Monday, February 2, 2009

Tickled Pink

Another Berlinale is upon us and I'm so glad I decided to stay in Berlin for it. Today the ticket windows opened at 10 AM and although very little is on sale beyond the opening night (with which I never bother), the last day (Kinotag) is available from the beginning and I picked up a couple of tickets. Early afternoon, the line at the Potsdamer Platz ticket counter was non-existent though I suspect that will change by Thursday. For my recommendations on how to approach the Berlinale, click here.

This year seems a bit different; I don't remember all the Panorama films being English-subtitled previously as they are now. There are also some films marked as having German+English subtitles; I asked twice for details, at the Berlinale office and the main ticket counter. Both times the staff didn't know the answer and had to call. We'll see, but it seems this means dual subtitling, which I run across occasionally in Spain and is quite unpleasant. However, I am willing to put up with it to see more cinema from the former Yugoslavia (Hans-Christian Schmid's Storm). Finally, an important difference this year is that sold-out films are no longer marked out on the big program board. Instead, there is an electronic screen that scrolls through 28 pages; with each projected for 15 seconds or so on, it can take up to 7 minutes to get the information one needs. That is, if one is fast enough to digest the information on roughly 20 films per page within 15 seconds. Whose brilliant idea this was, I have no idea.

In scanning the program, I recognize three films I've already seen: Solo Quiero Caminar, Berlin Calling (currently playing at the Central where it will be much easier to get tickets) and Lemon Tree (a repeat of last year's Panorama Public Award). The number of films on Israel stands out, and I hope that the Berlinale has applied its usual sophisticated political approach to this excruciatingly difficult topic. I'm considering Simone Bitton's Rachel -- about Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old Californian who was crushed to death by a Caterpillar tractor, while she was protesting home demolitions in the West Bank in 2003. I remember it so vividly as my ex was protesting in the West Bank at that time as well. The visceral fear and worry I felt for him translated into feeling completely sick-at-heart for her family and the useless waste of such a promising young life. My eyes tear up at the thought of it still, and I don't know if I could bear to see such a film, but I don't know, also, how I could not see it.

Film is my passion, it's life-blood, a way to jump out of this mind which is, all too often, an uncomfortable place to inhabit. Through it I travel worlds otherwise closed to me. For a time I'm transformed into a small Kurdish child living in forever-war (Turtles Can Fly which I reviewed here), a kid on the impossibly mean streets of Mexico City (De la Calle), a decent man (Klopka, The Trap), or the kick-ass woman I've always dreamed of being (Death Proof). It's not just an escape, but it adds entirely new layers of consciousness that could never be possible in any one single life. It's the best training I know for altruism; it reminds me, as nothing else, what it means to be human.

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