The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.

Culinary Cinema (Kulinarisches Kino)
by Rose Finlay

The focus on food at the festival is always a highlight, and 2016 marked  the tenth year of Culinary Cinema at the festival. From the street food at  Joseph-von-Eichendorff-Gasse in Potsdamer Platz, to the gourmet meals served at  the special restaurant at Gropius Mirror Restaurant made by Michelin starred  chefs dished out to the lucky few who managed to snag a ticket, there was a  little something tasty for everyone.

Eleven feature-length films were shown in the section with a focus on  the relationship between food, culture, and politics. Particular attention is  shown to our relationship with cooking and the kitchen. Cooking can bring great  joy not only to those that consume, but also those who create. However,  technology and social change seem to be pushing people towards quicker and less  healthy diets. This year’s Culinary Cinema not only examines the relationship  people have with cooking, but also the bigger picture of industrial food production,  environmental damage, and hunger in one fifth of the world’s population. Four  of the films are reviewed below:

Off-Road. Mugaritz, Feeling a Way (Campo a través.  Mugaritz, intuyendo un camino)

Pep Gatell, Spain

You know a film is going to be challenging when the section curator  opens the screening with a disclaimer about how overwhelming the film can be.  Overwhelming is a good word to describe this muddled experimental film filled  with typography, shots of an efficiently run kitchen, and voice-overs of cooks  talking about how difficult and yet rewarding it is to work at Mugaritz.  Pretentious is another one. With inspirational quotes, long, close shots of  flowers and ingredients, and over-the-top scenes like having the head chef  Andoni Luis Aduriz run down a hill with rolling plates after him, there isn’t  really anything here particularly original or interesting. The voice-overs in  particular often step over the line towards ridiculousness and leave one  wondering if they all have a form of Stockholm Syndrome, because making good  food is not a reason (at least in my mind) to give up one’s entire life and  allow oneself to be constantly abused. But apparently this is something they  are all proud of. Headache inducing, unappetizing, and showy, Off-Road. Mugaritz, Feeling a Way (what  does that title even mean by the way?) is certainly not a highlight. (RF)

Portrait of a Garden (Portret van een tuin)

Rosie Stapel, Netherlands

In Holland, near Dordrecht, an 85-year-old gardener Jan Freriks teaches  the craft of viticulture to Daan van der Have. Daan is the owner of a large,  estate, kitchen garden which was neglected for quite some time, and for the  last twenty-three years, he and Jan have been working to bring it back to its  former glory. Portrait of a Garden is  a slow trek through the seasons, focusing on the work of Jan and Daan as they  plant, prune, and harvest the spoils of their hard work. Gardening on such a  large scale is difficult work. There are not only vegetables, but also a  multitude of different fruit trees to work on. Jan’s encyclopedic knowledge is  impressive, and he occasionally comments on the tragedy that there are not so  many people left who know how to handle gardens such as this. Yet still, in his  old age he educates apprentices and passes on his knowledge and experience to  continue the trade. Sometimes a slow film is good for the soul, and Portrait of a Garden is a soothing and fascinating experience. Jan  and Daan clearly have the highest levels of respect for one another, and yet  work in relative silence, both focused on their respective tasks, only making  comments on the health of the plants around them. Watching a garden slowly grow  throughout the year is educational as it is beautiful, and Rosie Stapel has a  talent of setting up long contemplative shots that somehow never get boring. If  there is a criticism to make, it is that there could have been a little more  history told about the garden itself, but perhaps that would have damaged the  peaceful flow, and that was honestly what made the film so enjoyable. (RF)

Café Nagler

Mor Kaplansky, Israel/Germany

For as long as Mor Kaplansky could remember, her grandmother Naomi  Kaplansky had told tales about the legendary Café Nagler in Berlin. Naomi’s  grandparents opened the café in 1908 and ran it for seventeen years before  closing it to immigrate to Palestine. A budding filmmaker, Mor decides to  investigate the history of the café and travels to Berlin to make a documentary  film about her family’s entrepreneurial history. However, things don’t work out  quite the way she expected, and soon she discovers that not only is the  building no longer standing (even her great-grandparents’ apartment block is  gone), but also that the café was not necessarily as glamorous as she had been  led to believe.

Mor begins her journey armed with family photographs, monogrammed dishes  from the café, and a general knowledge from family legend that the café was  once a hopping, stylish location in Berlin. However, her imaginings of the café  are soon shattered as she learns that no local historians have even heard of it and she fails to find much  information other than a few vague crime reports on microfiche. As the film  progresses, it becomes clear that Mor is quite inexperienced, both as a  filmmaker and as a documentarian, and what could have been an interesting take  on the cultural memory of the German diaspora instead dissolves into a naïve  and sickly-sweet family story. With more planning and scripting perhaps Café Nagler could have had more impact,  but instead it is just rather forgettable.

In Defense of Food

Michael Schwarz, USA

In a film adaptation of his popular book of the same name, U.S. food  author Michael Pollan takes the audience on a journey through his philosophy of  healthy eating. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” is his general belief,  but of course things are a little more complicated than that. When he says eat  food, he doesn’t mean just anything of course. Typical advice follows: stay  away from overly processed foods, eat natural, eat more veg, and keep your  portions down. Nothing particularly new here, but he includes some history  about malnutrition and the development of processed foods throughout history  (did you know that the doctor who created corn flakes believed protein was bad  for you?) Also, there’s some time spent on how we can reeducate the masses on  the issue by getting kids more involved in learning about the food that they  eat. Overall, In Defense of Food is  an overly simplistic view on the issues of nutrition, but perhaps informative  to those who are just starting to learn the basics. Perhaps this was why it was  chosen for the Youth Food Cinema section and was shown to Berlin school classes  along with a menu designed by Michelin starred chef Alexander Dressel. For an  audience of children, In Defense of Food is  a perfect introduction towards healthy and mindful eating.