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Culture

Cinemaphile's delight on Berlin subways

Berliners who ride the U-Bahn are both audience and jury of 'Going Underground', a week-long film festival.

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Rolling... and... action!

Prolonged eye-contact being somewhat of a the no-no on Berlin's subway, the U-Bahn, the socially conscious rider sometimes wonders where to look during the underground commute.

Video monitors set up by the Berliner Fenster – "Berlin Window" in English – provide some relief, running short silent news briefs with sport and weather. Delightful at first glance, but boring after long.

Back to staring at that gorgeous... well, now she's looked back.

But at last there's a solution to this monotonous ride – Going Underground, a rolling festival of "ultra short" 90-second silent films, playing on those same monitors through Wednesday on the capital’s 6, 7, 8 and 9 lines.

It’s billed as the world’s first subway-film-festival, and riders are both the audience and jury – invited to vote for their favorite by SMS or online at the festival's website.

Eye-catching

With 14 films in all, billed as "exceptional" by organizers at Interfilm Berlin and Berliner Fenster, the entries offer plenty of variety – from video clips to animated flicks, blunt comedy to subtle social comment. All despite the fact that the films are silent.

The only question is whether everyone will see them all in time for Wednesday’s voting-deadline. Organizers expect a daily audience of a million riders, but they’ll need luck to catch the festival’s full fare.

In one animated entry from Hungary, "Western", two cowboys stand off in a desert wasteland, fingers twitching at their holsters. The viewer expects a shootout. But then by a trick in perspective, one cowboy squashes the other under his boot. The end.

Meanwhile a video from Germany, called "Fahrgemeinschaft" (Riding Community), explicitly challenges the audience’s social comfort zone. It starts with two riders, a young man and woman, boarding the U-Bahn and sitting down to kiss with passion and glee. Other riders look at the uninhibited couple and then at each other with various degrees of acceptance and sympathy. They stare, roll their eyes, grin or tentatively caress.

After watching that film, removing one’s eyes from the monitor and looking again at the real riding community, one wonders even more about the awkward consequence of staring at strangers.

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