost opportunities. It'll be opening in Berlin on April 26th and not only do I highly recommend it, but I'm really looking forward to a second viewing.

Orchim Le-rega (Off White Lies) in Generation 14+, one of my favorite Berlinale sections, was a really tough look at a vulnerable young Israeli-American girl's coming of age. Even for such a well-worked-over theme, the plot felt fresh, the pacing energetic and the acting was really top-notch. It seems to be making the festival rounds but I'm guessing that, sadly, it won't be picked up and distributed internationally.

I also quite liked Sekret, from the same Polish director who impressed me last year (see here). This is the film that couples his revolutionary ideas on shooting with good solid subject matter -- the Art Spiegelmann portrayal of Polish complicity with, even furthering, of Nazi Anti-Semetism. It's subtle and spare, ambivalent and thought-provoking (just the way I like my film). The Director, however, went to see it on my recommendation and walked out.

The top film not to see is unfortunately Kuma, the Panorama opener. Despite its promising set-up, a bigamous marriage hidden within a large Turkish family in Vienna, the plot somehow fizzled into yet another flat, unidimensional portrayal of the issue of family honor. Sigh. E. and I had managed to score tickets for the opening and it was edifying to watch the audience struggle with the question of exactly how this film went wrong. To this I'd add the muddled and unedifying Hemel [note to self for future: avoid any subject of a full-page ad in the Berlinale program].

Weirdly, this was the first year I chose two films that went on to win awards; both politically important. First was Diaz: Don't Clean Up this Blood, which, in its punishingly unceasing portrayal of violence, was just really hard to watch. I also saw Tony Gatlif's Indignados which I'm guessing will prove to be too obscure for most film goers but that resonated with me given my four years off-and-on in Spain. I'll end with reviews from fellow Berlin blogger Denise, who, writing here, also reviewed Indignados and names Call Me Kuchu her best Berlinale documentary to-date.

In addition to what I've mentioned here, several Egyptian documentaries were continually sold out, plus I ran out of time for The Summit, a documentary addressing the 2000 Genoa protests. But no matter, DocumentaMadrid will be here in less than two months!