For 29 years now, each fall the Museum of Modern Art together with the Goethe Institute New York, The Consulate General of German as well as German Films present an annual slate of new and noteworthy films from emerging and established German filmmakers.
CHERRY BLOSSOMS – HANAMI (Kirschblueten- Hanami, 2008) by acclaimed writer-director Dorris Doerrie opened the series. The film premiered at this year’s Berlinale, had a successful theatrical release in Germany, and received a number of awards, including German Film Award for Best Actor for Elmar Wepper and Best Film in Silver. Doerrie and leading actress Hannelore Elsner were present at the New York screening to introduce the film to a packed auditorium. A heart-warming drama that explores the themes of aging and the importance of fulfilling ones dreams before it is too late, the film takes the audience from a small village in Bavaria all the way to high-tech Tokyo and the breathtaking beauty of Mount Fuji. CHERRY BLOSSOMS – HANAMI will be theatrically released in the US by Strand Releasing.
Following Doerrie, Berlin based director Andreas Dresen was in New York to present his latest feature CLOUD 9 (Wolke 9, 2008), a film about love, lust and longing in later life. As he explained to the audience after the screening, the film’s plot was set before he started working with the actors, but all of the dialog was generated during rehearsals and improvisations with the actors. All three main actors deliver brave and courageous performances, especially Ursula Werner, who plays a happily married 60+ seamstress who suddenly falls in love with a much older man. Torn between the two men, she eventually decides to leave her husband for her new lover. The film sensitively explores the desire and despair of the three older protagonists, whose dilemma differs from that of younger people only insofar as everyone is aware of how little time they have left with one another. The strength of the close collaboration between the director and his actors gives CLOUD 9 an authenticity that is a trademark of Dresen’s socio-realistic work. CLOUD 9 premiered earlier this year in Cannes and Toronto and was theatrically released in Germany.
THE WAVE (Die Welle, 2007) is filmmaker Dennis Gansel’s follow-up to the successful BEFORE THE FALL (Napola, 2004). Together with actress Jennifer Ulrich, Gansel was in town to present his film to the NY audience. Based and inspired by a 1960’s US experiment as well as Morton Rhue’s novel of the same name, Gansel transfers the story to present day Germany and explores the question of whether an authoritative system can ever gain poweragain in Germany. Actor Juergen Vogel plays a high school teacher who sets out to teach his students about the origins of fascism, only to discover that within a week the situation spins completely out of control. The Wave is an impressive film with a jarring message that was a huge box office hit in Germany this year.
Also in the program was ON THE LINE (Auf der Strecke, 2007) by Swiss born filmmaker Reto Caffi’s. A student at the Cologne’s Academy of Media Arts, Caffi’s graduation film project tells the story of department store detective Rolf (Roeland Wiesnekker) who has fallen in love with is the clerk Sarah (Catherine Janke). When he observes her potential lover being harassed on the train, he does not intervene but leaves the scene. Later he hears about the death of this passenger and now has to come to terms with his conscience as well as Sarah’s need for companionship and consolation. Well cast, acted and paced, the film challenges the audience with its ethical and emotional content.
The documentary TRIP TO ASIA – THE QUEST FOR HARMONY (Trip to Asia – Die Suche nach dem Einklang, 2007) by Thomas Grube had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival this February. With gorgeous imagery and an exquisite soundtrack, the film offers an insight into the colorful and distinct personalities of the different musicians that make up the world famous Berlin Philharmonic. The film follows novices, mid career and veterans of this uniquely self-governed world renown orchestra during a concert tour to Asia.
In addition it features Sir Simon Rattle, who has been conducting the orchestra since 2002 . Grube shows him contemplating his role within the orchestra and at work while conducting with respect and humor. During one rehearsal in Asia, he sets the day up by addressing the orchestra: “Everybody unhappy? Perfect! Ok. Let’s play.”
The film makes us understand just how much each and every musician in the orchestra is dedicated to his and her art – and how completely the music and the unity of the orchestra as a whole is their main concern– so much more than their individual contribution to the ensemble. TRIP TO ASIA – THE QUEST FOR HARMONY is a visually and auditory beautiful film that hopefully will find its way into distribution in the US.
In addition to the above mentioned films, the work show included a screening of the NEXT GENERATION, a program of short films of graduates from the different German film schools. Furthermore, veteran filmmaker Helma Sanders-Brahms’ latest work, the biographical feature CLARA (2008) about pianist and wife of composer Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, the documentary EYE TO EYE – ALL ABOUT GERMAN FILM (Auge in Auge – Eine deutsche Filmgeschichte, 2008), a historical overview of German cinema by Michael Althen and Hans Helmut Prinzler and the short feature THE OTHER DAY IN EDEN (Gestern in Eden, 2008) by Jan Speckenbach, which premiered earlier this year at Cannes Cinefondation were featured.
As always, congratulations to KINO 2008 – a most interesting and satisfying collection of recent German shorts, docs and features. We look forward to next year’s edition, KINO 2009, which will mark the 30th anniversary of this exciting showcase.
For more info on German films, please visit: www.german-films.de