Friday, August 31, 2012

Berlin & Beyond 2012

On Thursday, the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival held a press conference for their 17th annual line-up of films from Germany, Austria & Switzerland. Screenings take place at the Castro Theatre & the Goethe-Institut from September 27 through October 4. This year there are 26 feature films & 6 short films. President Sabine Erlenwein & Festival Director Sophoan Sorn were present to discuss festival highlights.

The opening night film is Barbara, a taut drama about East Germany which covers similar ground as Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen). Closing night is another film about the GDR, This Ain't California, a documentary about punk skateboarders in East Berlin in the 1980s. Ms. Erlenwein assured us that the film is actually slower & more reflective than its jam-packed trailer.

Actor Mario Adorf will appear at the festival to receive a lifetime achievement award. Several of his films will be screened, including a director's cut of Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum (Die Belchtrommel) which has an additional 22 minutes. This year an educational program will invite high school students to screenings of Westwind & Lessons of a Dream (Der ganz große Traum).

Highlights include director Alexander Sokurov's version of Faust & The Foster Boy (Der Verdingbub), the most successful Swiss film in recent years. Ms. Erlenwein drew our attention to 2 German films about alternate realities, The Door (Die Tür) & Summer Window (Fenster zum Sommer). We'll get to see a German version of Tom Sawyer & The Substance, a documentary about the Swiss discoverer of LSD.

The press conference included a screening of the festival's Centerpiece Film, Veit Helmer's Baikonur. It's a shaggy dog of a movie, depicting the impact of the Soviet Era Baikonur Cosmodrome on the people living on the Kazakhstan steppe. Space junk rains down on them & is salvaged for its barter value. A beautiful female cosmonaut also happens to fall from the sky, & a charming young local, who goes by the name of Gagarin, discovers her. Absurdity ensues. It's part fairy tale, part ethnography, & part political satire.

View festival schedule here.

§ Berlin & Beyond Film Festival
17th Annual
Sep 27 - Oct 4, 2012
The Castro Theatre, San Francisco

§ Baikonur (2011)
Director: Veit Helmer
Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan; 95 min; in Russian, English & French

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