Friday, January 12, 2007

Jason goes to Berlin and Beyond--opening night

Hello all,

So last night I went to the opening night of the Berlin and Beyond German language film festival. I'd wanted to go for a few years and finally this year I was able to. So here's the rundown of opening night.

First there was the opening night party. A little tip to any film fest organizers out there--unless you want a significant portion of your audience to be kinda drunk for the movie, have the party after the films. Instead, they had the party first (the SF Jewish Film Festival also does this, I don't know why). But on the plus side, this being a German festival the food was hearty and the beer was plentiful. Mmmm...Dinkel Acker and beef stew, perfect for one of the coldest nights ever in San Francisco.

So 90 minutes of eating, drinking, and shmoozing with film people and I was ready to start the movie. The opening night selection was a sweet confection called "Summer in Berlin" (the german title translates to "Summer on the Balcony", but the director Andreas Dresen--who apparently has had many films play in this festival--said he figured it'd have a better chance to play at Berlin and Beyond if "Berlin" was in the title). It's a mostly sweet slightly bitter story of best friends Nike and Katrin. Nike is a blond in-home care nurse taking care of several elderly patients during the day and partying all night. I wouldn't go so far as to call her slutty, but she dresses kinda trashy and picks up guys. Katrin is an unemployed single mother interviewing for a job dressing mannequins for store displays. Katrin is almost run over by truck driver Ronald , who then starts dating Nike (who can't remember if his name is Ronald or Roland). Meanwhile Katrin's son Max is smitten with a girl named Charly, who likes Max's friend and bad-boy Rico. Anyway, it's a slice of life story that's interesting for its characters and even more for its tone. The exact same script, in the hands of a more cynical, less playful director, could be a very acerbic, biting dark comedy. But as it is, the movie is as goofy, energetic, and just plain enjoyable as Andreas himself, who was very entertaining in the Q&A. Kind of surprised me for a former east German, I expected him to be more dour. But that's what I love about these festivals--breaking stereotypes and learning about cultures I know very little about.

So here's hoping that the rest of the festival continues to pleasantly surprise me!

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