Since last year’s edition, New York’s Museum of Modern Art moved the dates of its annual survey of German films from a dark November slot to a sunny spring one, to benefit from the new crop of German productions premiering at the Berlin Film Festival.
And so this year’s KINO! 2010: New Films from Germany took place between April 21-30, featuring some familiar as well as fresh faces, with an unusually high number of documentaries. 7 out of 10 full length film slots were occupied by non-fiction films!
Margarethe von Trotta’s latest work VISION (VISION – AUS DEM LEBEN DER HILDEGARD VON BINGEN, 2009) opened this MoMA exhibition. A feature about the life and times of German Benedictine nun, Hildegard of Bingen, a healer, herbalist, composer, and writer, VISION stars Barbara Sukowa as Hildegard. This is Sukowas and von Trotta’s fifth collaboration. Their work together began in 1981 with JULIANE AND MARIANNE (DIE BLEIERNE ZEIT) followed by ROSA LUXEMBURG in 1986, L’AFRICANA in 1990, and THE OTHER WOMAN (DIE ANDERE FRAU) in 2004. Known and celebrated for her portrayals of strong willed, independent women, von Trotta’s VISION is an impressive addition to her collection of exceptional female heroes. NY based distributor Zeitgeist just picked up the film and plans to release it later this fall.
A discovery of this year’s KINO! is emerging filmmaker Jan Raiber’s documentary ALL MY FATHERS (ALLE MEINE VAETER), 2010. Arriving in New York after its world premiere at this year’s Berlinale, Raiber’s debut is a brave film about the filmmaker’s search for his biological father. But just as courageous as the filmmaker are his parents; wholeheartedly embracing and supporting their son’s project.
Upon the start of production, Raiber’s mother discloses to her son a big secret that really sets the film in motion: that Raiber’s biological father is yet another one than the one he knew about.
So off they go, mother and son, onto a journey of honesty, openness and closure. All three generations in this family – grandparents, parents, and children – address, discuss, and deal with this traumatic issue that has haunted the filmmaker for all his life to eventually resolve it with affection, clarity, and mutual understanding.
And the camera is always there – cautious, calm and, collected; capturing it all – the doubts, expectations, fears, and worries as well as the relief and happiness.
At one point in the film, Raiber’s mother confesses she does not feel courageous at all. Courage is something else, she says. When her son asks her to define courageous, she answers, “someone who jumps in the water to rescue another person from drowning”, to which her son wonders whether this was exactly what she has done for him.
Another documentary about closure of sorts is Marco Wilms’s COMERADE COUTURE (EIN TRAUM IN ERDBEERFOLIE). Some 20 years ago, before he started making films, Wilms was a fashion model and part of the East Berlin underground fashion scene. And reminiscing about a zeitgeist of a place and time that no longer exists, Wilms sets out on a trip to search for the subversive, underground fashion and party scene of the German Democratic Republic in the 80’s.
Rallying up former friends and associates, Wilms re-stages one of his most memorable fashion shows, with fashion designer Sabine von Oettingen actually re-creating her former collection (while the originals are stored at the national archives and cannot be accessed because of their delicate nature and importance as cultural heritage. With plenty of archival and home video footage Wilms takes us back in time and then jumps forward to today’s Berlin producing a most lavish fashion extravaganza. However, even though all the ingredients are right, Wilms concludes that it feels quite different than in the 1980’s, but really good nonetheless!
Bridging different cultures and times is the subject of Irene Langemann’s documentary FROM RAMSTEIN WITH LOVE (LIEBESGRUESSE AUS RAMSTEIN), 2009. The filmmaker follows three US-German marriages, based in Ramstein, Germany at the US Air Forces in Europe as they try to balance their family life and their army career – traveling between the picturesque small town of Ramstein and the bleak landscapes of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. How does one reconcile war torn conflict zones with the amenities of affluent Germany? And how do the partners that are left behind deal with the worries about their loved ones? A lot is implied but not too much spoken about in this thought-provoking documentary that presents war and its consequences through yet another important prism. It is a film that should speak to both German as well as US audiences.
Rounding out this year’s KINO! line up were Hans-Christian Schmidt’s documentary THE WONDEROUS WORLD OF LAUNDRY (DIE WUNDERSAME VELT DER WASCHKRAFT), 2009; Andrea’s Dresen’s latest feature WHISKY WITH VODKA (WHISKY MIT WODKA), 2009; the Academy Award nominated short documentary RABBIT A LA BERLIN (MAUERHASE), 2009 by Bartek Konopka and Piotr Rosolowski; Enrique Sánchez Lansch’s feature documentary THE REICHSORCHESTER: THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIC AND THE THIRD REICH (DAS REICHSORCHESTER: DIE BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER UND DER NATIONALSZIALISMUS), 2008; and Susanne Schneider’s feature THE DAY WILL COME, (ES KOMMT DER TAG), 2009; plus NEXT GENERATION 2009, a program of shorts by emerging film makers from Germany’s film schools.
In addition, MoMA presented previous German highlights with REQUIEM (REQUIEM), 2006, by Hans-Christian Schmid; Philip Groening’s documentary INTO GREAT SILENCE (DIE GROSSE STILLE), 2005; and Hans Weingartner’s THE EDUKATORS (DIE FETTEN JAHRE SIND VORBEI), 2004.
For more information on KINO! 2010, please visit: www.moma.org/visit/calendar/films/1053