There are several films this year at the Berlinale that explore the theme of family. Or rather, set out to redefine it. In 'Daughter of Mine', Laura Bispuri asks, cinematically, just who our mother is -- the woman who physically brings us into this world, or the person who rears us? For most of us they are both within one person, but in rare cases, it's not.
Also present during this 68th edition of the Berlin Film Festival is a sub current of childhood, attempting to view this chaotic, pretty damn ugly world of ours at the moment through a child's eye view. Wes Anderson kicked that off in style with the opening film 'Isle of Dogs' and now I keep finding myself looking at what I watch from his "I don't want to grow up" POV.
In his introduction of the February issue of Vogue Italia, Editor in Chief Emanuele Farneti leaves his readers with the idea that the future belongs to the youngest generation, and hope for a better world is in their capable hands. While it's a thought often heard as a kind of mantra, it is a groundbreaking concept in the world of fashion editors.
In Árpád Bogdán's latest 'Genesis' which world premiered in the Panorama section at Berlinale, the Hungarian filmmaker, himself an orphan since the age of four, gives us a lot to think about. Is our identity always and only intertwined with our parents' background? And could our friends, those we come in contact with actually become our family, or is family only and exclusively about our blood relatives?
While I personally identified with the character of Hanna (played by former fashion model Anna Marie Cseh with incredible insight) an overworked, isolated attorney put in charge of defending one of the men accused of the murder of Ricsi's mother (the young boy pictured above, played beautifully by newcomer Milan Csordas), the film does lay down its priorities at first glance. Without hand feeing us or putting it on too thick, it's Ricsi who is the sole true victim here, the innocent caught in the games of the elders. Who should know better of course, but we don't.
I loved meeting Bogdán in person, his bigger than life personality breaking through our language barrier perfectly, getting his points across while he gazed straight into my eyes. There was no place for manipulation and flattery during our interview, he knew exactly where I stood.
Thankfully, I stood on the side of cinema.
So here we are in Berlin and it's only right that part of the discussion be about German films. After the success of 'Toni Erdmann' it's a conversation that has started to take off, more and more. The industry worldwide, as well as audiences are paying attention to what is coming out of Berlin and filmmakers themselves are inspired by the momentum.
I sat down for very personal interviews with Valeska Grisebach, David Wnendt, Lars Krause and Burhan Qurbani, four of six German directors participating in this year’s Face to Face with German Films campaign. It was illuminating and quite a discovery to chat with each. But more on that to come.
The morning started with a wonderful chat which included all the participants into the conversation and that's where I found quite a few gems.
Living as we do during times when the conversation thankfully often turns to the role of women being highlighted in the cinema world, Emily Atef -- who wrote and directed '3 Days in Quiberon' premiering in Competition this year -- said something which hit the nail right on the head. "As a woman, I don't want to be the 'victim artist'" which of course at the moment appears to be the easiest way to get attention. Anca Miruna Lazarescu ('Happiness Sucks', 'That Trip We Took with Dad') continued on that thought by saying "I don't even want to know I got a job because I'm a woman," wanting instead to secure it because "I'm the best for that project."
David Wnendt, who directed 'Wetlands' and 'Look Who's Back' instead addressed a certain one-tone aspect of German cinema, which he attributed to an "industry which was devastated by the loss of Jewish voices, from WWII."
Yet the quote I'll cherish forever, maybe because I've not heard anything like it before, belonged to Afghani-German director Burhan Qurbani who directed the 2010 prophetic film 'Shahada' ('Faith').
"The cliches of national cinema are: The French are about "who fucks who?" American films are about the "Frontier" and getting there, the struggle; Scandinavian cinema goes "this is a horrible place, why did you bring me here?" While in German cinema, the theme is guilt."
Brilliant, right? I'll never look at films the same way again, now forever more searching for a national theme to assign to all world cinema.