The Berlin International Film Festival, known as the Berlinale, is one of the largest public film festivals in the world, attracting tens of thousands of visitors. Every February around 400 films of all genres, lengths and formats are shown in cinemas all over the sprawling city.
Founded in 1951 as a showcase for the “films of the free world” in a “free” city then surrounded by a Communist nation, the Berlinale still maintains a political emphasis even after German reunification. It does not shy away from controversy, and Berlin audiences, committed to their festival, expect to be provoked, disturbed and, perhaps, even entertained by the films shown.
One of the films that spoke to me most is from a new German filmmaker, Maggie Peren. The Forger tells the extraordinary true story of an amiable young man, a Jew, who survived the Third Reich living in Berlin. The Opening Film, Francois Ozon’s Peter von Kant is a refreshing interpretation of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 masterwork, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
This year’s awards for Best Screenplay and Acting (the Berlinale is gender neutral) went to Andreas Dresen’s strangely cheerful Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush about a feisty Turkish/German mother’s attempt to get her “wayward” son freed from Guantanamo after 9/11. The jury, headed by N. Night Shamalayan, awarded the Golden Bear, the Berlinale’s Main Prize to Alcarras, a Spanish film by Carla Simon, having a relevance to what is now happening here in Columbia County. It’s about agricultural land being “lost” to solar farms.
–Laurence Kardish, Crandell Theatre Board Director and FilmColumbia Co-Artistic Director