Another year for the Cannes Film Festival and another year German cinema goes largely unnoticed. But as the jury prepares to award the “Palme d’Or” for the 56th time, Germany’s movie industry doesn’t mind being ignored.
German filmmakers have plenty of time to play on the beach this year at Cannes.
In recent years, German movies have played only a minor role at Europe’s arguably most important film festival. Sure, Wim Wenders is always good for some inaccessibly Teutonic work every now and again, but otherwise organizers at Cannes have chosen to overlook German films and directors.
Part of the reason has certainly been a reflection of the general weakness of the German industry. But even movies that have found international success elsewhere, including Tom Tykwers’ “Lola Rennt” (Run, Lola Run) and Caroline Link’s Oscar-winning “Nirgendwo in Afrika” (Nowhere in Africa) were passed over by the French festival.
This year is no different, and other than Wenders’ out-of-competition offering “The Soul of a Man,” German film is virtually nonexistent on the Côte d'Azur. Despite that, Germany’s second-class status no longer appears to bother some.
“The Germans have never been so relaxed here as they are today,” said Dieter Kosslick, who has headed Berlin’s top film festival, the Berlinale, for the past two years. Many in the industry attribute Kosslick’s new stewardship at the Berlinale for giving German film a well-needed boost.
Over the past couple of years, international interest in German films like “Halbe Treppe” (Grill Point), domestic box office successes such as “Good Bye Lenin” and a resurgent Berlinale have reinvigorated the industry to such a degree that being snubbed by the French doesn’t sting quite so much anymore.
“We are self-confident,” said German Culture Minister Christina Weiss at the official German reception at Cannes. “Berlin is seen as real competition.”
Not in competition
That may or may not be true, but German productions certainly won’t be competing for any awards at Cannes this year. Aside from Wenders’ film, only two other German movies are represented at the festival outside of the official competition.
Whereas Max Fäberböcks’ “September” deals with life in Germany after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the other entry shows that German film thankfully no longer has to mean old standards like Wenders and Fassbinder.
Kurdish German director Yüksel Yavuz’s film “Kleine Freiheit” (Small Freedom) traces the struggles of two asylum seekers on Hamburg’s infamous Reeperbahn. Showing some of the German movie industry’s new-found confidence, Yavuz said he had no difficultly being a German standard bearer, despite his foreign roots. “Sure, I think that I can represent German film,” he said.
He also said it was natural that his “off the street” actors should find a wider international audience, since immigration has long been a topic for discussion in other countries, including France. Unfortunately that still won’t win Germany any awards -- at least not this year.