Berlin and Beyond Film Festival, San Francisco

Written by:
Renata Polt
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By now, Bay Area folks might be feeling the urge for a film festival: the San Francisco International fest doesn’t come till April, and for the Silent Film Festival and Jewish Film Festival–to name just a few of our area’s multiple movie showcases–you’ll have to wait until summer.

Don’t despair: the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, screening at the Castro Theater, Berkeley’s Shattuck (one day only), and San Francisco’s Goethe-Institut is in sight, specifically February 9th to 15th.

It’s the festival’s 22nd year, and in case you’re wondering: the “…& Beyond” refers to films from Switzerland and Austria, in addition, of course, to ones from Germany. The festival is the largest showcase of German (or German-language) films outside Germany.

It opens, appropriately, with a film called “Welcome to Germany” (“Wilkommen bei den Hartmanns”), a most entertaining comedy about a very un-comic problem: immigrants . Here’s the premise: a the Hartmanns, a well-to-do, older German couple, decide to take in a refugee. They settle on Diallo, a Nigerian, to the dismay of their grown children and their racist neighbors. Diallo (Elyas M’Barek) is friendly and willing to do the garden tasks the wife, Angelika, asks from him, but he does do some unexpected things, such as throwing a huge party that involves a zebra as well as lots of loud music. Each family member is humorously characterized: the do-gooder Angelika (Senta Berger, veteran of many German films), plastic surgeon Richard, daughter Sophie, “studying” for yet another failed career, and teen-age son Philip, whose plans for shooting a video involve hiring a bunch of strippers. If the ending is a bit predictable, getting there is charming and witty. The director/screenwriter is Simon Verhoeven, who will appear in person. “Welcome to Germany” is the opening-night film (at the Castro), followed by a party.

Here are some other films to look forward to:

“The Bloom of Yesterday” (“Die Blumen von Gestern”), direted by Chris Kraus, is a serious/comic film about the relationship between a Holocaust scholar who is also the grandson of a war criminal, and the granddaughter of a Holocaust victim. A film described as having “lightness” as well as “gravity,” this is one to look out for. February 10th at the Castro.

“Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden” (“Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen”) is a drama based on the life of the remarkable turn-of-the-last century painter (a contemporary of Gustav Klimt, whose work Bay Area folks can see some of right now at the Legion of Honor). Dieter Berner is the director, and Noah Saavedra plays Schiele. February 11th at the Castro.

Highlighting a day of films at Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinema on February 12th (alsoat the Castro on the 11th) is “Godless Youth” (“Jugend ohne Gott”), a Swiss film based on Ödön von Horváth’s 1938 classic dystopian novel. Director Alain Gsponer will attend the screenings. The film will screen at the Castro on February 11th, and at the Shattuck on the 12th.

“The Final Journey” (“Leanders letzte Reise”), directged by Nick Baker-Monteys and starring Jürgen Prchnow–“The Boat,” “The English Patient”–is a drama about an elderly man who sets out to find the woman he fell in love with years ago. He’s joined by a very reluctant granddaughter, who learns a thing or two on the trip. Goethe-Institut, February 14th.

Some other films to look out for:

“Three Peaks” (“Drei Zinnen”) co-stars Bérénice Bejo, who was such a charmer in “The Artist,” and it’s set in the magnificent Italian Dolomite mountains. Jan Zabeil directed. February 11th at the Castro.

“Paradise” (“RAI”), Russia’s submission to the 2017 Academy Awards is set during World War II and directed by Russian director Andrey Konchalovskiy. Don’t ask me to explain why a Russian film is included in “Berlin and Beyond.”

Other films that intrigue me just by their titles are “‘We Used to Be Cool” (“Was hat uns bloss so ruiniert?”–literally, what actually ruined us like that?

Also, the Swiss film, “Streaker,” Germany’s “Dream Boat,” about a cruise for gay men, and “Mr. Gay Syria,” a co-production of France, Germany, and Turkey.

For full information, go to berlinbeyond.com. For tickets, go to tickets.berlinbeyond.com. The Goethe-Institut is located at 530 Bush Street, Suite 204, San Francisco; their phone number is (415) 263-8763.

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