BY BILLY SUTER
TEN films from Germany have been chosen for a special focus at the 38th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), one of Africa’s leading and longest running festivals, to be held at various Durban venues from July 13 to 23.
Also scheduled is a masterclass by German film industry professionals, as well as networking sessions with the cream of the international film industry crop
Curated by Alex Moussa Sawadogo, the variety of films on the lineup includes The People vs Fritz Bauer, a drama relating to German history after World War 2 and the role of attorney of law, Fritz Bauer, in confronting the state with its political shortcomings.
Other highlights are Paula, about the journey of a noted early-20th century painter who discovered her artistic freedom in a more traditional Germany; and Goodbye Berlin, a depiction of how the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany merged into one state, taking two young children as the protagonists of a road movie through former East Germany.
Of note, too, is Greetings From Fukushima which breaks the common stereotypes that surround Germans and will, says a festival spokesman, leave audiences with a better understanding of German history, culture and people.
Special mention must also be made of Karl Marx City, is a highly personal cinematic journey into director Petra Epperlein’s childhood, to find the truth about her late father’s suicide and his rumored past in the GDR’s secret service.
“While Goodbye Berlin ties in with this year’s overall festival theme, ‘Transit Tales’, All of a Sudden, Greetings From Fukushima, Paula and Karl Marx City speak to one of this year’s focus areas – women-led films,” adds the spokesman.
DIFF audiences will have the chance to meet key people behind the productions, among them Anand Batbileg and Tristan Göbel, two of the most promising talents in Germany’s film scene.
The principal actors of Goodbye Berlin will be in Durban for a Q&A following the German Gala screening of Goodbye Berlin at The Playhouse (Drama Theatre) on July 16, at a time still to be confirmed.
The award-winning, family-friendly film was made by prominent film-maker Fatih Akin, who recently presented his last film in Cannes. Tickets for the Gala Screening are available at Computicket.
Another confirmed DIFF guest is Doris Dörrie, director of Greetings From Fukushima. With her unmistakable way of storytelling, she has been one of the towering figures in German cinema since she stirred up the countries’ film scene in 1985 with the gender comedy, Men.
Another festival guest is Christian Schwochow, who has been awarded for both his cinema and theatre work. He will visit DIFF in his capacity as director of Paula.
Petra Epperlein will visit Durban as well, to present the extraordinary documentary Karl Marx City.
Directors Karin Steinberger (The Promise) and Stephan Rick (The Dark Side of The Moon) will also be attending the festival.
The German Focus at DIFF 2017 is presented by German Films, the Goethe-Institut and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in South Africa in co-operation with DIFF.
Alex Moussa Sawadogo, director of the Afrikamera Festival and curator of the German Film Focus at DIFF elaborates: “Long considered as a highly politicised cinema that placed social and political criticism at the heart of its creation, today, German cinema is dominated by a new generation of directors.
“From diverse origins, free and gifted, these German directors are at the foreground of the vivacity of the production of German cinema, which is recognised all over the world.
“They bring the concerns of their generation in an intimate sphere on screen and discuss the tribulations of a new Germany that has opened itself to the world – particularly by receiving many people in distress.
“The German Film Focus at DIFF 2017 presents itself as a unique platform for the discovery of a programme of new, diversified, exciting and engaging German films of all kinds – a cinema that places German people from all origins at the heart of its creation.”
Mariëtte Rissenbeek, German Films Service said: “The majority of the films we are presenting have been very successful at a large number of international film festivals. The kinds of stories they tell, and the way in which they are told, are relevant for a larger international audience, and the director’s handwriting has both a specific and an international element.
“The strength of German cinema at present is its diversity. Since the year 2000 a number of German films, about German history and personal stories, have been made which achieved international success.”
DIFF, the Goethe-Institut South Africa and Berlinale Talents have a decade-long partnership. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Talents Durban, a programme that began in 2008 as a result of the partnership between DIFF and Berlin International Film Festival’s Berlinale Talents, with the support of the Goethe-Institut and the German Embassy.
Talents Durban is an annual, five-day training and mentorship programme that runs at DIFF, aimed at empowering emerging 27 African screenwriters and directors working on projects for film, television, web series and content for mobile platforms.
The 10th edition will take place from July 14 to 18, under the theme “Perspectives: Seeing Things Differently”, which is derived from the observation that film alone may not change the world but can show the world when it changes.
Talents Durban looks to not only highlight the stories of Africa, but create a culture of Africans telling their own stories, and most importantly from their experience and perspective of cutting-edge and modern cinematic technology.
As part of Talents Durban and in association with the Goethe-Institut and FIPRESCI (International Association of Film Critics), the Talent Press programme will provide again mentorship and hands-on training in the craft of film criticism to three emerging African journalists.
Furthermore, the Goethe-Institut will present “New Dimensions – Virtual Reality Africa”, a new package of four VR productions from Kenya, Ghana and Senegal. These works were co-produced with Cape Town-based Electric South.
To be shown at the Durban FilmMart (DFM), they allow a glimpse into the fascinating new opportunities that technology provides for visual storytelling.