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MY MOTHER FRANK BERLIN DIARY PART 4

DAY 6
Press screening and press conference today. World premiere tonight.

Matt, Mark and I go to a French patisserie for breakfast. It occurs to us that we've eaten everything but German. Must have some schnitzel and sauerkraut. Back to the hotel to shower and meet all the gang in the foyer to await Sinead's arrival. Her agent, Pippa, and Steven from Beyond's London office are there too. Sinead looks beautiful. We chat for a while and then she and Mark have a couple of interviews to do.

"laughing loudly where appropriate"

I go with John to the press screening while the others wander the shops and have lunch. We've prepared ourselves for the possibility that not many press will show up - it's the end of the festival, it's an Australian film and there are a couple of big American films screening at the same time. By the time we get to the cinema, most seats are taken. Thank God. The media aren't known to effuse, especially in front of their peers, so we're thrilled when we hear some chuckles and some sniffing. I help them along by laughing loudly where appropriate. Most people stay right through the end credits, applauding at the end. Yes!

In the meantime, backstage at the press conference, Sinead, Phaedon, Rose, Matt and Mark are numbing their nerves with a glass of champagne. When the time comes, they are led onto the stage by an MC. The lights start flashing and the cameras start whirring as the makers of My Mother Frank take up the same seats warmed in the days before by the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sydney Pollack and Milos Foreman. It's a buzz.

John, Susan, Gregor, Pippa, Jack, Brian the reps from Beyond and Channel 4 and I are in the gallery, smiling and nodding our support. There are only two Australian journalists present and they lead the questioning. Everyone is suitably eloquent and intelligent. Rose produces a small contentious moment when she says how much better organised this festival is than Sundance and then fetchingly giggles, "Ooo. I probably shouldn't have said that, should I?" It's something drop-dead-gorgeous twenty-year-olds can get away with.

Afterwards, we are all taken backstage for more champagne - and it's not sparkling wine. Mark, Sinead, Matt and Rose have their photo taken by a massive Polaroid camera, joining the ranks of directors and actors from every feature film in the festival who have had their metre square picture taken and hung on the walls of the main cinema. They are then shepherded into mini TV studios for interviews with German and Spanish stations.

"we prime and pump and blow-dry and gargle"

At our hotels we prime and pump and blow-dry and gargle and work at not being too excited. Beyond take us to dinner before the premiere. Sinead has a headache and is slightly nauseous, which isn't helped by an atrocious MSG-riddled Chinese meal served on a speedy lazy-Susan in a fluorescent-lit, airless room. The cars that were going to pick us up at the hotel come instead to the restaurant because it is on the way to where the film is screening - at the famous Zoo Palast cinema where the whole festival used to be held before it was moved this year to the purpose-built Potsdamer Platz venue in the centre of the reunited city.

Every fibre of our bodies is tingling with dread and delight as we check each other's teeth for extraneous matter, makeup for meltdown, hair for inappropriate behaviour, breath for pungency and clothes for fried rice. We get into the cars, put on our seat belts, pull out into the Saturday night traffic and pull in again. Our driver is laughing as he gets out to open the door for us. The cinema is half a block from the restaurant.

Ella the Festival Angel meets us at the door. The cinema, she tells us, is jam packed. The film has had great word of mouth since the first screening. We have to sit through a short film first. Thank God it's good. A Lebanese couple who married during the war have no photos of their wedding. The wife's mother is upset because she has nothing to show her neighbours. For her sake, the couple set up a wedding just as the mother envisaged it. Unlike the wartorn church they married in, they find a beautiful old stone place in the countryside. The mother wants doves. They substitute a pigeon whose home base is Australia (hence the appropriateness of showing it before our film?). And so it goes on until they have pictures of a perfect wedding for the mother to show her neighbours. It's very funny and blissfully distracting.

"but I started life as a Lebanese pigeon"

The lights go on. The MC takes the stage and introduces Mark, Sinead, Matt, Rose, Brian and the 3Ps. They are clapped. The MC passes the microphone to Mark. He thanks her and says, "Hello. I have to tell you I stand here before you as an Australian director but I started life as a Lebanese pigeon." The audience loves it. He goes on to say, "I also have to tell you that there is a prize of a Mercedes Benz for the audience member who applauds our film the loudest. So please, go for it." In response the audience start clapping overly loudly. The gang leaves the stage and the clapping continues until the lights dim.

Sinead never watches herself on film. As the star of the film, this was maybe not a good time to start. Her face fills the screen often. I can see out of the corner of my eye that she is cringing most of the time. Matt and Rose have seen the film once before and are generally more comfortable seeing themselves on screen. Maybe because they're younger. They're less critical of the way they look.

The crowd obviously loves the film. They laugh heartily and cry openly in all the right bits. They stay til the end of the credits. When the lights come on, they stand and fill the old theatre with boisterous applause and cheers. We feel blessed.

In the foyer, people put their voting cards into the collection boxes. The actors are asked for their autographs. Students and disciples of film line up to talk to Mark, Brian and the 3Ps. We don't want to leave. We don't want this to become a memory yet. But eventually they have to close the cinema.

The after-party is in the bar. There are twenty of us. They don't take bookings. You just have to be significant enough to get in. Ella knocks on the door and explains she is from the festival. "Who have you got for us?" they ask. She tells them. They agree to let us in but for the moment there is only enough room for the girls. The boys have to wait outside until someone leaves. We're sorry for them but not that sorry. It's minus 4 degree night, it's midnight and we need a drink too badly to be concerned with concepts like sexism.

We are so checked out when we come in. Though the only really famous one amongst us is Sinead, we all appear worthy of attention in case we're someone important from behind the camera. We pretend we are.

"a bizarrely erotic dance party"

Eventually the boys are let in. Susan and Phaedon's new friends from the bar the other night have come along too. We order champagne and vodkas. A lot of both. The crowd in the bar ranges from desperate starlet to ageing queen, from overdressed to undressed. The eccentricity seems to have radiated through to the hairdresser shop over the street where, through the massive picture windows of the bar, we can see a bizarrely erotic dance party going on with men and women draped in feather boas, sequinned gowns and leather. Just outside the bar, there is a procession of government towtrucks, lifting illegally parked cars from the street. None of the patrons of the bar is rushing out to stop them. Perhaps they just see it as a form of overnight parking.

Sinead's headache and nausea aren't responding to the treatment of nervous agitation, a densely smoky atmosphere and alcohol. She needs to leave urgently. Pippa goes with her.

We hit the sambuccas about 3:30am. At 4:30am we're the only ones left. Brian and I want to keep going but we're outvoted. We say a long goodbye to Rose and Gregor who are leaving for London the next day.

Mark's legs have been itchy all night and as soon as we are in the elevator, he takes his jeans down. He looks a little different to the in-control, smooth-talking professional on the stage earlier that night. With his legs relieved from their irritation but trapped in denim, he lurches from the escalator to the hotel room where he falls onto the bed and into a deep, loud sleep. Matt and I stay up for a long time, debriefing. It's been a strange and wonderful night.

Berlin Diary Part Five of Five

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My Mother Frank



Berlin Diary Part One

Berlin Diary Part Two

Berlin Diary Part Three

Berlin Diary Part Four

Berlin Diary Part Five







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