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Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
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by Becky Tan

I heard that the music films show at the end of the Berlinale, which is perhaps why I always end up for the last days of the festival. This time I was rewarded with Amazing Grace and also the German punk musicians, Toten Hosen. Otherwise, I sensed a tendency to film couples discussing world topics, or personal problems, or quarrelling. Such films are usually low cost and demand little space. Two examples are MONSTRI (MONSTERS) by Marius Olteanu and THE PLAGIARIST by Peter Parlow, both in the Forum section. MONSTRI was selected best film by the readers of the Berliner Tagesspiegel. EASY LOVE by Tamer Jandali, in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section, showed not one couple but seven people arguing throughout. Although, I must admit, here I did experience a unique scene: a young man lovingly shaves his girlfriend’s crouch.   My favorite film was a documentary about the film critic Pauline Kael, who wrote for the New Yorker Magazine. She died in 2001, and I remember many of her reviews which I read all through the 1990s.

 Of the 12 main sponsors of the Berlinale, Mastercard was listed as a co-partner. Every year people sleep all night in the mall across from the Hyatt Hotel, in order to line up and buy tickets at the special counters during the day. The lines are always long; everyone wants a ticket. Mastercard set up its own special counter and anyone with a Mastercard could buy tickets there without waiting in line.

The United States did not impress with much presence this year, neither with films nor with red carpet personalities. Out of 81 films which showed in the main sections Competition, Special and Panorama, only 12 were from the US, some sharing the sponsorship with other countries. I did visit a press conference with Casey Affleck, who showed his new film LIGHT OF MY LIFE. Other US films were AMAZING GRACE, The OPERATIVE (with Israel), VICE, El NORTE (with the UK), PHOTOGRAPH (with Germany and India), WATERGATE – or: HOW WE LEARNED TO STOP AN OUT OF CONTROL PRESIDENT, MID90S, SKIN, THESOUVENIR (with the UK), SERENDIPITY, and WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL.

Naturally watching films in other languages is fun and it forces me to read the English subtitles. I don’t envy my Hamburg colleague Brenda Benthien who was responsible for the English subtitles for Fatih Akin’s DER GOLDENE HANDSHUH. It’s a difficult job. I began mentally proofreading English subtitles in all of the films. Perhaps the most frequent mistake was using “I” instead of “me” as in “She was talking to Larry and I.” Naturally to “Larry and me” is correct. A most interesting frequent mistake is wrong use of the word “loose” when the meaning is “lose” as in “Did I lose my lucky charm?”

I sat next to an older man who told me that he had bought a subscription with 13 tickets and he still had to see two films more that same day. I had the same conversation with another older man at the Filmfest Hamburg a few months earlier. Older, single men seem to hide out in the movies, in case you are looking for a new partner. I also met a young actor from Ireland who was visiting his friend in Berlin and they went to the movies. I told him to check in with the English Theater in Hamburg, which recently expressed great interest in hiring Irish actors. If Brexit comes through, actors from England will face the same long-term bureaucracy that Americans do when coming to work in Germany. It’s much too time-consuming and expensive. The Irish, under European Union regulations, can easily work with the English Theater, no strings attached.