Berlinale Special Gala
Top 3 films of the Special Gala section
The festival shows new and extraordinary productions under the auspices of the Berlinale Gala Special, selected by festival director Dieter Kosslick. Their function is to honour great cinema personalities by showing their films and to immerse audiences in cinematic history by screening film classics. Films which deserve special attention due to current events can also be shown as part of the Berlinale Special.
Germany, 2009, 103 min, German
Director: Matti Geschonneck
1968. Student revolts and the sexual revolution are in full swing in the West, and Soviet tanks have rolled into in Prague. Life at Boxhagener Platz in East Berlin is in turmoil too for Grandma Otti and her grandson, Holger – albeit for different reasons. A cheerful, passionate cemetery-goer, Grandma Otti has already buried five husbands. Now that her sixth husband Rudi is also on the brink of passing on, two new admirers are already making advances to her. One of them is a charming and articulate widow and pensioner named Karl Wegner, an ex-revolutionary from the Spartacus League and a commuter between East and West. The other is a smarmy ex-Nazi known as ‘Fish-Winkler’. Unlike Grandma Otti, her grandson Holger hasn’t had much luck as yet with the opposite sex. Holger’s a shy misfit who, as the son of a party-line-toeing community policeman, isn’t exactly very popular with the older lads of Boxhagener Platz – or with the girls. To cap it all, his parents’ quarrels are getting worse, and so he’s been spending more time than usual at his beloved Grandma Otti’s place of late.
But then, one day, Fish-Winkler is found dead in his shop. As the area’s community policeman, Holger’s father takes charge of the case, which – initially at least – turns about to be a great fillip for Holger’s status. But the investigations soon grind to a halt and, before long, Holger’s father no longer has any more interesting pieces of information to offer. And so Holger decides to take on the case – if only to earn a bit of respect on Boxhagener Platz.
Screenings on 16, 17 and 21 February, more info here.
Da bing xiao jiang (Little Big Soldier)
Hong Kong, China, People’s Republic of China, 2010, 96 min, Mandarin
Director: Ding Sheng
LITTLE BIG SOLDIER tells the story of a soldier and a general. The film is set during an era of pre-imperial Chinese history known as The Warring States Period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.) Although the period was politically unstable, the rivalry between the states nonetheless led to a flowering of philosophy, literature, the arts and technology. More than two dozen states vied with each other for supremacy. At the end of this period the Qin dynasty emerged as the strongest state; this dynasty was to lay the foundations for the Chinese empire. The plot takes place at the end of one of the many battles. An old soldier from the state of Liang takes prisoner a young general who fought for Lord Wei – in vain, however, since almost the entire army has fallen in battle. The soldier plans to take the general back to his far-flung homeland and so collect the customary reward. He hopes to be able to use this reward money to hang up his sword for good and go home to settle down as a farmer. The journey of these two men with such different characters and backgrounds soon turns into an adventure during which they find themselves up against pursuers, abductors, swindlers and all kinds of difficulties – not least the disastrous effects of the war.
At the end of their long journey the soldier does indeed bring back the general to Liang – which has since been occupied by the superior armies of the Qin dynasty.
Jackie Chan as its best!
Screenings on 17, 18 and 20 February, more info here.
Mexico, 2010, 105 min, Spanish
Directors: Mariana Chenillo, Patricia Riggen, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo García, Diego Luna, Gerardo Naranjo, Rodrigo Plá, Carlos Reygadas
The Mexican revolution began one hundred years ago with the overthrow of the country’s dictatorial President Porfirio Díaz. REVOLUCIÓN is a portmanteau film in which ten directors look back in ten short films at the violent upheaval that was to bring dramatic changes to the country. In his film, 30/30, Rodrigo Plá observes commemorative events and local politicians’ speeches. In EL CURA NICOLÁS COLGADO by Amat Escalanate, a boy and a girl come across a priest hanging in a tree. In ESTE ES MI REINO, Carlos Reygadas describes a group of proud Mexicans who invite their foreign friends to join them for a celebration in the country. In LA TIENDA DE RAYA Mariana Chenillo reminds us that, even today, workers are sometimes paid in coupons, which, just as in pre-revolutionary Mexico, they can only redeem in shops owned by their employers. Patricia Riggen’s film, LINDO Y QUERIDO, revolves around an American’s dying wish to be buried in the land he was once forced to leave. The titular protagonist LUCIO in Gael García Bernal’s film is enlightened by his cousin, Omar, as to the sometimes contradictory meanings of certain national symbols. Daniel has an unpleasant altercation with his wife in Diego Luna’s PACÍFICO. He winds up at the beach where he begins to realise that he can only fulfil his dreams by being at home with his family. In R-100 by Gerardo Narango, two workers try to run away from their past; Rodrigo García has the ghosts of deceased revolutionaries pay a visit to Los Angeles in LA 7TH Y ALVARADO, and, in LA BIENVENIDA, Fernando Eimbcke portrays a village that awaits the arrival of a special guest. REVOLUCIÓN – ten stories commemorating the centenary of the Mexican Revolution.
Screenings on 15 and 16 February, more info here.