Contemporary Issues and US-Independents: the First Films of the Berlinale's International Forum
A number of films chosen for the Internationalel Forum of New Cinema deal with contemporary issues. In their film "The Mission", Pepe Danquart and Mirjam Quinte documented Hans Koschnick's work as mediator in Mostar as well as the lives of the inhabitants of the divided Balkan city over a period of two years. Koschnick is expected to be present at the screening in Berlin. CALLING THE GHOSTS by Mandy Jacobson and Karmen Jelincic (USA/Croatia) and BLACK KITES by Jo Andres (USA) also deal with the conflict in Bosnia.
Ulrike Ottinger analyses a forgotten chapter in recent history in her film EXIL SHANGHAI. It deals with the flight of European Jews from the Nazi Regime to the city of Shanghai which was one of the few places in the world not requiring entry visas. Ulrike Ottinger lets her interviewees talk, thus evoking their fateful lives. She finds succinct and poetic images in today's Shanghai. Centre of attention are a number of people who fled from Central Europe to Shanghai, later emigrating to the USA.
Frenchman Hervé Roux does a different kind of historical research in REPRISE (Resumption"). He traced the images of an anonymous film document of May '68, i.e. The Resumption of Work in the Factory Wonder", a key film of the '68 movement. Le Roux managed to find nearly all the film's protagonists and interviewed them. This is a fascinating chapter of a new kind of history, an analysis of film within a film.
The Forum also introduces new work by US independents. ILLTOWN by Nick Gomez is the brilliant variation of a gangster story, set in a drug dealer milieu in Miami. Gomez already attracted attention in 1993 with his film Laws of Gravity". His new film is marked by extraordinary attention to detail. He creates a world which is at the same time beautiful, dreamlike and violent. The main protagonists are played by Michael Rappaport, Lili Taylor and Kevin Corrigan. Todd Verow caused furore in last year's Forum with Frisk". This year he tells the story of a young girl (Bonnie Dickenson) in LITTLE SHOTS OF HAPPINESS who tries to escape from the monotony of her life and becomes a drifter. The film consists of a series of absurd, tragical and comical encounters. Verow uses a very personal film language, highlighting unusual aspects of reality.
German and Latin American Films in the Program of the International Forum
The International Forum of the Berlin Film Festival features the world premiere of Fred Kelemen's new feature film FROST. Kelemen was awarded the German Federal Film Prize for his previous film `Verhängnis/Disaster' and is considered an up-and-coming filmmaker of the German Cinema. In his new film he describes the odysee of a mother and her son through icy landscapes in the time between Christmas and the New Year. None of the people they encounter offer them rest, a place to stay. Kelemen himself does the camera work, producing suggestive images of penetrating coldness amongst human beings. The film features Paul Blumberg, Anna Schmidt, Mario Gericke, Harry Baer and Isolde Barth. FROST has a length of 4.5 hours.
Furthermore, the Forum shows the work of two well-known German documentary filmmakers. Barbara and Winfried Junge offer another episode of their series `Life Stories' titled THAT'S MY LIFE - MARIELUISE, A GOLZOW CHILD" which follows the exciting life story of Marie-Luise S. from her school days in Oderbruch to the family's move to North Rhine Westphalia. In WITTSTOCK, WITTSTOCK Volker Koepp follows the lives of a number of women from the provincial Brandenburg city. Both films offer portraits of people from the former GDR. They attempt to reappraise history, they are funny, ironic and self-confident.
Another emphasis in this year's Forum program is Latin America. The Forum introduces a cross-section of eight new documentaries and feature films from Brazil. Brazilian Cinema has not only survived all attempts by the state to demolish its industry, it has even risen like a phoenix out of the ashes. The Brazilian series introduces films by Tata Amaral, José Araújo, Silvio Back, Carla Camurati, Joao Batista de Andrade, Bia Lessa/Dany Roland, Lúcia Murat and Murilo Salles. The program ranges from genre films with classical" Brazilian characteristics to sociological and political investigations and to experimental works. The program will be opened with O SERTAO DAS MEMORIAS (THE SERTAO OF MEMORIES) by José Araújo. Nearly all of the Brazilian directors will be present in Berlin during the festival.
Furthermore, the Forum shows two remarkably well-made feature films by Argentinian film students/young directors. MOEBIUS (directed by students of the film school in Buenos Aires) is a surreal study set in the present time. The film is about an underground train which has mysteriously disappeared in a labyrinth of tunnels. PICADO FINO (FINE DUST) by Esteban Safir is a refreshingly dadaist work by a talented, enthusiastic young cineast.
Films from Asia and Eastern Europe in the Forum Program
The film continent Asia is once again the focus of interest in this year's program of the International Forum of New Cinema of the Berlin Film Festival. Special focal point is the Korean Cinema which is currently experiencing a revival. The Forum introduces three feature films from Korea: THREE FRIENDS by woman director Yim Soon-Rye is about three young men who have been called up to serve in the military, a story set in a realist style. THE DAY A PIG FELL INTO THE WELL by Hong Sang-Soo is the portrayal of an unsuccesful writer, the film title being a metaphor for everyday life. The third film is FESTIVAL, an especially brilliant and moving film of renowned director Im Kwon-Taek. This description of a funeral ceremony turns into a reflection on various peoples' lives. In addition, the Forum is introducing contemporary short films and videos of the current strike and student movement in Korea.
There are three feature films coming from Japan, all very different in style and manner. FOCUS by Satoshi Isaka is about the exploitative practices of Japanese television, a film that develops from cinéma-vérité into a dramatic detective story. MY SECRET CACHE by Shinobu Yaguchi is the fantastic and high-spirited narrative of a determined young woman who is on a treasure hunt for booty which bankrobbers have hidden in a magical forest. SLEEPING MAN by Kohei Oguri is a meditation on life and death. The film lovingly portrays everyday life in a provincial country town.
HongKong director Allen Fong, prominent auteur in Chinese cinema, made his new film A LITTLE LIFE OPERA in Southern China. He describes the fight for survival of a small, struggling travelling opera troupe in Fujian province. In addition, the Forum shows two HongKong films during midnight screenings: YOUNG AND DANGEROUS III directed by Andrew Lau and the KungFu film FORBIDDEN CITY COPS by Stephen Chiau and Kuk Tak-chiu. Director Tsai-Cheng Wang's A CHA CHA FOR THE FUGITIVE comes from Taiwan and adopts a resolutely modern style, introducing the younger generation's aesthetics by creating an expressionist vision. There is a new filmmaker in Thai cinema, Tom Pannet, whose first feature film FUN BAR KARAOKE makes a critical assessment of the economic boom in Thailand in the last few years by describing a father-daughter relationship while also adding a dimension of myth and fairy tale.
Film country India is represented with two films in this year's Forum program. KAHINI by director Malay Bhattacharya describes a journey into the past which the protagonist undertakes together with a taxi driver and a painter. TINNU KI TINA by Paresh Kamdar portrays the everyday life of a young man who dreams of being a Hollywood hero.
The Forum is host to the jury of NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) which will award a prize for best Asian film in the Forum program.
This year the Forum has assembled a number of interesting contributions from Eastern Europe. The Russian film THE RETURN OF THE BATTLESHIP by Gennadi Poloka is a tragic and comical story about the activities of a cultural functionary in Odessa in 1925 when Eisenstein was shooting his film `Battleship Potemkin'. White Russian documentary filmmaker Juri Chaschewatski created a biting satire with AN ORDINARY PRESIDENT, portraying the Belorussian state president Lukaschenko. LATE FULL MOON comes from Bulgaria, a film by the great, recently deceased satirist Eduard Sachariev. He has portrayed an eccentric old man who takes his distance from his materialist, consumption-oriented children, beginning a life of an outcast. The Forum is also introducing a film from Azerbaidshan, STRANGE TIMES by Husseyn Mechtiev, a hypnotic film about a young woman's life with her paralyzed father, a record of madness.
Two very unconventional films deal with Africa. Frenchman Raymond Depardon presents a chronicle, a diary of this continent's pain with AFRICAS, WHAT ABOUT YOUR PAIN? Jean Rouch's most recent film MOI FATIGUE DEBOUT, MOI COUCHE assembles a collection of narratives, adventures and legends from Niger, all focusing on a tree which was felled by lightning but didn't die, even developing magical qualities.
The complete program of the International Forum can be called up on the Internet. The address: http://www.fdk-berlin.de.