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Marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, this year’s German Film Festival includes six films from the former GDR among its program of 30 films, as well as sex-traffic drama, Trade, one of three films in the program - his first in English - by Marco Kreuzpaintner. Andrew L. Urban reports.

Based on New York Times Magazine reporter Peter Landesman's investigative article The Girls Next Door (2004) on the international sex slave trade network, Trade is a fictionalised story in which 13 year old Adriana (Paulina Gaitan), is kidnapped in Mexico, joining another kidnap vicitm, Polish teenager, Veronica (Alicja Bachleda-Curus). They are transported to the US by Manuelo (Marco Perez). By chance, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), Adriana's 17-year-old brother, sees her being kidnapped in Mexico City and follows Manuelo's car all the way to the Mexican border. At a crucial moment near the border, he meets Texas Ranger Ray (Kevin Kline), and they join forces to pursue Manuelo to rescue the women and in the process discover the extensive slave-smuggling operation based in New Jersey.

Academy-award winning actor Kevin Kline presented the film at a special screening at the United Nations in September 2008 to promote awareness about the alarming and largely unknown problem of girls and young women being trafficked.

Kline told reporters that the film gives viewers an idea of how trafficking networks operate "not only behind the scenes but ... in plain sight in these residential neighbourhoods. All around the world it's happening and people see it but they're not aware of it," Kline said. "The movie is gut-wrenching and alarming and disturbing, as it is meant to be."

Landesman’s report provided the film’s background; underage girls and young women, abducted in Eastern Europe or Latin America, are smuggled into the United States through Mexico – as in the film.

Marco Kreuzpaintner’s Summer Storm is also screening; Achim (Kostja Ullman) and Tobi – played by Robert Stadlober, who is a guest of the festival and also appears in Krabat - are mates and soon discover that it is not just the love of sports that unites them. As cox and oarsman, they have helped their rowing team win several cups and are now looking forward to a big regatta in the countryside. But this trip is different. Achim has become close to Sandra (Miriam Morgenstern), forcing Tobi to realize that his feelings for Achim run deeper than he’s willing to admit to himself. Adding to his anxieties is the sudden arrival of an openly gay rowing team called Queerstroke.

The festival will also screen the Australian premiere of The Baader Meinhof Complex, written and produced by Bernd Eichinger (Downfall) and directed Uli Edel, starring Moritz Bleibtreu as Andreas Baader and Martina Gedeck as Ulrike Meinhof. The film is based on Stefan Aust’s detailed story about this 1970s terrorist cell – Aust will be a guest at the festival.

This film reminds us that they didn’t really stand for anything much more than anarchy, even though they – eventually – dressed it up as a desire to ‘free the oppressed’ and destroy US imperialism, as they saw it. They wanted world peace, if you like, even it meant waging war and slaughtering civilians to get it. The film highlights the absolute failure of politically driven terrorism as an agent of socio-political change.

And for something completely different, the festival is screening Kreuzpaintner’s acclaimed family film, Krabat, set in 17th century German, in the midst of the 30 years war and the plague. David Kross (of The Reader fame) stars as the young Krabat who discovers a terrible secret in the old mill where he learns his trade alongside 11 companions. Robert Stadlober, a guest at the festival, plays Lyschko. The film – a visual feast, with spectacular locations in the Carpathians in Romania - is based on an ancient legend and the international bestselling book (subtitled The Satanic Mill) by Otfried Preussler and proves that films for children need not be bright and vacuous to be enjoyed.

12 Means: I Love You
East Germany in the 70s: A prisoner falls in love with her Stasi officer. The intense relationship takes a twist when they revisit the prison after the wall has come down.
Starring Devid Striesow.

Effi Briest
Young Effi is married to an ambitious politician who just will not understand her. When she meets the charming Major Crampas, serious trouble begins in this new adaptation of Fontane’s 19th century novel. Starring Julia Jentsch.

Eye to Eye – All About German Film
More than 100 years in the making: The history of the kiss on screen, cigarettes on celluloid and cars running on the big reel. A hilarious and stimulating history of German film.

The Baader Meinhof Complex
Academy-Award nominated drama about Germany’s infamous RAF terrorist gang, with stunning performances by all star cast, including Moritz Bleibtreu.

Berlin Calling
DJ Ickarus flies too high – on substances and his own music. The big city forms the background to a highly emotional drama - and delivers the soundtrack of a lifetime.

The Friend
Emil decides to fall in love – with a girl who has just died: A bitter sweet Swiss comedy of errors with a message of optimism.

Happy New Year
Zurich during the night of nights: Friends become strangers and strangers end up as lovers, a dog escapes and lost love is found again.

German icon Hildegard Knef comes to life in this new biopic starring Heike Makatsch and featuring some of the best loved chansons of Berlin in the 60s and 70s.

Clara is more than the woman behind composer Robert Schumann. The intense musical drama takes the viewer on a journey of love, deceit, ambition and hope. Starring Martina Gedeck.

Dr Aleman
A young German doctor wants to change the world in Columbia’s drug infested cities. He soon realises this is more difficult than he thought and finds himself strangely drawn to teenage gang members and assassins. Starring August Diehl.

The Invention of the Curried Sausage
Lena hides the young soldier Hermann in her Hamburg apartment. Love is knocking at the door, but so is the German army. It is spring 1945…! Starring Barbara Sukowa

Cheeky Girls
Mila, Hanna, and Kati are best friends – always there for each other, be it stress at school or boy trouble. And they have plenty of that…

Peaceful Times
Germany 1968, beehives and cocktail dresses: The move from East to West is not all good for this family as mother turns neurotic and the family falls apart. But then they have a plan….

A Year ago in Winter
Academy-Award winner Caroline Link’s long awaited return: Eliane asks Max to paint a portrait of her children. One of them is dead – and the other does not want to be in the picture.

A road movie and a journey to unexpected interiors – as Laura, Ali and the ex soldier Thomas meet in this small town near the Baltic sea, a dangerous love triangle begins. Stunning performances by Nina Hoss and Benno Fürmann

Lippel’s Dream

One of the best children’s books on film: Young Lippel is left with Frau Jacob the strict housemaid. His only escapes are his book and his dream. Soon they begin to become one....

Lulu and Jimi
Beautiful Lulu comes from a rich family and falls in love with Jimi. Jimi is black – and this is unusual in provincial Germany in the 1950s. A rebel film with a fairy tale look!

November Child
Family drama unfolds as young Inga discovers that her dead mother’s stories were not altogether true. She sets on a journey between present and past, East and West…Accompanied by shooting star Anna Maria Mühe

Palermo Shooting
Wim Wenders’ latest film, starring rock star Campino: Finn, the fashion photographer decides to break with his life style and stays in Palermo. Soon he discovers that someone is after him.

Cloud 9
Inge has been married for over 30 years – when all of a sudden she falls in love, with an even older man. Intimate and award winning psychological drama by Andreas Dresen.

One Two Three
Billy Wilder’s famous 1961 Berlin comedy: Cola agent Jim Cagney needs to protect a secret recipe from thirsty Russians as his daughter falls in love with a German heart throb. Starring James Cagney, Horst Buchholz and Lilo Pulver.

Jacob the Liar
The only Academy Award nominated East German film ever: The emotional and sometimes tragically funny story of survival in the Warsaw ghetto.

Traces of Stone
Banned by the East German regime, this is the story of the carpenters who use non-conformist ways in order to fulfil their socialist duties.

Carbide and Sorrel
After the World War II, Dresden has a lot of reconstructing to do. A gruelling task turns into an adventurous and funny journey – with highly explosive elements.

The Legend of Paul and Paula
Arguably East Germany’s most successful film: Paul and Paula have had bad experiences with love: Now they are together –and try to escape reality.

Coming Out
East Germany’s only explicitly gay film – was ironically premiered the very night the wall came down: Coming-Out takes on a very different meaning.

Solo Sunny
She is blonde, she can sing and she is independent. And maybe this is a little too much for some – in East Germany in the 1970s.

Published April 9, 2009

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Sydney: 15 – 26 April Chauvel Cinema / Palace Norton Street

Melbourne: 16 – 26 April Palace Cinema Como / Kino Palace Cinemas

Perth: 16 – 20 April Cinema Paradiso

Brisbane: 22 – 28 April Palace Centro


Legend of Paul and Paula

The Baader Meinhof Complex

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