This year I had the opportunity to watch 8 of the films in competition. To be honest, just a few really kept my interest and those are the ones I will comment here.
Puppe, Icke un der Dicke does not have the most original plot line I´ve ever seen, but the characters kept my interest enough to care about them and the contrivances were funny enough to make me chuckle. The screening began with some sort of gypsy musician on an 80´s Casio Keyboard, playing live on stage some preset music with some funny lyrics. It was supposed to feel kind of trashy and ironic and it gave the right mood to what was to come. Turns out this character we just experienced live is also a character in the movie and this and an unexpected kind of Flash Mob in the theater during the performance of a song on screen, really connected with the audience and made the immersion experience much more pleasant. The film will play in theaters this fall, so look for it out there.
The real surprise of the festival played next the same night. Dicke Mädchen (Heavy Girls) is an improvised movie made for around 500€ with a one man crew a couple of great actors and the director´s grandma in her acting debut at 86 years of age, all shot on a murky gritty 4:3 mini dv camera. The image quality is terrible, sound sometimes distorted so loud that I greenched my teeth, spots are so dark you can´t see what´s going on, but all of this is completely irrelevant after the first 15 minutes of getting used to the technical stuff and getting over it, because the story, the acting and the honesty of what´s being portrayed on screen simply immerse you completely in what is my definite favorite movie of this festival. It just shows you how irrelevant the technical stuff is when you have the story and the actors to tell it, it demystifies the filmmaking process, it challenges the conventional German funding nightmare and it screams in your face that if you feel the urge to make a movie like you need air to breath, you just go out there and do it without waiting for someone to give you permission and cash to do whatever it is they want you to do and maybe waste five years of your life developing a project that leads you nowhere. The ironic anecdote of this film is that all of its dialogue was improvised and the “script” consisted of a treatment of roughly 5 pages of descriptions of some of the scenes, and it ended up winning the best script award at the Kinofest Lünen. 3 months from idea to finished film and it already has played in festivals like Slam Dance (where it got 2 prizes), the Max Ophüls Price, Cinequest and others. I´m not sure if this film will make it to commercial theaters, so your next chance to catch it is at the Sehsüchte Student Film Festival in Potsdam this next April 27th.
Die Vermittler (The Mediators) by Astrid Schult is a documentary film about the very polemic Jobcenter. It shows us four workers of the Jobcenter in Neukölln and we get to see what happens on the other side of the counter. Having personal experience with this German “Amt” and having mixed feelings about how it works, I saw with great interest how things function backstage. It showed us officials who also have feelings but have a job to make, they need to make hard decisions which they know will greatly impact people´s lives and it gives us a glimpse of the dynamics of different types of Arbeitsloser or Jobsuchender. This was a difficult film to make, they needed to have the approval of the people being filmed and 60% of them gave no permission to have their case filmed and being Neukölln no foreigner made it to the screen which affects the perception of the premise since the film does´nt really represent the mass of the jobless public. Nonetheless, the film captures the tension and the immense social problematic of an increasing current problem in German society. An interesting note is that none of the cases that the film presented ended in a successful or happy ending, what also speaks to the effectiveness of the institution, but also to the critical state of unemployment in Berlin specifically. The screening wasn´t deprived of political discussion and great polemic between different views of the welfare system and the way things are handled. Some said the documentray came through as a school film because it didn´t dare to go deeper in the real problematic and be critic on the work the Jobcenter does and the way it does it. But others said the critic was exactly in what it didn´t show and the fact that none of the cases could be solved. Two of the protagonists of the film, real workers of the Jobcenter stood in front of the audience to take the fire and a discussion that could easily had gone longer than the length of the film itself had to be interrupted to accommodate the next screening.
Those are the films I really enjoyed. Others like Headshots, Der Ausflug, Ameisen gehen andere Wege and Dating Lanzelot made me shook my head in one degree or another.