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“Berlin and Beyond” Beckons

One of the largest German film festivals in America, “Berlin and Beyond” brings movie lovers in San Francisco a taste of Germany’s talented and upcoming film-makers and actors.


One of the few German actors well-known abroad - Moritz Bleibtreu

Berlin past and present, a city grappling with the realities of reunification, a society faced with sudden freedoms and a loss of the familiar– these are the overriding themes at this year’s "Berlin and Beyond" German film festival in San Franciso.

It kicked off on January 10, 2002 at the Castro Theater with director Gordian Maugg’s, "Ingredients for Dreams", a moving story of love, food and money set in the beautiful, "Spreewald" forest around Berlin.

This year, the 7th "Berlin and Beyond" film festival organized by the Goethe-Institut and the art theater Castro, brings movie-lovers in San Franciso 20 films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. On show are thrillers, love stories and poignant odysseys.

Nail-biting tension

One of the highlights is the movie, "the Experiment", an intense, heart-stopping psychological thriller starring German actor Moritz Bleibtreu. He plays a ruthless former journalist, who signs up for a psychological experiment in a mock prison to make an undercover report with a hidden camera. What begins as a harmless game turns into an experiment gone horribly wrong.

Travel through time

"Berlin is in Germany" is a funny and wry story of a former engine fitter, Martin Schultz, released from a former East German prison, into a now reunified Berlin. In a sense, Martin embodies Berlin, as he tries to navigate through the radical changes in the city and reconcile them. He soon gets caught up in events that spiral out of control and draws on hidden strengths to survive.

Love and intrigue

"Sweetheart, you old fogey, I still love you" says 61-year-old Marita Lorenz to a televised image of Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the documentary, "Dear Fidel – Marita’s Story", directed by Wifried Huismann. Through interviews with her, the documentary unravels the spy drama of Marita, a young German girl, who falls in love with Fidel Castro and is later recruited by the FBI to assassinate him.

Wild World

Gregor Schnitzler’s "What to do in case of Fire?" is populated by former punks, wild kids and house squatters, who have now turned respectable people with families. The past brings them together as a Molotov cocktail they planted in a villa in Berlin’s wealthy district twelve years ago, suddenly explodes when the villa is up for sale.

A city in upheaval

The festival that will be on untill January 16, will draw the curtain with "Gripsholm", directed by Xavier Koller. It merges German writer Kurt Tucholsky’s semi-autobiographical novel, "Schloss Gripsholm" with fragments from the author’s own life. The film is a vivid portrait of two friends, who find their lives and city being torn apart as the Nazis begin hounding and persecuting dissenters in the Berlin of 1932.

Showcasing talent

The film extravanganza, "Berlin and Beyond" showcases upcoming talent – both film-makers and actors offer movie buffs in the US a chance for a fresh perspective on Berlin and its neighbouring countries.

The festival also provides an important platform for German films. Few German films are known to wider audiences in the US. One of the recent exceptions was the film, "Lola Runs", starring Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu.

Pitted against the giant Hollywood

Germany has the world’s largest market by revenue after the United States, with annual ticket sales of nearly one billion euro ($890 million).

But as in most of the world, in Germany too, the Hollywood film industry has the lion’s share of the film market. However, with a host of fresh emerging film-makers, German language films are gradually faring better in Germany.

They captured about 15 percent of the domestic market in 2001, a slight rise from the previous year.