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by Becky Tan

Why did I watch documentary films at the Filmfest Hamburg? To be truthful, it was by chance. These films fit into my time schedule, or I had already seen the parallel films, so why not? What luck! After many years, I have come to appreciate documentaries. Naturally, feature films are examples of great creative effort and talent, but documentaries are real life and true stories. These days I would rather read a biographical or autobiographical book, instead of fiction. Anyone can write fiction, but not everyone can live a certain life. Perhaps old age is pushing me into this direction as the “film” of my own life becomes longer, full of film-worthy events (my opinion).

I watched KEVIN KÜHNERT UND DIE SPD, truly by chance, simply because I had free time. What an eye-opener! I had never heard of this German politician before, but since watching the film, I notice that he has appeared in my local German newspapers at least five times in 10 days. I can watch, with more understanding, the progress of this 34-year-old politician’s career.

HIGH MAINTENANCE was also a stroke of luck. I had never heard of Israeli artist Dani Karavan, although half the viewers in my audience raised their hands when asked if they knew him. I think some viewers were sent to the cinema by their art teachers. The film is excellent, but really someone should make a film about the director Barak Heymann. He has so much enthusiasm and personality, providing the most interesting Q & A I’ve experienced. He praised the Passage Cinema, where we watched his film, as the most beautiful he had ever seen.

A MAN AND A CAMERA was definitely a new idea and, since watching the film, I ask myself, “Would I open the door, if a stranger, with or without a camera, would ring my doorbell?” So far, I lean out of the upstairs window and yell, “Who are you?

I did choose WAGNER, BAYREUTH UND DER REST DER WELT on purpose in order to report to my opera discussion group. I told them, “if you aren’t already a Wagner lover, you will be one,” after watching the enthusiasm of his followers, supported by 21 different Wagner compositions. This film opened on October 28 in Hamburg; my review is on

Hopefully, the other three documentaries will also make it to the cinema, although two are just slightly over 60 minutes, perhaps too short for the public these days, now that films tend to run around two hours.