Berlinale Forum 2014: Special Screenings – movieScope

Berlinale Forum 2014: Special Screenings



Adnan Haskovic, Vlad Ivanov, Tilda Swinton & Steve Park in Boong Joon-ho’s Seolguk-yeolcha (Snowpiercer)
Photo courtesy of Snowpiercer Ltd.

The Forum has now finalised its 2014 programme with a series of special screenings dedicated to historical films and re-discoveries as well as current works of special formal and thematic interest.

When Bong Joon-ho first opened Jean-Marc Rochette’s comic “Snowpiercer in a Seoul bookshop, he supposedly devoured all three volumes on the spot. Eight years later, the French comic has been made into the most lavish Korean film of all time. Seolguk-yeolcha (Snowpiercer) describes an impending ice age caused by human hand, whose last survivors are left circling the earth in a non-stop express train. The rich are in the front carriages and the poor ­– from whose perspective the story is told – at the back. Producer Park Chan-wook, director Bong Joon-ho, actors Song Kang-ho, Ko Asung, John Hurt and Tilda Swinton and comic author Jean-Marc Rochette will all be on hand at the Forum screening.

Two current documentaries explore the recent upheavals in Egypt. In Viola Shafik’s Arij (Scent of Revolution), the accounts of a Coptic activist, a socialist writer, a young cyberspace designer and the biggest collector of photo negatives in the country are combined to form a complex portrait of history and politics. The role of corruption in the destruction of the city of Luxor is one key theme, as is the virtual realm of possibility offered by “Second Life”, where avatars can equally arrange to meet up in Tahrir Square.

The same location forms the setting for Jehane Noujaim’s recently Oscar nominated documentary Al midan (The Square), the portrait of a group of activists spanning a period of more than two years for whom the revolution provided new meaning in life. Drawing on an impressive wealth of material and a resolutely subjective perspective with little respect for boundaries, The Square recapitulates the rapid course of events.

Georg Tiller’s DMD KIU LIDT is named after a song by “Ja, Panik”, whose German title is an acronym of “The Manifestation of Capitalism in Our Life is Sadness”. This “anti-music film” avoids the standard clichés of the music film genre. We never see this group of Austrian expats living in Berlinexile actually play. The musicians hang out in a smoky bar before a show, pack up their instruments after a rehearsal, leisurely drink coffee or smoke cigarettes as a summer breeze caresses the reeds growing alongside a stretch of abandoned railroad track.

Since the very first year of its existence, the Forum has sought to produce German subtitled prints of films shown at the festival, a practice which is now paying off. Many films have thus only survived thanks to their being in Berlin, including Ghashiram Kotwal, which is now being shown again in a new digital print. Produced by the Yukt Film Co-operative under the direction of K. Hariharan and Mani Kaul, the film describes the development and fall of the Peshwa regime in western India before a backdrop of political intrigue and corruption.

As a suitable compliment to this historically significant work, we are showing the Indian documentary Prabhat pheri (Journey with Prabhat) by Jessica Sadana and Samarth Dixit. With the curiosity of a true cinephile, the film explores the history of the complex in Pune where the legendary studios of the Prabhat Film Company once stood.

The Forum is also bringing the restored digital print of the nearly four-hour documentary Schamanen im Blinden Land (Shamans of the Blind Country) by Michael Oppitz back to the big screen following its original screening at the 1981 Forum. Cultural anthropologist Michael Oppitz travelled to the Magar in Nepal three times in the late 1970s to research their specific form of shamanism.  It is not only the film’s unique subject matter that quickly elevated it to a classic of visual anthropology, but also its sense of precision and rhythm and diligent treatment of language.

One milestone of documentary cinema could only be screened as a fragment at the Forum 1984. The film shown back then under the title of Memory of the Camps has now been reconstructed and completed at the British Imperial War Museum under the direction of Toby Haggith and receives its premiere at this year’s Forum nearly seven decades after it was originally shot. German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was put together in 1945 from footage filmed by the British at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, supplemented by scenes shot by the Americans and Soviets in camps in the south of Germany and occupied Poland. The film was intended to confront the Germans with their guilt, with none other than Alfred Hitchcock being employed as an advisor to the project. Yet the work ended up disappearing into the archives – these circumstances surrounding the film and its story also form the focus of the documentary Night Will Fall showing in Berlinale Special.

The cinematography of Burma is little known among Western audiences, despite the fact that it used to be one of the most significant cinema nations in the world. Most of its classics have been lost or are missing, the negatives and prints destroyed. The 1972 black and white film Ché phawa daw nu nu (Tender are the Feet) by Maung Wunna has recently been restored from an analogue video tape, a romantic love story that broke with traditional forms and that serves as an important point of reference for the young generation of Burmese filmmakers.

The name of Noboru Nakamura is also unlikely to ring many bells outside his home country, even though the family melodramas shot by this student of Yasujiro Shimazu left a lasting impression on Japanese cinema from the 1940s to the 60s. In collaboration with the Japanese festival Tokyo FILMeX, the Forum is showing three of the director’s works in new 35mm prints. The films were shot between 1951 and 1964 and tell of brittle family structures and rebellious daughters, the trio demonstrating in impressive fashion how post-war Japanese values began to shift.

Berlinale Forum Special Screenings:

Al midan (The Square) by Jehane Noujaim, USA / Egypt
Arij (Scent of Revolution) by Viola Shafik, Egpyt / Germany – WP
Ché phawa daw nu nu (Tender are the Feet) by Maung Wunna, Burma
DMD KIU LIDT by Georg Tiller, Austria / Germany – WP
German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, United Kingdom
Ghashiram Kotwal by K. Hariharan, Mani Kaul, India
Prabhat pheri (Journey with Prabhat) by Jessica Sadana, Samarth Dixit, India – WP
Schamanen im Blinden Land (Shamans of the Blind Country) by Michael Oppitz, Nepal / Germany / USA
Seolguk-yeolcha (Snowpiercer) by Boong Joon-ho, Republic of Korea

Wa ga ya ha tanoshi (Home Sweet Home) by Noboru Nakamura, Japan
Doshaburi (When It Rains, It Pours) by Noboru Nakamura, Japan
Yoru no henrin (The Shape of Night) by Noboru Nakamura, Japan

(WP=World Premiere)