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Culture

Berlinale Log: Wladimir Kaminer on The State of Foreign Film

Russian writer and Berlin multiculti maven Wladimir Kaminer surveys the films at Berlinale's International Forum and concludes it's a dog's world.

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Pooches: They're better actors and feature prominently at the Berlin Film Festival.

BERLIN (DW) -- The German media is reporting which stars will be honored in the capital during their short visits and the price tag of Scorcese's latest production.

But the most interesting thing happening at Berlinale is the International Forum of New Cinema. Although the films in competition are of the art house variety and cool films from past years are playing in the Panorama program, the Forum program, with its documentaries, feature and experimental films provides an insight into the world outside of Europe and reflects the political indecisiveness of our time -- how the fall of socialism and crisis of capitalism is influencing social conditions from Africa to Latin America to China.

Berlinale's organizers have been busy with preparations for the new forum program since August. They had to view more than a 1,000 entries before they could select the program's 52 films.

As happened last year, China is a major Forum focus, once again bringing a wave of Chinese films to Berlin. With these films alone you could put together a thrilling film festival. But the organizers didn't want that -- instead they came up with several focal points.

But there are still some trends to be found here: The majority of the films originate from crisis regions -- they come from Israel, Palestine, South Africa, China and Hong Kong. The sharpest critique of capitalism this year comes from Japan, where the economic crisis has caused incomparably more damage than in Germany. South Korea is also well represented. In Seoul these days there's a new phenomenon to amaze one -- homeless people who ply the streets with Gucci suits, victims of the stock market crash who, unlike their German and American colleagues, didn't manage to put anything aside in time.

The Germans have also delivered a strong film about America. " Golden Lemons" is a documentary about the Hamburg-based band the Goldene Zitronen as they tour across the U.S.

Another exception to the list of films with anti-American themes comes from Vietnam and deals with corruption in its own country. Russia, too, is represented with one film in the Forum program -- and it's a love story. It's called " Gololed," it's by Michail Breschinskey, but I haven't seen it yet.

The U.S. is also making a pretty weak showing in the Forum program this year, even though there were many American submissions. It seems neither the Russians nor the Americans apparently are capable of keeping up with the Chinese when it comes to documenting the crazy times we're living in.

Another trend that's become apparent in this year's Forum is the so-called "dog syndrome," which is most visible in the Chinese film, " Cala, My Dog." More and more dogs seem to be getting important roles in movies these days. But this isn't like the earlier days of " Lassie," when they were deployed as human-loving pooches trained to pull small babies out of the water. The movie dogs of today are used as vehicles to portray the loneliness of man in modern society. In this sense, the inner monologues as a stylistic device is undergoing a renaissance: the hero no longer talks to himself, he talks to his dog. Because of that, the inner monologue comes across as more genuine.

Besides, dogs are better actors -- at least when it comes to reality cinema. The behave themselves more authentically in front of the camera, the mostly act like themselves, they hardly earn anything, they're usually in a good mood and they can't talk, which can be an enormous help for scriptwriters.

Wladimir Kaminer

Wladimir Kaminer

The writer, Vladimir Kaminer, is the author of the novel Russian Disco .