By Arielka Juarez
HAVANA TIMES — In addition to its official film selection, the Havana Film Festival – to be held from December 5 to 15 – will screen movies from around the world as part of its traditional “Latin America in Perspective”, “Industry Sector” and “World Cinema” sections.
This year, “World Cinema” will be comprised of several sub-sections: “US Documentaries”, “World Documentaries”, “Festival Selections” and “Contemporary Film.”
Films from Germany, Great Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Spain, Poland and South Korea will take up the big screen this year as part of the festival’s international movie screenings.
Germany will be participating in the festival with six feature films (five dramatic and one documentary film). One of the films we will have the opportunity to see is Oh Boy, written and directed by Jan Ole Gerster.
Jan Ole Gerster (Germany, 1978) was part of the production team behind Tom Tykwer’s The Princess and the Warrior and In Heaven. He was also Wolfgang Becker’s assistant director for Goodbye, Lenin!, screened at the 25th Havana Film Festival. Those who attended the screening on that occasion no doubt recall that the theater was filled and that the crowds of people waiting outside were so large that the windows of a neighboring store were accidentally broken. The police had to intervene for the film’s second screening.
Oh Boy!, released in 2012, is Jan Ole Gerster’s first feature film. Filmed in black and white, this debut piece became the top-winning film at the German Cinema Award, winning six of its eight nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Script, Best Leading Actor and Best Supporting Actor).
Oh Boy (88 min.) is a metaphor-filled exploration of the need to choose between dreams – the time of personal fulfillment – and everyday life, the lack of conviction needed to realize oneself (issues that young people can identify with).
The film tells the story of Niko, a twenty-year-old who lives in Berlin who dropped out of law school and has been wandering about ever since, taking advantage of the fact his wealthy father doesn’t know this and continues to pay him a monthly allowance. One day, the young man discovers his bank account is empty and an automatic teller swallows up his card. That will be only the beginning of a day in which things will go from bad to worse, involving a series of rather absurd encounters with neighbors, friends, a former classmate and, of course, his father. It dawns on Niko that he must set a new course for his life.
Another German film we will be treated to during the Festival is Margarethe von Trotta’s Hanna Arendt (A Luxembourg, French and Israeli co-production).
Von Trotta is one of the representatives of the New German Cinema of the 1970s. She began her film career as an actress in Fassbinder’s films and later wrote the screenplays for several films directed by her then-husband, German director Volker Schlondorff.
In 1975, next to Schlondorff, she co-directed the Lost Honor of Katharina Blum. In 1978, she directed The Second Awakening of Christa Klages. In 1982, she received the Venice Festival’s Golden Lion for Marianna & Juliane, released in Argentina as The German Sisters. She also received numerous awards for Rosa Luxemburg (1986) and Rosenstrasse (“Rose Street”) in 2003.
According to the director, Hannah Arendt closes the triology on German female thinkers which began with Rosa Luxemburg.
In her film, Von Trotta affords us a portrait of German philosopher and theoretician Hanna Arendt during one of the most important moments of her career, when, in 1961, she covered the trial of former Nazi high official Adolf Eichmann (the architect of the Final Solution).
Arendt’s description of Eichman and the Jewish court in Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil and other texts included in a book published at the time immediately stirred up an international scandal.
Using original recordings made during the trial, the film (109 min.) also portrays other renowned intellectuals such as Martin Heidegger, William Shawn and Mary McCarthy.
Another German film to be screened this year at the festival is Markus Imboden’s Der Verdingbub (“The Adoptive Son”).
Born in Switzerland, Markus Imboden has been a German film director and freelance screenwriter since 1986. A member of the German Film Academy, he is a directing professor at the Zurich University for the Arts and has been the director of the Masters in Film at this university since 2012.
In the course of his career, Imboden has worked in television and the film industry. His films include Movie Star (1986), Blues, White and Black (1987), Mrs. Rabano Czerni and I (1998), Bingo (1990), Comedian (2000), the new version of Heidi (2001) and The Best Exotic (2011).
Imboden became known for his film Katzendieba (1996). Last year, he was nominated at the Swiss Film Awards for Best Picture with The Best Exotic. He won the Swiss Television Best Picture Award and the Walo Award for The Mercenary.
Der Verdingbub (108 min.) is set in the mid-20th century, when Swiss authorities sent orphans, the children of divorced couples and illegitimate children to work in the countryside. The measure, conceived to prevent child poverty, frequently resulted in exploitation and abuse. 12-year-old Max and 15-year-old Berteli are assigned to work for the Bosingers, a farm family who live in the mountains. There, they face a tortuous destiny. The community turns a blind eye to their suffering and only the new village teacher attempts to help the children and prevent an imminent tragedy.
Michaela Kezele’s Die Brucke am Ibar (“The Bridge over the Ibar”) is another German film in the festival program. Set in 1999 Kosovo, it recounts the conflict among Orthodox Christians and the Albanese Muslim majority, which broke out after years of latent tensions. To put an end to the war, NATO intervenes, bombing the country.
Danica, a young Serbian woman, lives with her children in a village on the shores of the Ibar river. The bridge on this river constitutes the border between Northern Kosovo, an area inhabited chiefly by Serbs, and the country’s mainly Albanese region. Danica is mourning her husband, who died during the civil war. One day, she finds a wounded soldier from “the other side” in her home and risks her life to help him. Die Brucke am Ibar (88 min.) is a moving and intelligent film about nationalism, violence and our common humanity.
Die Vermessung der Welt (“Measuring the World”, 123 min.) recreates the lives of two German scientists, mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and geographer Alexander von Humboldt, telling the story of their original project aimed at measuring the size of the world, a project they began to develop following an encounter in 1928, when the two met at the 1st German Scientific Congress organized by Humbolt in Berlin.
Lastly, audiences will be treated to Marten Persiel’s This Ain’t California, a documentary that gathers testimonies from the most important skaters from the former German Democratic Republic, who speak about the subversive potential of the sport.
To find out more about the festival, showings, festival passes, conferences venues and other details, visit the official website of the Havana Film Festival.