2001 Berlin Film Festival  

2001 Berlin Film Festival Report
A personal report

Poster for 51st Berlin filmfest

The 51st Berlinale Film Festival was opened by the film ENEMY AT THE  GATES. The shortest and best criticism of the film which meets my sentiments was made by Dr. Ellis Huber of the International Doctors against Atomic War and for social responsibility (IPPNW) - which is Dr. Huber's explanation of the initials at the end of the Berlinale.  In a speech during the ceremony when the International Film Peace Prize was awarded by the IPPNW and the Boell Foundation, Huber described Enemy at the Gates so, "In this war film - out of the murdering campaign of destruction by the German Army, and out of the Battle at Stalingrad is created a duel between two men showing them as heroic and sporting, and it is served up with a love story in a bomb shelter."

My comment was not far from that (I wrote it before hearing Huber).  For my money the film although European produced is meant for the American market and therefore had to be politically super correct - and in this connection the criminal-political activities under Stalin are correctly strongly condemned but to such an extent that the film becomes insensitive to the crimes of the Nazi War machinery and dictatorship.  Clever effects and good acting can't alter that.

Other Feature Films

Ame Noir  (Black Soul) -  is a short "cartoon" which has crossed over to become "high" art. Very beautiful - and it won a prize - a Golden Bear.

shows how two young farmers, with no “ism” apart from survival get drawn into an uprising. It also covers the loyalty and betrayal of “a  cause”. However, although the director was born in Chad, where the film is set, and the background of a farmer society torn apart is well shown, something is missing, and I think it is tension. Maybe African “agricultural society” doesn’t have the same tension in life that Europe does, but this seemed to me too much like an acted version of a news report. This is however, a “first” feature film by the director Issa Serge Coelo.

is controversial for some but I think it verges on being excellent. It is about the conflict between "power" and artists, but it uses the life of Eisenstein (showing homo-erotic relations) in order to "discuss" the problem. Some people objected that the director wandered from the path of historical truth in a few places (e.g. splitting up a speech made against Eisenstein at a conference by one person so that it is delivered by several people). I think it is very good even if as the director, Renny Bartlett, said in post-showing discussion, it “mythologises” Eisenstein.

LE FATE IGNORANTI directed by Ferzan Ozpetek
A "nice" (not overly negatively intended) gay film from Italy, deals with a woman whose husband had a "man on the side". The husband gets killed and the  woman finds out about, and seeks the male-lover. He lives in a "house community" which is clearly a symbol for a society with the difference that it has learned to cope with “differences”. Although distanced from reality (especially in Italy) I'd give the film a "good" on the five point scale.

A film about which I could wax enthusiastic. It is a feature film which deals with, and criticises the (Gay) porno industry for the way it burns people up, without the film itself becoming porno.  A young man who goes to Hollywood to get into films gets a job as a cameraman in a porno “factory” and becomes the fluffer for a “hetero” star in gay pornos. Fluffer is the one who “warms up” the star for his big hard scenes. The plot is a bit thin, but it is a very good film.

Forbidden Fruit
Just two days before filming was due to start the main actors withdrew for fear of reprisals. Therefore, the director relates the story of what happened. It is about two lesbians in Zimbabwe.  Needs cutting a little but very helpful for understanding the problems there. (30 mins.)

LE  ROI DANSE  (The King is dancing)
- about the 17th century composer at the court of Louis XIV - Jean-Baptiste Lully (if you don't know of him - known not only for his music, but for buggering around. A  contemporary and acquaintance of  Moliére) - not bad as a film if you enjoy the music of the period (which I do) but it was made for TV and there were too many close ups which loose their effect when the foot is as big as football field AND are not set in context with a long-shot - otherwise quite a good film.

Julie Johnson
A sort of "it could happen to you" semi-lesbian love story which is based around a woman discovering herself and her intellectual powers. Suppressed by her husband she revolts and throws him out then falls in love with a female neighbour.  Not one of the most brilliant or original films ever made but the film was in contrast to some criticisms in the USA  well received by the public here in Berlin.

KALAMA SUTTA – Seeing is believing
Reveals the contradictions between the Burma that has recently opened itself for tourists, and the hidden Myanmar where speaking the language of a minority can land you in prison. About the struggle for democracy and human rights in Myanmar/Burma, as well as appearances and reality. Good in  parts, but this version is too long (around 90 mins.) for public campaigning. However, useful for background information. 

Klisti Dromi
A group of refugee Kurds manage to reach Greece. Ayat is also looking for his missing younger brother. When he reaches Italy he is arrested. Although it shows the desperation of the refugees, I found the film too long, including boring, and somewhat illogical. Why do a group of refugees need to explain to each other the horrors and trials of life at home in occupied Kurdistan?  In this scene it verges on propaganda.

Little Senegal
After working for 30 years in the  Museum for the History  of Slavery near, Dakar (Senegal), Alloune decides to find his „relatives“ who were shipped as slaves to the Americas. He eventually finds Ida Robinson, who lives in New York’s – West Harlem, und has family problems which Alloune wouldn’t dream of in a nightmare. However, the justified anger against a society which still treats a part of is citizens in this way after 300 years is missing. A nice, quiet film with a touch of the fairy story  – as in  Tom Sawyer and the song „Old Man River“ -,  but after I had watched it, I couldn’t say why – or what I had gained from it - apart from being entertained for 97 mins.

Lost and Delirious

is an excellent film made by Lea Pool who gave us Anne Trister (1986).  It deals with a loving relation­ship between two young women at a boarding school. One of the “partners” succumbs to the internal pressure of parents, and of society – and breaks off the relationship.  “Mouse” is the character who shares a room with the two and has to cope with it all. Very good film.

SA TREE LEX (The Iron Ladies)
Talking of funny, if it ever gets your way get to see it - this film is hilarious. It is about a group of queens who form a volleyball team which includes a gay army-sergeant and a transsexual cabaret artist, and is coached by a “lesbian”. Despite discrimination, derision and worse, they go on to win the national championship in Thailand. And it actually happened in 1996. The film is no 1 Box Office hit there now. Hopefully, although this will be difficult to follow, director Thongkonthun will not rest on the laurels of this his debut feature.

Southern Comfort
A doc film about the life and problems of transsexuals in the US south.

A film documentation about euthanasia of so-called handicapped persons – who in at least some cases were only "difficult" children - and what happened when the relatives of the victims demanded an explanation of what had taken place "Am Spiegelgrund" - which is in Vienna. Only recently one of the doctors active in this murder process was like, Pinochet,  declared unable to face trial. Previously he had been a well-known and respected member of the  Social Democratic Party of Austria. Interesting and not overly harrowing.

THIRTEEN DAYS (Roger Donaldson)
 - is about the so-called Cuba Missile crisis in 1962. It is well done, and brings out the tension of the time. It is a sort of acted documentary style film and should really have the title, if much of it is true, "Why they later killed Kennedy " He made himself a lot of enemies in the top military thro these 13 days ....

A feature-length documentary dealing with faith, sexuality, and religious fundamentalism among Orthodox Jews. It relates the personal stories of Jews who are in a deep dilemma – how to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation. A little confusing at times for the un-initiated since many terms are used for religious concepts which might  not be known. Nevertheless well worth the effort. Noteworthy is that it was made by a gay orthodox Rabbi, and that very few people relating their experiences felt able to show their faces.

VIVRE APRÈS (Life after) - Awarded the Film for Peace Prize
Tuszla (Bosnia) “Their husbands disappeared along with dozens of men from their families. Their houses, land, villages and even their country were swept away.” Each year 15 women have the chance to live together for twelve months in a house and attempt to overcome the terrible experiences they have had – by talking  with each other and with a  psychotherapist.
The Jury: They show us that, remembering the unbearable emotional pains are the only way  to continue life … In a time when war and misery are a load on the backs pf so many women and children, … this sensitive film can teach us a lesson, and show us ways forward.”
Dr. Ellis Huber (IPPNW):  “In this film women who have had the responsibility for their families thrust on them learn to overcome the  horrors and to cope with a future life despite a war that has left them emotionally deeply wounded.” A very moving film.

Colin de la Motte-Sherman

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