Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Berlinale Soup

Back in January the Lively German had introduced me to a film director here who ended up being great fun to hang out with during the Berlinale. He invited me to another director friend's traditional post-Berlinale debriefing soup, which was more than helpful in treating the massive exploding head I'd developed from seeing so many films in so little time. This is proof I'm not cut out to be a real film reviewer... Although I am well aware that some see 4 or 6 films a day (they're the ones who walk out after 15 or 20 minutes), I simply cannot take a wine-tasting approach to film. I don't sip; I drink deeply: the deeper the better.

Last year's Berlinale was about immigration for me. This year's theme seemed to have been women. This wasn't intentional on my part - I didn't specifically seek out women-centered films. It just ended up that I saw a lot of film that made me think even more than usual about what it is to be a woman in the world these days. I call myself post-modern, but I can clearly see women ten years, and now even twenty years younger than me, strong-arming their way even less apologetically than I have done, through this man's world. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner the old guard steps aside, the better. The only good thing about Pink, which in my vocabulary has now become a synonym for the worse sort of maudlin dreck, is the great contrast it presented.

I saw more competition films (three) than usual [R. wanted to see Mammoth--which turned out to be a poor cousin of Babel -- but we couldn't even letch at Gael García Bernal due to both a really unfortunate hairdo and a hopelessly flat role as a 30-plus-year-old boy]. Then Schmid's Storm was a poor cousin of Human Zoo -- if we want to represent what rape as military weapon means to women, maybe it's not surprising to think that a woman director/writer would be better equipped to do so. However, Schmid's Forum entry, Die Wundersame Welt von Wacherschaft, was a female-centered documentary: an interesting and sympathetic treatment of the hopelessly dead-end lives of Polish border women who wash Berlin's hotel laundry daily.

The only competition film I really liked was Deutschland '09, which is scheduled for a March 26th release in Germany. A set of 13 shorts at over 2.5 hours long, it held my attention quite masterfully; only a couple of the shorts would have been better ditched, interesting the first and last. Daniel Levi's piece on German's dark view of their country was screamingly funny -- picture a flying Jewish boy landing in the middle of a Neo-Nazi meeting to be hailed as the newest Führer! We also saw a masterful teacher working with 8- or 9-year-olds on conflict resolution, a cool critique of shock-and-awe capitalism, a terrifying piece on German domestic anti-terrorism secret forces gone wild, and Fatih Akin's interview of Murat Kurnaz, the German-Turk who's still waiting for the German government to apologize for its complete failure to get him out of Guantanamo at the very beginning.

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