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Culture

Movie buff brings the world to Berlin theaters

There are plenty of great movies that don't make it into the theater. That bothered one Berlin resident so much that he took his favorite flicks and founded a festival.

Scene from the film 10 to 11 by director Pelin Esmer

Turkish film "10 to 11," by Pelin Esmer, is one of the 14 in the lineup

Bernhard Karl is a collector. Every year, he travels to up to 10 film festivals around the world and comes home with the ones he likes the best.

And he's stubborn. When Karl, a trained theater director, was looking for a new job, he knew he didn't have a chance at establishments like the Berlin International Film Festival, so he went and started his own: Around the World in 14 Films is now in its fifth year.

"The imaginary trip around the world is, so to speak, my life," Karl told Deutsche Welle. He comes from a small village in Bavaria and always felt a sense of wanderlust.

It irked him that none of the wonderful films he saw at international festivals were shown in German cinemas. "So I collected them and created a kind of imaginary world map," he said.

Bernard Karl

Bernard Karl wanted German audiences to enjoy his favorite international films

A different look at Africa

Through December 4, this "world map" is available to Berlin movie-goers. The 14 starring films - from Romania, Thailand, Turkey, Mexico and elsewhere - are all making their German premiere.

"There are tons of new impressions and new horizons," said Karl. "That can be difficult and sometimes it can hurt."

The documentary "Benda Bilili!," about homeless, wheelchair-bound people and street kids in Kinshasa, is one that doesn't necessarily hurt, but certainly offers new perspectives for German audiences. While the setting sounds depressing, the protagonists don't stand for poverty and suffering in Africa, but for optimism and vitality.

The film's namesake, Staff Benda Bilili, are musicians who have become more and more successful, even landing gigs at huge festivals in Europe. In 2009, they won the Artist Award for world music at the World Music Expo in Copenhagen and have been labeled DR Congo's "Buena Vista Social Club."

Scene from the film Benda Bilili! by Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye

"Benda Bilili!" tells the true success story of Congolese street musicians

Up close and personal in Berlin

French documentary filmmaker Florent de la Tullaye is behind this fresh look at DR Congo. "The people in Africa get European television stations and only see reports of suffering and catastrophes about their country," he said. "But they don't see themselves in those reports. They're proud of their music and their musicians - and that was the key to this film."

"Benda Bilili!" was the opening film in one of the out-of-competition series at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where it was celebrated with standing ovations. For de la Tullaye, the smaller festival Around the World in 14 Films isn't any less important than star-studded Cannes.

"The advantage is that at smaller festivals the films are a lot more accessible to the audience than at a big, over-loaded festival," said the director.

Other highlights at this year's Around the World in 14 Days include a three-hour documentary about Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, by Andrei Ujica, and "The Green Wave," a collage of animated and documentary films about Iran's so-called Green Revolution.

Author: Nadine Wojcik (kjb)

Editor: Greg Wiser

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