The largest American festival of German-Language Cinema brings a broad slate of celebrated pictures to Castro Theatre this January. The Berlin & Beyond Film Festival (Jan 15-21) marks its 18th year with a selection of some of the best films from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and a rising selection of international co-productions in the German language. This year’s festival celebrates the theme “Courage in Motion” with cinematic stories of overcoming life’s obstacles, moving bravely, embracing hope, connecting minds, finding solutions and bonding through common humanity.
The festival will open with Germany’s official entry to the 2014 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film consideration, the riveting time-spanning espionage drama Two Lives by Georg Maas. The festival’s elegant, opulent centerpiece, Ludwig II, a sweeping chronicle of Bavaria’s most intriguing monarch, will also serve as the focus of a celebration of the life and career of the great European director and cinema devotee Peter Sehr (Obsession, The Anarchist’s Wife), who is honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Directing posthumously at this year’s festival. Accepting it in his place will be his wife and creative partner Marie Nöelle.
For the first time since 2010, the festival will present an astounding 3D spectacular on the Castro screen in Detlev Buck’s Measuring the World (3D), a riveting historical romp based on the experiences and exploits of 19th century scientists Alexander von Humboldt and mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. The festival will close with up-and-coming filmmaker Nana Neul‘s superbly observed family drama, Silent Summer, for which the director and stars will be in attendance, at the Castro Theatre before completing it’s run at the Goethe-Institut with two days of more intimate screenings.
The festival's largest program, German Features (formerly German Films Panorama), showcases the high volume of excellent cinema emerging from Germany this year, including the excellent drama Breaking Horizons, which won the Best German Language Feature Film award at the Zürich Film Festival and stars festival favorite Aylin Tezel (BBFF 2011 Opening Night Film Almanya – Welcome to Germany); Oscar-nominee Marc Rothemund’s courageous cancer exploration The Girl with Nine Wigs; Gold, a Nina Hoss-starring new western that recreates America’s Gold Rush by Thomas Arslan (In The Shadows, BBFF 2010); the engaging, electric policeman-on-policeman love affair Free Fall; Julia von Heinz’s German/Israel co-production Hanna’s Journey; Lars-Gunnar Hanson’s tense thriller Shifting the Blame; the GDR immigrant drama Shores of Hope; and the boundary-crossing adaptation of Julia Franck’s novel, West, directed by Christian Schwochow’s (Cracks in the Shell, BBFF 2012).
The festival's German Documentaries selections this year raise and answer questions of conflicting cultures and experiences, both across national and species lines. The later is explored in Redemption Impossible, Christian Rost’s stirring document of the rehabilitation Austrian chimpanzees that have been used for experimentation on a remote safari park, which screened as part of the Berlinale Special this past February in Germany. The later finds a more jovial home in Sound of Heimat – Germany Sings, Arne Birkenstock and Jan Tengeler’s musical exploration of Germany’s folk music through the eyes of a New Zealand musician; and Munich in India, Walter Steffen’s historical documentary about Fritz-Munich, the only German court painter of the Maharajas.
YOUTH 4 GERMAN CINEMA
This year, Berlin & Beyond inaugurated a new educationally focused program, Youth 4 German Cinema, a unique student-juried competition offering local high school students the opportunity to participate directly in an internationally recognized film festival. The locally-selected jury chose Katja von Garnier’s equestrian adventure Windstorm as this year’s winning film, awarding runner-up accolades to Your Beauty Is Worth Nothing, Huseyin Tabak’s immigration tale told through the eyes of a young Turkish boy which has received considerable attention on the international festival circuit.
Showcase documentary Miles & War, which recently won the Lüdia Audience Award, the top prize at Kinofest Lünen in Germany, is a fly-on-the-wall portrait of the work of some of the world’s top conflict mediators—negotiators who work with a variety of factions from nomadic tribesmen to government functionaries to foster peace, often in the most dangerous environments. Markus Imhoof’s documentary More Than Honey, one of the year’s most discussed documentary films, boldly probes the world’s disappearing bee population, and is Switzerland’s official entry to the 2014 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film consideration. Alongside is Christoph Schaub’s kinetic narrative, Lullaby Ride, a tale of two parents searching in the night for their stolen child.
Out-of-competition in the Youth 4 German Cinema program is the North American Premiere of The Black Brothers, the latest picture from Oscar-nominated director Xavier Koller (Journey of Hope) based on the famed children’s novel by Lisa Tetzner about the adventures of a poor chimney sweep.
AUSTRIAN CINEMA SPECIAL
In addition to Your Beauty is Worth Nothing in the Youth 4 German Cinema section, the festival presents a stunning performance with its Austrian Cinema Special this year in Philipp Hochmair’s sensitive turn in La Pivellina duo Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s The Shine of Day, for which he received the Best Actor award at the internationally recognized Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland.
The well-loved Shorts Program, entitled Sensational Seven for 2014, features stories that use Germany as a base to explore the ecstacies and limitations of continental living. Highlights include Erik Schmitt and Stephan Müller’s Rhino Full Throttle, which was honored with the Future Filmmaker Award at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, and Martin Christopher Bode’s A Good Story, lensed by Christopher Doyle.
Complimenting the North American Premiere of Breaking Horizons (German Features section) is the directorial debut of the film’s star, Aylin Tezel, Inhale, an introspective short film combining fantasy and reality.
Each year, Berlin & Beyond serves as not only a showcase for the best German, Austrian and Swiss cinema, but as a focal point for discussion on the continuing influence of the European tradition on cinema as a whole, and a forum for European talent to connect with American audiences in person. A roster of some of the brightest lights names in contemporary German language cinema is confirmed to appear in conversation at the festival: from Germany, director, and partner of the late Peter Sehr. Marie Noëlle (Ludwig II); actor/director Alyin Tezel (Breaking Horizons, Almanya – Welcome to Germany, BBFF2012); producer Ali Saghri (Breaking Horizons); director Nana Neul (Silent Summer); actor Hans-Jochen Wagner (Silent Summer); director Georg Maas (Two Lives); director Christian Schwochow (West, Cracks in the Shell, BFF2012); documentarian Walter Steffen (Munich in India); production designer Udo Kramer (Measuring the World - 3D); Youth 4 German Cinema award winner Katja von Garnier (Windstorm); and Oscar-nominated director Marc Rothemund (The Girl with Nine Wigs, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days).
Representing the Swiss Window program, Los Angeles-based, Oscar-winning director Xavier Koller (The Black Brothers, Journey of Hope) and Berlin and Geneva-based documentarian Anne Thoma (Miles & War) are scheduled to appear. Further guest appearances will be announced as they are confirmed.
For more information and tickets for the films: www.BerlinBeyond.com