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BERLINALE 2009 Out of competition / Germany

Lucky Friday 13 for 13 directors of Germany 09


Thirty years after the collective film German Autumn (which brought together Fassbinder, Schlöndorff and Edgar Reitz, among others), Tom Tykwer and two producers from NDR TV network were sitting in a Berlin café when they expressed their surprise that a film retracing the country’s subsequent evolution had not yet been made.

And so the idea was born for a collaboration involving a dozen or so directors of the new generation, with no claim to representativeness or exhaustiveness. The filmmakers were asked to freely direct a series of 12-minute shorts expressing their personal approach to subjects they consider important in contemporary German society.

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Germany 09 -13 Short Films About the State of the Nation [+see also:
film profile
thus presents a selection of diverse and remarkable works in different genres. Forming nonetheless a coherent whole, the film shifts from more personal stories – some of which are delightfully comic despite their immediate or remote political significance – towards more dramatic and global approaches.

Showing out of competition, the film was presented to the press this morning at the Berlinale. The screening was followed by a conference at which the platform was as crowded as the rest of the room.

Although the 13 directors did not work in isolation but communicated a great deal with one another during the making of the film, Christoph Hochhäusler – director of the final apocalyptic short – emphasised that the choice of theme was left up to each filmmaker, who selected issues that were important to him or her.

After a morning prelude by Angela Schanelek, Dani Levy directs himself in a hilarious story in which – feeling depressed due to the pessimism around him – he gets a prescription for a drug containing "paragermanine", which is supposed to make him see Germany through rose-tinted spectacles.

Romuald Karmakar and Hans Steinbichler also opted for humour. The former tells the story of an avid and rather nationalistic reader of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who is profoundly vexed by the new typographical appearance of his favourite newspaper. Meanwhile, the latter recounts the comically scandalous tale of the Persian-born owner of a striptease club.

Fatih Akin and Hans Weingartner chose to develop true stories. The former looks at the case of a Turkish man wrongly imprisoned in Guantanamo and the latter focuses on the experiences of a simple teacher who is suspected of political opposition and consequently watched over and placed on the appalling lists compiled as a precaution by the authorities.

Meanwhile, Isabelle Stever and Sylke Enders preferred a more social approach and centred their films on children.

Dominik Graf’s superb short filmed in super 8 explores Germany’s abandoned blocks of flats and looks at architecture as history’s trace.

Nicolette Krebitz imagines a meeting between Susan Sontag and Ulrike Meinhof orchestrated by young contemporary rebel Helene Hegemann.

The question has been raised about whether Germany 09 -13 Short Films About the State of the Nation would appeal to audiences abroad. The film provides its own answer in its quality and captivating style, and its gradual shift towards more global themes, for globalisation is also part of the country’s history.

Tykwer thus films a businessman who travels from one country to another and finds the same hotel room and the same shops, while Wolfgang Becker rediscovers the atmosphere of Brazil in a dilapidated and futuristic hospital where the patients represent all the problems affecting the country, and the rest of the world.

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(Translated from French)

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