It has been less than two months since Shia LaBeouf peeked out through the holes of a paper bag at Berlinale’s Red Carpet, and Berlin is again occupied by film folks.
This time around, all the pomp and circumstance were reduced to symbolic croisettes laid out in front of cinemas across the city, giving filmgoers more breathing (and smoking) room. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Achtung Berlin film festival returned to the capital with over 100 films shot or produced in and around Berlin and will conclude tonight with the award ceremony at which the festival director, Matthias Luthardt, will present the new Exberliner Film Award.
The festival opened with Berlin-produced feature Männer zeigen Filme und Frauen ihre Brüste(Men show movies and women their breasts), directed by Isabel Šuba, starring Anne Haug and Matthias Weidenhöfer as two filmmakers trying to pitch their new “western comedy” at Cannes. The trials and tribulations of the charmingly dysfunctional duo, as they clumsily navigate the film market, unveil the unrelenting commitment and comradery forged between filmmakers. A more personal story of Schwarzer Panther, Samuel Perriard’s first feature length film, explores the incestuous relationship between siblings, Emily and Jakob, left to their own devices in the pristine mountainous landscape of the Swiss Alps. Stunning cinematography, camera work and masterful performance by Lucy Wirth and Ole Jakob portray the morally questionable love as untamed as the magnificent scenery of the location.
The program was organized along six categories: feature films, documentary films, medium length, short films and Berlin highlights, with a special program focusing specifically on films made in the capital during the transformative 1990s. The cross-section of new cinema and films depicting Berlin’s turbulent past make up for a body of work indispensable for anyone willing to understand the social and political schisms of present-day Berlin.
The documentary Welcome Goodbye digs into the issue of Berlin’s identity. The film attempts to capture the fears and concerns caused by the flood of overnight visitors, seasonal tourists, expats and quickly assimilated new Berliners, without taking a clear position on the matter. Instead, a more subtle discourse emerges from the experiences of the locals and several tourists welcomed in Berlin by Christian, a self-appointed tour guide. One of the interviewees compares Berlin to a crowded vernissage, where those that make up the success of the event are the reason why they’re unable see the show (reminds of the viral mock advert by TomTom-You’re not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic). Michael Klier’s neorealist TV film Ostkreuz(1991) shows the no-man’s-land between West and East Berlin shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Together with films such as Thomas Arslan’s Geschwister(1997), focused on the sensitivities, expectations and perspectives of Turkish youth in Germany through the portrayal of a family of five living in Kreuzberg, the festival’s Retrospective 90er Jahre program can be interpreted as a rich guide through the formative years of Berlin as we know it today.