WHAT IS THE BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL / BERLINALE?
Well, the Berlinale is simply, the world’s largest public film festival which provides an audience of interested film-goers, a city full of excitement, a diverse cultural scene, fascinating new films, up and coming artists, and an opportunity to see, talk to, and take close-up pictures, of international stars in the movie world!
The public programme of the Berlinale shows about 400 films per year of mostly international or European premieres of every genre, length and format!
The Berlin International Film Festival is a source of inspiration in the global film community, encouraging the influx of film programmes, workshops, panel discussions, joint projects, and other creative outlets and networking possibilities.
And with more than:
332,403 sold tickets
18,080 professional visitors
The Business of Film-Making
I’m actually in the video above. This was the first “star” Press Conference at the Berlinale, and I’m standing right behind the journalist who asked Bryan Cranston that super interesting question!
You simply can’t go wrong!
From the 7th of February to the 17th February, 2019, Berlin was packed solid, with members of the film industry.
The Berlinale is not only an independent film festival with a difference, but also a film festival that ordinary people can actually visit.
It follows 13-year-old William Kamkwamba (newcomer Maxwell Simba), who is thrown out of the school he loves, when his family can no longer afford his tuition fees.
Using the school library, he finds a way, by using his father’s – Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) – to build a windmill which then saves his village in Malawi, from hunger and famine.
This film is the real-life story of a the young boy who saved a village, and the author of the actual book!
The film is acted, written and directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave, Mary Magdalene), so you know it’s going to be quality, and I can tell you that there was not a dry eye in the room, and various sounds of sniffing and blowing of handkerchiefs!
Stevie is 13, but looks far, far younger, and is desperate to hang out with the big boys.
His older brother bullies him, and his single mother is rarely at home.
When Stevie meets a group of cool dudes at the local skateboard shop, everything changes and it’s not long before Stevie smokes his first cigarette…
I won’t tell you what happens except to say that the writer and director – Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) – has paid great attention to detail in order to resurrect the 1990’s for his directorial debut.
His story of a teenager’s difficult search for recognition and the right friends unfolds with great ease and plenty of music.
Think back to the 90’s with mixtapes, VHS camcorders, Nintendo PlayStation, songs of Nirvana, Cypress Hill, Seal, etc. and a good dose of nostalgia.
You’ll love it!
3. MR. JONES
Mr. Jones is made by Academy Award nominee Agnieszka Holland who brings to the screen the extraordinary untold story of Gareth Jones.
Gareth Jones was an ambitious young Welsh journalist who not only became the first foreign journalist to cover the story of Hitler, but also travelled to the Soviet Union in 1933 and uncovered the appalling truth behind the Soviet “utopia,” otherwise known as the rapid modernisation of the Soviet Union, and Stalin’s regime.
In fact, he even attempted to get an interview with Stalin himself!
On closer detail, all isn’t as it seems and he witnesses crimes against humanity which he diligently reports, and which are all denied and ignored by Western media.
He does however, meet a young writer called George Orwell who goes on to become famous for writing a most famous and yet still contemporary, allegorical novel inspired by Gareth Jones’ story – Animal Farm.
Not much is known about Gareth Jones.
So what happened to him?
Watch the film at a cinema near you, and find out?
This term is used to describe children who break every single rule; children who refuse to accept any kind of structure, and who gradually fall through the cracks in Germany’s child and welfare services.
In fact, there was even talk of sending her to a children’s home in Africa!
No matter where this nine-year-old is taken in, she is booted out again after a short time. And that is exactly what she is after, because all she really wants, is to be able to live with her mother again. A woman who is totally unable to cope with her daughter’s unpredictable behaviour.
This multi-award-winning script, has created a dramatically intense film about one child’s overwhelming need for love and security and the potential for violence that this engenders.
At the same time, it depicts the tireless attempts of teachers and psychologists who use respect, trust and confidence to create a way forward for children who threaten to destroy others and themselves, as a result of their unpredictable outbursts.
This film is sad and somewhat disturbing, but with a potential for hope.
If you can get your hands on it, it’s well worth watching for the brilliant performance of the young actor – Helena Zengel!
It follows two dreamers – John and Molly Chester – and a dog on an odyssey to bring harmony to both their lives and the land.
When the barking of their beloved dog – Todd – leads to an eviction notice from their tiny LA apartment, John and Molly Chester make a choice that takes them out of the city and onto 200 acres in the foothills of Ventura County, naively endeavoring to build one of the most diverse farms of its kind in complete co-existence with nature. The land they’ve chosen, however, is utterly depleted of nutrients and suffering from brutal drought.
Cameraman, director and newly minted farmer John Chester, spent eight daunting years chronicling the hard and passionate work involved in realising their utopia. His footage also includes some remarkable nocturnal shots of their animal companions and the planting of 10,000 orchard trees, over 200 different crops, and bringing in animals of every kind – including an unforgettable pig named Emma and her best friend, Greasy the rooster.
Just as the farm’s ecosystem finally begins to reawaken, their plans of perfect harmony takes a series of unfortunate wild turns that will lead them to life, death, the depth of despair, and everlasting hope that it’ll somehow come together.
I loved it!
I think you will too!
HITS FOR FILM NERDS
If you’re really into independent or international films, then the following list will please you, and whet your appetite, for good quality film-making.
Films that don’t need to worry about whether the audience will “get it” or appeal to 12-year-old boys.
In short, intelligent films!
6. WHEN TOMATOES MET WAGNER
When Tomatoes Met Wagner is a funny and uplifting story of how two enterprising Greek cousins – Christos and Alexansdros – and five village women, attempt to tackle the world vegetable market by selling their own home-grown tomatoes!
It’s a quirky and inspiring tale of how a tiny rural village – Elias in Greece – with a population of just a mere 33 elderly inhabitants – respond to the new reality of how we eat and grow our food, by engaging in organic farming to overcome the Greek financial crisis!
And not by the use of any added ingredient, but by literally, the sound of music!
The brains behind this inspiring idea is Alexandros who uses stories of legend and history to market their products, encourage people from all over the world to visit Elias, and is utterly convinced that playing the music of Wagner in the tomato fields, helps crops grow healthy in a natural way.
With the help of his cousin Christos, a traditional farmer, they soon turn his land to the cultivation of organic tomatoes with the help of five (5) elderly women from the village who pasteurize, label and hand package their crops, as tomato paste and organic meals.
Soon, the little jars find their place on the shelves of organic stores across the world.
It’s funny, warm, original, and heart-breaking all at the same time.
You. Have. Got. To. See. This. Film.
7. DIE KINDER DER TOTEN – THE CHILDREN OF THE DEAD
After dying in an accident, Karin returns as one of the undead. In a cinema owned by a Nazi widow where the past is mourned, she brings the non-living back to life.
In her 666-page ghost novel “The Children of the Dead”, Elfriede Jelinek allows the deceased to rise again, as a parade of zombies in a supermarket!
The film flutters between past and present. The present – a coach load of Dutch tourists and Syrian refugees. The past – hunters and zombies with swastikas and Jewish concentration camp victims, walking around, hand-in-hand!
The directorial duo from the Nature Theater of Oklahoma used amateur actors and Super 8 film in the original Styrian setting in Austria, using silent film, complete with Austrian brass-band music.
It’s a strange home-made horror movie, in which the vulgar and the ridiculous meet.
Bait is a black-and-white film shot on hand-processed 16mm with close-ups of fish, nets, lobsters, wellington boots, knots, catch baskets, and even sounds of the bare gravel of fisher folk trudging across the pebbles on the beach!
The location is placed in an idyll Cornwall fishing village where the locals are no longer able to support themselves in the traditional way of fishing, but have had to resort to more lucrative ways via selling their homes, or catering to the interests of day-trippers, on sailing trips around the cove.
This has created tension between the weekend London city-folk and the now far-poorer original village locals, who have been priced out of the market or have to contend with empty buildings that they can no longer afford to live in, depicting images of historical reference and the tradition of social realism in British cinema.
I enjoyed it very much and if you’re a film nerd, you probably will too!
9. TO THÁVMA TIS THÁLASSAS TON SARGASSÓN|THE MIRACLE OF THE SARGASSO SEA
She drinks too much, constantly swears and is sleeping with a married doctor. Her transfer from Athens to the tiny fishing village ten years ago still rankles with her, and her adolescent son – Dimitris – has to learn to live with it.
Rita comes from Mesolongi and works in a factory; her brother is a local celebrity who makes her join him on stage during his club appearances. Rita is very unhappy and a death tears apart the already fragile network of relationships between the villagers, revealing an even more damaged structure beneath.
Angeliki Papoulia’s brilliant performance and the surprisingly shocking plot of the film serves up a small-town nightmare, garnished with eels and several layers of interpretation.
10. K I D S
Kids is an experimental project about the psychology of the group dynamic.
Who is steering the crowd? What if it is heading in the wrong direction? Where does the individual end and the group begin?
It’s a witty black-and-white animated short film, an interactive piece of animation and a computer game set up that has animated figures running up and down the screen before they splat!
It’s hilarious and I absolutely loved it!
FILMS I REALLY, REALLY LIKE!
I’m very into British / Irish, Asian and East European films, as they’re all quite gritty, weird and obscure. This year, I watched quite a few German films.
At first glance, Fritz «Fiete» Honka is a pitiful loser.
The man with the broken face binge-drinks his nights in his local neighborhood dive, the «Golden Glove», chasing after lonely women. None of the regulars suspect that the apparently harmless Fiete, is actually a monster.
It’s the story of Fritz Honka, a serial killer who hid, mutilated, chopped up, and murdered numerous women, and his favorite bar, the «Golden Glove», where schmaltzy German songs move the pub punters to tears, and drinking is a reflex against pain in post-war Germany.
It’s a horrific story, but the attention to detail is amazing. As well as the make-up!
Go see it!
12. BERLIN BOUNCER
Berlin Bouncer is a documentary about three legendary bouncers – Frank, Sven and Smiley!
Of course, in those days, we expat locals knew Berghain as OstGut – it’s original name!
This film chronicles an exciting piece of Berlin’s cultural history – from the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall up to the pulsating present, so is it any wonder that I very much wanted to see the film!
In the late 1980s, Frank Künster came from West Germany to Berlin which was a special territory due to the fact that Berlin was divided by the Red Curtain into East and West, and was actually in the middle of East German territory (Brandenburg), Smiley Baldwin, an American G.I., who was one of the American soldiers who came over to guard the border to East Berlin, and sort of never left, and Sven Marquardt, a young punk and photographer, in East Berlin.
In fact, out of the three, Sven Marquardt is most easily recognisable as his usual garb is black leather, black boots, silver jewellery, long salt and pepper hair, and a well-groomed beard half-covered by a face full of tattoos and piercings. I live in Prenzlauerberg, and I sometimes used to see him at the tram stop!
Once the Berlin Wall fell, it was not long before all three found themselves caught up in the city’s wild nightlife of the 1990s, where they soon became the legendary ‘guardians’ of the city’s hippest clubs.
This film is a behind-the-scene look of how they all got started, what it was like at the time, the diversity of life in Berlin and their own real-life story now that they’re pushing 50, all appropriately accompanied by the infectiously pounding club sounds which have become a kind of second heartbeat not only for the protagonists of the film, but before the audience, and myself, who were in the scene when Berlin was the techno capital of the world.
And it still is!
Our film screening venue at the Berlinale was so packed that people were sitting on the floor!
It’s going to be shown at cinemas in Germany, so if you happen to be here, watch it. If not, look for it wherever.
You’ll love it!
Buoyancy is about Chakra – a 14-year-old boy from Cambodia.
Chakra has a hard life toiling in the rice fields, along with his parents and siblings, when a friend tells him about the possibility of earning money in a factory. He then decides to secretly leaves home, in search of a better life.
Unfortunately, he is deceived, falls into the clutches of human traffickers, is sold to a Thai broker and enslaved on a fishing trawler. As fellow slaves are tortured and murdered around him, he decides his only hope of freedom is to become as violent as his captors.
Buoyancy is the first feature film of Rodd Rathjen’s, and in fact, the screening that I saw was the first public film screening that it has ever done. Ever!
The film is a brutal, yet realistic depiction of the current situation of Cambodian and Myanmar forced labourers.
This film isn’t pretty and spares no-one, but it’s very gripping, with a passionate message of social injustice and a touching and shocking coming-of-age story about a young boy, and humanity put to the test.
Part melodrama, part critique of the times, this film takes us from China’s turbulence from the end of the Cultural Revolution in the 1980’s, to the prospering turbo-capitalism of today.
Yaoyun and his wife Liyun’ were once a happy family – until their young son drowned playing by a reservoir. Following the loss of their child, the two families separate.
And so Yaojun and Liyun leave their home and plunge into the big city, although nobody knows them there and they cannot understand the local dialect, and their adopted son – Liu Xing – does not offer them the comfort they had hoped for either.
Yet even as their lives diverge, a common search for truth and reconciliation around the tragedy remains and they decide to return back to their roots.
This film was impressive. I didn’t understand how the adopted son came into the story and even though I nodded off a little, I happily sat and watched it for 3+ hours!
I would happily sit back and watch it again!
FÜR FRAUEN. 1. KAPITEL|FOR WOMEN – CHAPTER 1
Equal pay for equal work! Stand up for your rights!
This was said by four (4) female employees at a West Berlin supermarket, who felt heavy pressure both at work and at home, and who went on strike to demand the same salary that their male colleagues got.
And you get to see customers smoking in the shop, long hair on both sexes, extremely tight trousers, very short dresses, men refusing to lift boxes as “it’s women work” and sadly, the pinching and grabbing of bottoms as well as sexist jokes, as women walk by.
That notwithstanding, the film is quite funny and was digitally restored in 2018.
If you can get your hands on it, it’s a historical treasure!
FILMS THAT I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE SEEN, BUT DIDN’T!
This film is a documentary that portrays several families seeking psychiatric treatment at a German clinic.
This is a last resort to deal with their seemingly unresolvable parenting issues and both Ralf Bücheler and Jörg Adolph deliver a chilling insight into our society, and its troubled relationship with its children.
It was interesting in itself but I don’t think it had any place in this film festival, and all I could think of was, “I could be watching something else!”
In watching a festival film, you get to see a large variety of international locations and settings, and a better intimate view with acting and scenes, that are much more realistic than in films with a Hollywood budget!
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I'm a British girl from Manchester living in Berlin with my German husband and my half British – half German son.
My blog is a lifestyle expat travel blog and puts a focus on my promotion of culture, history, travels around the world, Europe, Brexit, the Royal Family, British-German life and being British in Berlin - I am The British Berliner!