Archive for February, 2009

my Berlinale 2009 experience

26.February.09

where do i start?

why did I go to Berlin for a week for the 59th Berlinale International Film Festival?

basically because i had a dream one night that i went to Germany. So the next day I looked online to see how much tickets cost, just for the fun of it, and the were extremely cheap. Less than half of what I paid to fly to Berlin in the summer of 2006 (true it was the summer and the world cup was in Germany that year..). I knew that some big event was going on in Berlin in February, but I could not remember what. Then i found out that the Berlinale was happening, and I looked up hostel rates, and decided I would go.

I was fortunate enough to have a family member with a large number of saved up airline miles that I did not have to pay for my airline ticket. Which meant I only had to pay for food, hostel, and film screening tickets.

The programme for the festival came out on January 27th (I think…I can’t remember), and I set up a schedule with what films I would see on what days. Unfortunately, I would be missing the first 3 days of the festival because I did not want to take more than 5 days off of work. The tickets went on sale beginning February 2nd, for most films the tickets were on sale 3-4 days at 10 am German time before the actual screening. Which meant the week before I left, I was waking up at 3:50 am to purchase my tickets at 4:00 am EST. I was able to purchase a good number of tickets before I arrived in Germany.

I had planned on seeing 3 screenings the same day I arrived in Germany. Big mistake. Because of the jet lag, I slept through all of the screenings. It was ok. Only 3 films wasted.

Monday, February 9th

I missed the first film I had planned to see that day, because I did not estimate how much time it would take to pick up my internet purchased tickets. There was a bit of a line at the pick-up counter, so I unfortunately missed the screening of Mammoth, which is am American film, so I will be able to see it here in the U.S. soon.

The first film of the festival I watched was Gigante, a film by director Adrián Biniez.  This was a very cute movie. I’m not a huge fan of categorizing films into drama, thriller, etc. This film was simple, about a man who was a overnight security guard at a grocery store.

Horacio Camandule as Jara

Horacio Camandule as Jara

Here is what I wrote in my notebook about this film:

Ok, before I start reviewing, I have to say that I am beyond exhausted right now. I walked in a circle in Potsdamer Platz today, but its ok b/c I got to see the Philharmonie and the Staatsbibliothek. Why am I walking around Berlin taking pictures of things that I could tag people I know on Facebook? So so sad. So I finally made it to Urania [the theater in which Gigante played]. After wandering around Charolttenburg b/c I got on the wrong U-Bahn to visit Savignyplatz. I went to the store where I bought my wallet [in Summer of 2006]. And I did not like anything they had! Which was very dissapointing.l So I got back on the train and went to the screening of Gigante. The young woman sitting next to me was writing something in english, so I asked her in deutsch, if she speaks english and she said yes. She works for a Publisher in Munich and they are publishing a bunch of books. My hand is starting to hurt from writing. NOT GOOD! Anyway, she was very nice. The movie was cute-funny. I slept through a good portion of it. Hey, I’m still jetlagging. And off to see another film. AND the subtitles were in German. But I pretty much understood everything. I really liked the heavy metal theme. We don’t see that anymore. Heavy metal is very 80s – early 90s.

The second film I saw on Monday was Berlin is in Germany, which was shown as a part of the  10 Years of Panorama Audience Award section of the festival. In 2001, this film won the Panorama Audience Award. I really really enjoyed this film. It was based on a true story, of a man who was arrested and imprisoned 4 months before the Berlin wall came down, and was released in the year 2001.  The Berlin that he once knew was gone, and there were many things that he was not accustomed to (people texting and calling on cell phones, the beaurocracy of Germany today, etc.).  Also, when he was arrested, his wife was pregnant with their son, so he had not yet met his now 11 year old son. The movie of course took place all in Berlin, and it kind of reminded me of the theme in Goodbye, Lenin. Except he was thrown into the new Berlin at the beginning of the film, whereas the mother in Goodbye, Lenin only discovered the new Berlin at the end of the film.

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Here is what I wrote in my notebook about this film:

Ok, so I’m sitting at Alexanderplatz waiting for the U-Bahn. I have a serious headache, I have to pee, I’m starving, and oh yeah extremely sleep deprived. But I just saw an amazing film. It won the 1st prize of public viewers choice in the Panorama section of the 2001 Berlinale. It is about a man who just got out of jail in 2001, and he went in in July 1989. Basically he knew nothing of  ‘Nach der Wende’. Such a great film. The director and one of the actors spoke with the audience after the screening, which was a huge treat. I pretty much ❤ all movies made in Berlin. I will always feel a connection to this city, altough I am an American who has lived in Berlin for a mere 6 wochen, I really do love this city. It’s fresh history, culture, population, everything. Could I live here? I don’t know. I don’t know what I would do to make al iving. But I do love this city. I feel like the director made the audience really feel for the main character. Not feel sorry for him or pity him, but feel what he was felling when first returning to the new berlin and the fact that his son never met his father. Or that he almost got locked up again b/c of his prior “murder” charges. I feel like some of the East German police tactics were similar to some of the tactics the U.S. government has (and probably still does) use against its citizens and also against perceived terrorists.

Tuesday, February 10th

The first film of Tuesday was Alle Anderen, a Competition section film, and the first of many that I saw at Friedrichstadtpalast. I was a little late to this screening (I had to get there by 9:30 am). This was a great film. The actress who played Gitti, Birgit Minichmayr, I had also seen play a small role in Der Untergang. The one thing that bugged me about this film was the complicated relationship dynamics that it brought to light, that I am sure many people go through in their intimate relationships. It did remind me of some of the bad parts about my most previous relationship, so for this reason only it left a bad taste in my mouth.

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Here is what I wrote in my notebook about this film:

I am writing this late tuesday night. I am pretty tired, so I’ll make it short and sweet. First, I arrived late. Friedrichstadtpalast is indeed a beautiful theater. I did not see the inside when it was lit, though. But that’s ok because i have many more films to see there. The main actress was also in the film Der Untergang, though she had a smaller role in that film. I guess why I found the film to be disturbing is because it hit too close to home. The disfuntionality of the relationship, the way the male character put down his girlfriend, really reminded me of some of the men i nmy life. It was a very intimate film, though. Something I find german filmmakers to excel in. Kind of reminded me of Sie Haben Knut, with Cat Stevens, instead of Nick Drake.

The next film I saw this day was a Forum film, All Fall Down, an experimental documentary by Canadian director Philip Hoffman. I didn’t really understand much of the film. It was the only film that I did not reallyl ike, and that I walked out of. Mostly because I was just napping throughout the entire film, and I could have spent my time somewhere else. I guess that I do not know enough about film (I only took 2 film courses in college) to entirely appreciate this film.

Here is what I wrote in my notebook about this film:

I don’t have much to say about these films. Maybe I didn’t give them enough of a chance. They were in the Forum expanded category. I don’t feel like getting into them. Too boring/confusing. I was napping during the whole thing, so I left early. Also because the guy sitting next to me left. I thought it would be interesting because the description said it was something about exploring Canadian land rights, and Native Americans trying to reclaim their land. But I had a hard time piecing the different parts of the movie together.

The last film I saw this day, Chan di chummi (Kiss the Moon) by Khalid Gill, was a fantastic documentary about the Khusra communities in large cities in Pakistan. Kushras are what we in the west would identify has transgender women, although the subjects in the film would say that they were girl/boy, or  in between genders. This was the premiere of the film, and director Khalid Gill was there to answer questions after the show. My review pretty much explains everything i loved about this film.

a picture i took of the film poster

a picture i took of the film poster

Here is what I wrote in my notebook about this film:

Now THIS was an amazing documentary. It was the premiere, a documentary on the Khusras, or the transgender community in Lahore, Pakistan (although in most large cities in Pakistan, Khusra communities exist; the larger the city, the larger the khusra community). It took the director over a year to build close relationships with the women to let him interview them with a camera and film them. There were a group of them that were interviewed, all were muslim except for one. When they are children almost all of them knew they were Khusra. For money, they dance at weddings and celebrations for newborns, and on the streets. What I found very fascinating was there there is a very long history of Khusras. It reminded me of some of the hisory of gay, lesbian, and trans (or in-between or both gendered) people that I learned about in my Gay & Lesbian history course ( I don’t think that was the name of the course, but oh well). The christian Khusra interviewed a Khusra that was 110 years old, which was very cool. She said that Khusras were treated with more respect back then and now because of television, people discriminate, judge, and call them names on the street. The community that was formed very much reminded me of the drag queens in Paris is Burning. These women created their own families, with mothers and fathers and daughters. The elder Khusra also spoke of how the Khusras now are not very skilled and dancing, and that they just dance a little and already want money. Also, the main subject of the film (the Christian Khusra) had a man that she was involved with, whome she only found out was married when she saw his daughter. He brings his daughter over to her house and she takes care of her, call herself “mom” to the child. During the Q & A session with the director, a women in the audience asked if there were women who dressed as men. Which i knew the answer to already be a no. It seems many more traditional cultures are more accepting of men to women as women to men, most likely because women have more power if they dress/act as men. And the Khusras also had a direct connection with Allah, as if God put them there on earth for a purpose. Some of them would adopt children. Many had breasts and the director said most Khusras are unaware that sex reassingment surgery even exists. And the hormones that they do take are given to them by quacks (people pretending to be doctors) as experiments. The director hopes to take the film all around the world, and one day hopefully to Pakistan.

That is all for now. I have 8 more film reviews to post…but this is a work in progress. More to come soon!!

p.s. feel free to check out my shutterfly page to see all of the pictures from my trip

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schnelle Update

15.February.09

hallo!! i am at the frankfurt airport, heading back to Newark, NJ. The Berlinale was great. I saw some awesome films. I missed some too…and didn’t party at all, but hey i’m an old lady and i was tired. I will be doing a post with my own little reviews of each film i saw (all 13 of them). So fear not! And i know i promised I would post earlier, and I lied. Sorry. Shit happens? ok, bis dann. Tschau!

update

4.February.09

i know i have been MIA for a while now. i blame it on work, and lack of internet connection at my current place of residence. AND i gave blood the other week and that totally put me out of wack for a while…and I have been preparing for BERLIN!!!!! i leave on saturday. crappers. i plan on blogging about the films, too. to all of my loyal readers (do you exist?) i will update tomorrow. promise.