Top: On Body and Soul (Testrol es Lelekrol): There’s no better place to meet your soul mate then in a shared dream where you both are deer, roaming in the forest, eating grass and feeling the breeze among the leaves. I was happy to see the Hungarian female director Ildikó Enyedi won the Golden Bear.
Flop: Red Dog True Blue: Although this film is a good kid’s film, I was wondering why they didn’t address the issue of human rights when it came to the Aborigines. They were more concerned about whether the hair dye used on the dog was a natural product or not. Then, when it came to the Q&A, I couldn’t believe my eyes that director Kriv Stenders pulled out his cell phone to read it on stage while one of the case members was explaining the film.
Highlight: I had a blast finding a perfect setting to do interviews with Andrew Levine (Sound Master and video artist). One of the first people we talked to was Director Sara Taksler from New York who was here with her husband. They actually were not at the Berlinale but were here to show their film Tickling Giants which was a documentary featuring Bassem Youssef. He is an Egyptian cardiologist who quit his medical career by becoming a full-time comedian as the host of Al Bernameg show. This became the most viewed show in the Middle East with 30 million viewers. His humor and his sharp tongue came at a crucial time when the dictator was having a difficult time with the idea of free elections and wanting to set limits on free press. While discovering democracy, his staff faced threats but remained fearless in taking a stand during those turbulent times. First seen at Toronto’s film festival, it now had a special showing by the Cinema of Peace and Die Heinrich Böll Stiftung. It has been nominated as one of the most valuable documentaries of the year from the Cinema of Peace. Taksler says, “In 2012, I met Bassem Youssef and his team at The Daily Show where I am a producer. I was having a hard time understanding what they do with such high stakes living in a country where free speech is limited. It was challenging. It was difficult to film anything outside. One of our cameramen was beaten up and his footage was taken. After that we filmed the outside shots from a moving car for safety reasons. Inside, the office was amazing, because it was like what I am used to. They were my kind of people: comedy jokers, people who process things through satire like I do.”
I truly admire Sara Taksler for making this film. Please check the website so you might have a chance to see this film. It should be available here in Europe and in North America this spring.
Top: Vazante, a first film by female director Daniela Thomas, is about a man who lives in the wilderness where his slaves mined gold and then changed to agriculture. All characters are such deeply interesting persons, that they seem real, as they attempt to cope with a hard life in 1821 Brazil.
Flop: Strong Island. Perhaps I was expecting too much from a US film by a transgender Africa-American, Yance Ford, which showed at Sundance. Too much empty space saying nothing, diversion from the real topic: the death of Ford’s brother in 1992.
Highlight: It was so wonderful to sit on the front row in the Audi Berlinale Lounge and listen to Kida Khodr Ramadan talk about his career. I had just seen him on NDR/DAS which got my interest, and suddenly, there he was three feet away talking about the new TV series 4 Blocks.
Top: Close-Knit (Panorama/Generation) by Naoko Ogigami is a beautiful, understated drama with a focus on the importance of family and overcoming societal prejudice.
Flop: The Dinner (Competition) by Oren Moverman is tedious, boring, and shallow; it wanted to make a great statement about wealth and privilege, but fell flat.
Highlight: Watching Eolomea in the Kino International where it originally premiered in 1972.