Special Flight, 2011, 99 min
Director: Fernand Melgar
Opening Film 2011
Between ourselves: seeing this film will make you want to leap up and found a movement of angry citizens against borders. But movements nowadays are busy with other things. So all in all, the so-called illegal immigrants have it tough, which brings us to the subject of “Special Flight”. The film records the daily life of a deportation centre in Geneva, where around 25 to 30 men are waiting to be sent back. “Back” is not a home, but a place on a map of long obsolete borders. There’s Ragip from Kosovo, who has a choice: submit and you get a regular flight. If not, it’s a special flight with handcuffs, police escort, and violence if necessary. Ragip, Mohammed, Serge, Wandifa, the same goes for all of them. They all have this choice. You have rights, after all. One is struck by the deliberately civilian atmosphere of the institution. This is not a prison. The tone is understanding, all the table football and food you want. It’s the great strength of the film that this does not make us forget what these people are truly waiting for. Not a single false note, a camera that is on the spot but never obtrusive and the clever placement of direct quotes and observations coalesce into a great story about governmental structures and individual hopelessness. In view of which the above stated is pure polemics, of course.
Are You Listening!, 2012, 90 min
Director: Kamar Ahmad Simon
Opening Film 2012
Let’s set the record straight: Bangladesh is a country whose CO2 contribution to climate change is negligible; at the same time it’s paying the highest price. In hundred years it will probably have ceased to exist, swallowed by rising sea levels. There are climate refugees already. On 27 May 2009, cyclone Aila hit the country’s coastline. The floods drove about a million people from their homes, including 100 families from Sutarkhali.
When their village was flooded, the people fled to an old dyke nearby where they have endured for the past two years. Fed by international aid and somehow connected to the monetary economy of the interior they are growing impatient for the government to build the promised dyke to reclaim their lost land. Director Kamad Ahmad, a local, accompanied them on this journey for a while. With great persistence and heartfelt sympathy for their ludicrous situation right above the flood line, the filmmaker documents a life governed by money worries, unfair food distribution and broken promises, but also by the determination to return home one day. “Are You Listening” is a powerful visual narrative about that most fundamental human instinct – the will to survive, against all resistance and reason. At the same time, the dyke as a last refuge of humanity opens a disturbing outlook into a future we may all share.
Tzvetanka, 2012, 69 min
Director: Youlian Tabakov
In his opulent, playful and sometimes serene debut film Youlian Tabakov tells the chequered life story of a Bulgarian woman who survived three political regimes: monarchy, socialism and the present day. The director profits from having studied costume and design, which inspired him to interweave the documentary material with animated and staged sequences to produce a stream of imaginative and surprising images.
His grandmother, Tzvetanka Gosheva, was born in 1926 to a rich merchant’s family, which enabled her to attend a privileged school in Sofia. But this bourgeois background became her downfall after the war. Her parents were imprisoned as enemies of the party; her father would never recover from this. By sheer luck she managed to get permission to go to university. She became a doctor, though she suffered a lot of humiliation and obstruction in her work. Nonetheless she remained in the country even though she would have had opportunities to go abroad. Illness changes people, she says. Ironically, her last working day was 10 November 1989; the day Todor Zhivkov was overthrown. What follows is called democracy. Tzvetanka’s eye for politics remains sharp even though she is slowly going blind. To her the new system is corrupt. She originally wanted to become an actress: in this film the diminutive woman delivers a great performance.
When Hari Got Married, 2012, 75 min
Director: Ritu Sarin/Tenzing Sonam
Saying “I love you” on the phone presupposes a personal history. But Hari has never met his future bride Suman, with whom he exchanges these tender words daily over the phone while driving his taxi over the bumpy streets of his Indian hometown at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains. It’s an arranged wedding, its history the thousand-year-old tradition behind it. Hari’s father won’t rest until his youngest son, who is already 30 after all, is finally married. He invests all his money in this project, for one thing is certain: the wedding will be colourful and expensive.
Who wants to make their father unhappy? And yet Hari has found a way to soften the tradition a bit: his mobile phone. “When you talk on the phone every day you would even fall in love with a stone”, he says in his inimitable and practical way. The usually cheerful young man’s straightforwardness is a constant surprise. And yet the closer the wedding approaches the more thoughtful and withdrawn the young man seems to be. Because he knows that Suman is not a stone and there’s a real concern that she won’t be able to handle the separation from her family. This unusual love must still pass its acid test – at the end of a long ceremony on which the bridal couple have the least influence. The story of this traditional wedding comes alive with its small signs of cautious modernisation to which Hari makes his modest contribution.
Forget Me Not, 2012, 88 min
Director: David Sieveking
Goethe-Institut Award 2012
Filmmaker David Sieveking introduces us with astonishing candour to the life of his mother Gretel, an Alzheimer’s patient. His father Malte has been taking care of Gretel ever since he retired. The still youthful mathematics professor had imagined life after university a little differently, because it takes a lot of strength and time to care constantly for a person who forgets everything. Wants to go home even though she is at home. Refuses to co-operate and prefers to stay in bed. The son moves back home for a few weeks with a small film crew to relieve his father and document daily life with a dementia patient from up close. Sieveking uses the chance to get closer to his mother again. The more Gretel takes her leave from this world, the more Sieveking finds out about her and her past. Leftist revolutionary groups, an “open relationship”, women’s circles. Malte decides to read his wife’s diaries. The son talks to his father, his mother’s lover and her female friends. A biography gradually takes shape.
This quiet, touching film is a declaration of love for a mother and a family, but also a gradual farewell from a woman who may still be physically present but has long since become a different person.
Big Boys Gone Bananas!* 2012, 90 min
Director: Fredrik Gertten
In 1989, when a whole nation "was gone bananas”, the banana was regarded as the ultimate symbol of the good life in East Germany. The freedom of unlimited consumption seemed to go hand in hand with the freedom of speech and the arts. Frederik Gertten is about to teach us about the real link between bananas and democracy.
In his last film Gertten proved that their cultivation on Nicaraguan plantations owned by the Dole food corporation is extremely harmful to the workers. Before the opening of that film, the filmmaker got a 200-page letter from the corporation trying to stop the screening. An unprecedented campaign – documented and retold by Gertten in this film – begins. A small, independent production company stands up to a big player who seems to be able to buy, manipulate, threaten or even destroy at will everything and everyone from the legal system to the L.A. Film Festival, from the press to the whole Internet. An uneven, practically hopeless fight against a power that dwarfs even George Orwell’s imagination.
Only when the civil society in the shape of the Swedish parliament and a handful of enlightened consumers begins to understand that responsibility for the freedom of opinion and the arts cannot lie solely with the individual artist but is a good everyone must defend does the case take an unexpected turn, which – don’t we know it – has something to do with banana consumption...
Life in Stills, 2011, 58 min
Director: Tamar Tal
Talent Dove 2011
There’s no other way to put it: Miriam Weissenstein is an institution in Tel Aviv and the lives of all who are close to here, especially her grandson Ben. He has taken over the photo studio of his grandparents, who recorded the building of the young state of Israel from the beginning, in pictures celebrated across the world today. In spite of the fundamental relevance of these documents of a pioneer generation to the national identity of Israel, which the film communicates clearly, the modern age’s bulldozers do not spare the old shop. It’s to make way for a new building and its patron to start over at the age of 96. The moment comes when even Miriam Weissenstein, a woman with an extremely sharp tongue who keeps giving all and sundry an earful and who you’d rather not have as an enemy, almost loses courage …
This heart-warming film relies on the constant shifts between Jewish humour, even ruthless sarcasm that completely disregards all political or any other kind of “correctness” (including towards her gay grandson) and intimate moments of vulnerability and pain caused by a casually revealed family tragedy that casts a shadow over everything. Each of the (often repeated) shots is carefully, even lovingly framed. As if the pictures were meant to remind us that we must go forward – no matter how much the past weighs us down.
Tea or Electricity, 2012, 90 min
Director: Jérome Le Maire
While others are thinking about alternative energy concepts, this remote Moroccan Atlas mountain range has no electricity at all. The life of the clan is ruled by hard work, bitter poverty and a deadly cough. They only get news from the world outside and food supplies when the narrow path to the village is negotiable. There is no street, let alone a school. One day two employees of an energy company turn up and promise to build a power line that will change the villagers’ lives...
Jerôme le Maire follows this adventurous and arduous undertaking over three years: how all the men in the village must pitch in to heave the heavy compressor up the mountain, how the parts are delivered by donkey and the villagers must first apply for identity cards in town before the switches up the mountain can finally be turned on. Because he looks closely, this tragicomic tale gains most of its depth from the conflicts set in motion by the advent of the modern age in the village community. While some illuminate their premises as bright as daylight, others have barely enough for a dim bulb to light their hut.
The first moving images that arrive on the dusty village square via the new television set – a nod to film history – finally serve as messages from a radiant consumer world. One gets an idea where the path out of the Middle Ages is going to lead straightaway.
Documentarian, 2012, 82 min
Director: Ivars Zviedris/Inese Klava
Dziga Vertov himself regarded “life caught in the act”, “life as it is” as the ultimate goal of the documentary. He and his kinoki used every means, even hidden cameras, and no one got mad because the cinematograph was a sensation people wanted to be part of. Almost 100 years later, the two young directors Ivars Zviedris and Inese Klava take their camera to the moorlands of Kemeri near Riga to explore the life of a hillbilly named Inta. This rustic eccentric with the impressive voice may not own a TV set, but she knows the rules of mass media (including the nuances separating docu-soap and reality show) only too well, especially concerning her worth and rights with regard to the “paparazzi”. She takes command from the start, showering directors, cameramen and producers with curses whose violence makes ordinary mortals blush. Inta says things like “You’re shitting into my soul, you fucking bastard, with your damned camera!” and is not averse to taking up a metal stick to “smash Ivar’s head” or hand him to the “pederasts”. She won’t accept money, but those who “get rich on her poverty” ought to pay nonetheless. Later she’ll cry... while the film has long since become a tragicomic relationship movie, like a meta-commentary about the “documentarian’s” existence in the age of radical moral abandonment. (aka: authenticity).