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Music

Film festival runs program devoted to 50 years of Berlin music history

The prestigious Achtung Berlin film festival places emphasis on films produced in Berlin. The highlight this year is a 40-film retrospective centered on music from Germany’s capital.

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"Revue um Mitternacht"; a rare example of an East German musical.

The six day retrospective from April 15-20 is titled "Musikstadt Berlin" ("Music City Berlin"), presenting films, documentaries and shorts covering contemporary music in Berlin from the 1950s to the present day in four cinemas around the city.

Alongside panel discussions with the film directors and music producers who have helped make Berlin one of Europe's key musical hotspots, the program unearths cinematic rarities such as Uli Schueppel's 1991 film "The Song," which documents Australian musician Nick Cave's three-day recording blitz in the legendary Hansa Studios. Another novelty is "Revue um Mitternacht" ("Midnight Revue"), a 1961 comedy-drama following the production of a revue film and one of the few musicals ever produced by DEFA, the state-owned film production company of East Germany.

Curators of Musikstadt Berlin are Christine Kisorsy and Florian Wachinger.

DW: How did you guys come up with the idea to run a program dedicated to music films based in Berlin?

Christine Kisorsy: Music and Berlin has always been a very wonderful combination, so we thought with this retrospective we should honor this connection with an outstanding film programme that was curated especially for the festival. We unearthed a lot of pearls from the archive. It was hard work but we are very happy we were able to set this up.

Florian Wachinger: It's a diverse city, so we have different kinds of music styles in our program. There is some emphasis on certain chapters in Berlin's musical history. For example the music scene in West Berlin in the 1980s. We are showing Manfred Jelinski's "Neon Nights," which features performances from some of the big names from back then such as the groups Tempo and Einstuerzende Neubauten. You can't see this anywhere else.

What exactly were you looking for when you were putting the film program together?

Christine Kisorsy: Our focus was very much on the title of the retrospective: "Music City Berlin." Of course we show music venues in Berlin and places where music is produced such as the famous Hansa Studios, but we also wanted to include films and documentaries where Berlin is simply the setting for the action.

As the birthplace of techno, Berlin still has this massive shadow of techno music looming over it. Presumably techno also makes its way into the film program?

Florian Wachinger: Sure. The focus within the program after 1989 is on Techno City Berlin. There's one documentary in particular which is worth a mention. It's called "SubBerlin," a 2008 film by Tilmann Kuenzel about the legendary Tresor club. The film looks at the birth of techno from the fall of the Wall and comes full circle to the present day. This film reveals what clubs were in the early 90s, basically spaces of desire far removed from the real world outside. It's an impressive movie.

50 Jahre Diskothek

Club culture and the birth of techno are explored in the "Clipping Berlin" series of music videos and documentaries like "SubBerlin" which charts the rise and fall of legendary Berlin techno haven, Tresor.

The explosion of techno is something which happened as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but one film uses the building of it as its political backdrop.

Christine Kisorsy: Yes, that's right. It's called "Revue um Mitternacht." This is very interesting on the one hand because in the German Democratic Republic there were very few musicals made. Shooting on this movie started in Babelsberg Studios in early 1961 before the Wall was built. By the time shooting was completed in 1962, the Wall had of course been built. We're delighted that the composer of the film, Gert Natschinski, who is 92, will attend the screening of the film at the Babylon Cinema.

The program doesn't just feature films, there are also a number of panel discussions taking place. Who have you got lined up to speak?

Florian Wachinger: The podium discussion after the "SubBerlin" film will be very interesting. It's looking at the development of club culture from 1989 to the present day. Music producer Mark Reeder, who founded the MFS label and discovered Paul van Dyk, will be speaking. So will Ben Biel from the club Maria am Ostbahnhof. Sascha Koesch, otherwise known as DJ Bleed from De:Bug magazine will also be there. It should be very exciting.

Achtung Berlin 2011 - Linie 1

"Linie 1"; the most successful German musical since Brecht-Weill's "Threepenny Opera".

With so many different films featured in the festival, can you pick out a personal favorite?

Christine Kisorsy: My personal favorite is "Linie 1" ("Line 1"). The movie is from 1987 and based on a very successful play by the Grips Theater ensemble. It's the most successful German-language musical since Brecht-Weill’s "Threepenny Opera." The film was shot by Reinhard Hauff, who went on to become the Director of the German Film and TV Academy. I think this film just rocks Berlin!

Florian Wachinger: My highlight would be the Clipping Berlin section which features an exclusive selection of music videos focusing on Berlin club culture in the 2000s. Ellen Allien is featured in this series; she's a great DJ and runs the label Bpitch Control. That would have to be the stand-out for me.

Interview: Gavin Blackburn

Editor: Rick Fulker

To find out more about the Musik-Stadt-Berlin programme from Christine and Florian and to hear music from some of the films, check out this week's edition of DW's Soundscape 100 by clicking on the link below.

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