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Travel To Berlin - And See The World
by Birgit Schrumpf

The train from Hamburg to Berlin only took me one and a half hours and soon I snuggled up in my comfortable cinema seat being transported on to the not so comfortable Trans Siberian Express. This must be the most famous train in the world, built between 1891-1903. It certainly is the longest, for 9.288 kilometres meandering through Mongolia and Siberia, from Beijing in China to Moscow in Russia. I am in good company with actors Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, and Ben Kingsley in the Transsiberian. They have to go through a lot of trouble before arriving in Moscow and I am glad not to be involved with their adventures. (see festival film reviews)

Heavy Metal in Bagdad landed me right in the war zone with a group of four young Iraqis hammering away on their musical instruments in competition with the bombs exploding around them. The film makers, Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi, visited the ambitious musicians the first time in 2003 shortly after the invasion of Iraq, taking a real risk in re-visiting them twice more. (see festival film reviews)

After that it was a pleasure to accompany Karim from his dusty little village to Tehran, the capital of Iran. He had lost his job at the ostrich farm and is now regularly driving to town. The city people teach him a new look at life, letting him take all sorts of junk which he precariously transports on his ramshackle old bike. When he gets buried under all his accumulated treasures, he has to stay at home with a broken foot watching the women take over command and resorting to listen to the Song of Sparrows. For this role the veteran actor Reza Naji received the Silver Bear for Best Actor. (see festival film reviews)

In Cherry Blossoms it is also the wife taking control, and even after her death she is guiding her husband to far away places, like Japan where I stroll with him through Tokyo, admire the pink cherry blossoms in the park and even get a glimpse of the famous Mount Fuji. (see festival film reviews)

Japan is also the country into which the Master’s fire ball catapults the little Chinese Kung Fu Kid. This is where he has to learn to discipline his fighting skills. A fight against the big monster is his last task. The cute Chinese athlete receives a helping hand by the courageous cook of a noodle kitchen as well as the friends of her grand-daughter. This children’s film is fun, full of colour, packed with action – and even holds a moral message. (see festival film reviews)

Remaining in the East, it was Taiwan’s Drifting Flowers next. I got a bit lost on an empty bus, drifting between three different time zones among the lesbian scene where sadly, everyone is seeking their true identity, including 8-year old May. Her beautiful blind sister sings poetic songs in a night club, accompanied by her female lover Diego. Then it’s off to visiting Lily in her old age home, struggling with Alzheimer, and back on to the bus with a younger version of Lily or was is Diego wearing her dress? (see festival film reviews)

I just made it to join the artist Sung-nam arriving at the airport in Paris. He had to leave Korea in hurry to avoid being arrested for smoking marijuana. No postcard Paris awaits us, but lots of rainy days. When he is not holding long and boring phone conversations with his wife in Korea, Night and Day, he wanders aimlessly through the grey streets or meets up with Korean college girls before returning to the expatriates’ boarding house which very much resembles a youth-hostel. Eventually his wife lures him back home under false pretence – telling him to be pregnant. (see festival film reviews)

In contrast, it was a pleasure to see the South African entertainer Pieter-Dirk Uys bringing tears of laughter to Bishop Desmond Tutu’s eyes and receiving a hearty handshake from Nelson Mandela. “Darling!” is the name of the old railway station up the West Coast of South Africa, which is no longer in use. It now is the home of Pieter-Dirk Uys, a much loved comedian, performing his liberal political sketches since the 1970s, surviving the change of government and various political upheavals in his native country. With his Aids/HIV awareness tour he brings knowledge and entertainment to the schools of the New South Africa. (The documentary Darling!-The Story of Pieter Dirk Uys won 2nd place of the Panorama Audience Award - (see festival film reviews)

By now it was time to relax and join Nanni Moretti on the bench in a shady Roman square in Italy, brooding with him in Quiet Chaos. Sitting on the bench for hours is not boring at all. He gets to know people casually, strangers share their emotions, friends open-up their souls, business associates confide in him. Just sitting and listening, he also learns a lot about his own attitudes in life, re-adjusting his own priorities for the future. (see festival film reviews)

Sight-seeing in London with Happy-go-Lucky Poppy, zig-zagging on her bicycle could make you dizzy. When it gets stolen, the only alternative is riding with the miserable and bad-tempered driving instructor Scott. Being with Poppy and her friends is not just laughter and partying as they too have their problems to be solved but at least there is always a “silver lining on the horizon” which makes for a very rewarding ending. Sally Hawkins received the Silver Bear for Best Actress. (see festival film reviews)