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Film Friends
by Becky Tan

The really interesting people you find attending the festival, all very friendly and ambitious, contagiously so.

In our Hotel Intermezzo we met dancers Lisa and Lara from Toronto. They attended dance workshops in the mornings and then explored the city. Later they departed to the International School of Dresden to present a dance workshop to grade school children, before returning to Canada.

Then there was Francisca who shouted across the theater, “Frau Tan, remember me?” She had accompanied British director, Carla Garapedian, of Screamers (documentary about an Armenian protest rock band from California) to the Filmfest Hamburg. I said, “There are so
many music documentaries at this year’s Berlinale, your film would have fit right in.” She said, “Yes, probably we should have skipped Hamburg because that blocked us from showing at the Berlinale.”

I make a point of asking my seatmates the reason for their attendance. In this way I met a Dutch guy at a Chinese film who is really a DJ and collector of records. When not previewing music films, he searches for rare records in the flea markets of Berlin. He had a job playing records in a Berlin club. He said, “I always speak English in Berlin. It’s better to speak broken English like a tourist, than broken German and be taken for a Turkish immigrant, considering how poor I look. I get better treatment that way.”

I met a woman who trains kindergarten teachers. She said, “During the Berlinale, I take a lighter work load in order to go to the movies. I just stand in line and take whatever tickets are still available. Today I was lucky and can see three films, including this Danish one here.” Then there was a teacher who went to see Jesus Loves Me because the directors’ children attended her German-French kindergarten.

My favourite new friend was a Spanish film critic who lives in Holland. We were waiting for the press conference of Happy Go Lucky to start. She said she had an interview with Mike Leigh the next day and was “preparing.” She said, “Oh, how I loved that scene where the flamenco teacher said, ‘I really gave it to the Swedish bitch who invaded my dancing space.’ Space is a big deal in flamenco, and that’s our greatest fear: blond competition. Leigh hit the nail right on the head. I used to be married to a script writer. I told him his script was junk, but did he believe me? Of course not, not until his boss told him the same thing, so I was right in the end. Now I’m living with a Dutch guy in Holland. I speak English, Spanish, German, but not French. Am I learning Dutch? Are you kidding? It’s such an ugly language. Oh look, the press conference is starting. There’s that Columbian journalist. Yesterday she got booed for asking a dumb question and here she is with another dumb question, ‘Who do you predict will win the Oscars?’ Let’s boo.” Who needs movies when you meet characters like this in real life?

We were honoured to have lunch with Katrin Kohlstedde, one of the top managers of the Filmfest Hamburg. She was scouting films at the Berlinale. She said that a film which appears at the Berlinale is “no longer interesting for the Filmfest Hamburg.” She recommends the Rotterdam film festival and was looking forward to going to New York City to the Tribeca festival. She said, “Going to parties gets old in the long run, but it is easier to do business with people whom you have met in a causal atmosphere – who are ‘friends’.” The Filmfest Hamburg might be looking for a new home, now that Grindel cinema has closed. Also present from Hamburg were Eva Hübner and Sybille Constans from the Hamburg-Schleswig-Holstein Filmförderung (those are the people to fund films).