GERMAN FILM FESTIVAL 2008
COMEDIES AMONG THE TUFF STUFF
Oscar winning Austrian/German drama, The Counterfeiters, is one of the
highlights of this year’s Festival of German Films, along with some tuff stuff
as well as crowd pleasing comedies, reports Andrew L. Urban.
Following the world-wide success of movies such as the 2007 Foreign Language
Oscar winner, The Lives Of Others and the 2008 Oscar winner The Counterfeiters,
interest in German cinema is at an all-time high and the Festival of German
Films (touring Australia in April) will ride this wave of interest – and screen
the latter as part of its program.
“The Counterfeiters raises a number of moral and ethical dilemmas that may well
have you discussing the film long after it has finished,” says Festival Director
Klaus Krischok of the Sydney based Goethe-Institut. “Based on a real account by
a Holocaust survivor, the film explores the secret currency counterfeiting unit
established by the Nazis during World War II and the Jewish prisoners selected
to work in this unit.
“Of course there is a bit of national pride involved in all this, but the
Oscars aren’t everything. What matters more is the very steady and healthy
output of engaged, eclectic, entertaining and sometimes controversial stories
from Germany and German speaking countries. Those are stories with a specific
German accent, but stories and films that become relevant to audiences outside
our country as well. This does not only relate to history or wartime dramas. The
Goethe-Institut tries to reflect just this in the festival selection,” Krischok
Now in its 7th year (and with Audi on board as major sponsor), the 2008 Festival
will premiere some 10 new features including the hit comedy Where Is Fred?, and
the acclaimed drama The Edge Of Heaven, starring German screen legend and muse
of the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Hanna Schygulla. Directed by Turkish born
German filmmaker Fatih Akin, the film is a “potent drama … captures all the
pathos and surprise of life itself, as chance, fate and consequences impact on
relationships in Germany and Turkey,” says our critic Louise Keller.
Border of Despair, Duel In The Night and The Calling Game are all tuff stuff
movies, the latter based on a novel about a young woman caring for a mute, dying
mother between shifts at the local laundry, who places the most unusual prank
calls to strangers. She pretends to be a toddler. But when the little girl
‘dies’, her disturbed fanatasies start to unravel. Superb performances from
Valerie Koch and Esther Schweins as a woman who befriends her without realising
the truth make this unusual film highly engaging.
The latest works from some of Germany’s hottest filmmakers including Andreas
Kleinert, Felix Randau, Miguel Alexandre, multi-talented actor/director Til
Schweiger and Hans Weingartner, who directed 2004’s critically acclaimed The
Edukators, will also feature in the Festival’s program.
German superstar, Jürgen Vogel (Rosenstrasse, Life Is All You Get, A Friend Of
Mine, Emma’s Bliss) will be a guest of the Festival to introduce his latest
movies, including Rabbit Without Ears, a sparkling comedy which took $27 million
at the German box office. “At the age of not even 40,” says Krischok, “Jürgen
Vogel looks back on more than 20 very successful years – and has become somewhat
of a household name in Germany. We will feature a total of six movies with
Jürgen Vogel: You can see him in Naked, as the teacher in the The Wave, as the
inspector in Duel in the Night, as the best friend in Where is Fred? …as a lost
soul in Shattered Glass – and as himself in Rabbit without Ears. Juergen will be
available for Q&As, talk on panels and surely enjoy his first visit to Australia
and the Aussie enthusiasm.”
‘ve haf vays of making you laff’
The Festival is clearly aiming to reach mainstream audiences, hence the
inclusion of several comedies (‘ve haf vays of making you laff’); as well as
Where is Fred? and Rabbit Without Ears, the program also includes Special Escort
(Stellungswechsel), a crowd pleaser about some blokes whose necessity gives
birth to the idea of forming an escort agency of men for women. Recruiting men
at places like the employment agency, gives the film a sense of the ridiculous
which serves it well.
As for Rainer Kaufman’s Runaway Horse, there is an edgy tension to the film that
boasts four terrific performances from Ulrich Noethen, Ulrich Tukur, Katja
Riemann and Petra Schmidt-Schaller. Two very different couples who come together
by accident on a summer holiday at Lake Constance, discover raw truths about
each other. Seduction and dysfunction provide the conflict.
This year, the Festival will launch the inaugural ‘Golden Gnome’ Award for which
audiences will be able to vote on-line for their favourite Festival film.
Highlights of the 2008 programme include:
THE COUNTERFEITERS (Die Fälscher) Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky)
In 1936 Berlin, Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch is the ‘king of counterfeiters,’
living a life of cards, booze, and women. But his luck runs dry when he finds
himself in Mauthausen concentration camp, where he’s forced to produce
counterfeit foreign currency in an effort to weaken the economy of Germany’s
BORDER OF DESPAIR (Die Frau from Checkpoint Charlie) Director: Miguel
A gripping companion piece to the Oscar winning The Lives Of Others. Commencing
in 1982, Border Of Despair tells the true story of an East German resident who
is forbidden to visit her dying father in West Germany. This incident sparks her
determination to flee East Germany with her children, in search of a better
life, no matter what the consequences.
RABBIT WITHOUT EARS (Keinohrhasen) Director: Til Schweiger
When Ludo, a muck-raking Berlin reporter is sentenced to 300 hours of community
service after a particularly scandalous escapade, he finds himself stuck in a
crèche for eight-year olds. To make matters worse, the crèche is run by Anna, a
one-time geek who hasn’t forgotten her humiliation at his hands when both were
students at the same school many years earlier…
WHERE IS FRED? (Wo ist Fred?) Director: Anno Saul
Fred wants to marry Mara, but her spoilt son hates him! The only way to win the
lad’s favor is to get him a basketball signed by ALBA-Berlin superstar Mercurio
Mueller. And the only place to get this is the disabled patrons’ area where
Müller tosses the ball after each winning throw. But when Fred, posing as a
wheelchair bound fan actually catches the ball, the ensuing media hype forces
him to lead an exhausting and comical double life.
DUEL IN THE NIGHT (Duell in der Nacht) Director: Matti Geschonnek
When a policeman is found dead, the detectives investigating the case are drawn
into a complex world of politics, corruption, power and manipulation.
THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (Auf der anderen Seite) Director: Fatih Akin
A young German man of Turkish descent travels to Istanbul to find Ayten, the
daughter of his father’s late girlfriend, unaware that she is a political
activist who has fled to Germany in search of her mother. When a well-meaning
mother and daughter befriend Ayten, events lead them all to Istanbul where their
lives are irrevocably changed.
THE CALLING GAME (Die Anruferin) Director: Felix Randau
Trapped in a dead-end job with a bed-ridden mother to care for, a young woman
resorts to ringing people at random, pretending to be an ailing young girl, in
search of love and support. When she decides to ‘kill’ her fictional alter ego,
she sets in motion a chain of events with unforseen consequences.
HEAD UNDER WATER (Der Freischwimmer) Director: Andreas Kleinert
In a small town, something terrible is about to happen. Nobody knows why, except
for 15-year-old outsider, Rico Bartsch, who is hopelessly in love with Regine,
the most beautiful girl at his school. But before circumstances change in Rico’s
favour, several inhabitants of the town will die an unnatural death...
Published: April 10, 2008
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FESTIVAL DATES & VENUES:
Sydney: 16-27 April Chauvel Cinema & Palace Norton Street
Melbourne: 17-27 April Place Cinema Como & Palace Brighton Bay
Perth: 18-20 April Cinema Paradiso
Brisbane 23-27 April Palace Centro
The Edge of Heaven
Rabbit Without Ears
Duel in the Night
Where is Fred