Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Berlinale Recycled

NEWS FLASH -- Berlinale must-see films currently playing in Berlin: Deutschland '09 and Hayat Var (more below).

Immediately after the Berlinale, the original-version theaters in Berlin screen the pre-determined "hits", such as Milk (definitely worth seeing for Penn's performance but 1984's documentary, Times of Harvey Milk, was better) and The International (total crap). A month or two later a few of the more alternative films from the festival might cycle through, per the incomprehensible hit-or-miss system that seems to govern film distribution. I was hoping Human Zoo would be one of these, but I don't see any evidence of it in the two cities I watch film: Berlin and Madrid.

Another film I'm pulling for is Hashmatsa (Defamation), the best documentary I saw at the Berlinale, but it will, I'm betting, be a bit difficult to track down. My U.S. readers can see it soon at the Tribeca film fest's international documentary competition
and I'm guessing it will show up on the Jewish film festival circuit this summer. Israeli director Yoav Shamir asks two very important questions: does the extremely powerful Jewish American anti-defamation lobby actually do Israel more harm than good? And, is it of any benefit to Israel to play the role, as some of his ADL interviewees expressed it, of "last resort" for American Jews? You'll have to see the film to find out exactly what he makes of these issues, but I will describe one thread that I found most touching: his portrayal of Jewish children as inculcated with fear of the outside world. I have no way of knowing how extensive this is, but watching teenagers explain in such a matter-of-fact way how the whole world hates them simply because they are Jewish, was, I found, somewhere between heart-wrenching and maddening.

Back to my main point: the charming but equally heart-wrenching Hayat Var (My Only Sunshine), about a young girl growing up in poverty in Istanbul, is playing tomorrow and Friday at Berlin's Turkish Film Festival this week in Berlin. So if you can read German subtitles or understand Turkish, SEE THIS FILM! And, my second favorite documentary, Deutschland 09, is, as expected, all over Berlin. Of the 13 shorts, 10 ranged from quite good to amazing, and for a compilation, one could hardly ask for a better hit ratio.

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