German Zeitgeist

  • by David Lamble
  • Tuesday March 5, 2019
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Scene from "The Cakemaker," playing "Berlin & Beyond." Photo: Courtesy BBFF
Scene from "The Cakemaker," playing "Berlin & Beyond." Photo: Courtesy BBFF

The 23rd Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, unspooling new films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, kicks off at the Castro Theatre (March 8-10), with encore screenings March 11 at Berkeley's Shattuck Cinemas, concluding with specialty programs at the Goethe-Institut (March 12-14). Once again the festival demonstrates its track record for showcasing films with LGBTQ content.

"The Cakemaker" In Berlin, a baker, Thomas, meets Oren, an Israeli with a sweet tooth. Following Oren's death in a car accident, the grieving baker decides to visit his late lover's family (widow and young child) in Israel. Thomas cautiously insinuates himself into Anat's life, and eventually becomes a one-man bakery in the widow's Kosher cafe. Complete with baking tips and sinfully beautifully close-ups of sugar treats, "The Cakemaker" joins culinary classics "Bagdad Cafe" and "Babette's Feast" in allowing us to feel as deliciously naughty about food as we have been made to feel about other carnal pleasures. (Goethe, 3/12)

"25 km/h" This world premiere is the story of Christian (43) and Georg (45), brothers who haven't spoken for decades, reunited at their father's funeral. The boozy reunion unlocks a secret ambition: to race across Germany on mopeds. (Castro, 3/8)

"Berlin Excelsior" Erik Lemke's full-length doc combines gay and straight content in its exploration of life at a block-long apartment complex in the German capital. (Castro, 3/9)

3 Days in Quiberon is an intimate look at the pressures threatening 1960s German film star Romy Schneider. Photo: Courtesy BBFF  

"Cloud Whispers" Charlotte, 60, abandons her hubby at a gas station. Freedom proves exhilarating and life-changing. (Castro, 3/10)

"3 Days in Quiberon" Director Emily Atef presents an intimate look at the pressures threatening 1960s German film star Romy Schneider, who became a teen sensation when she was cast in a mid-50s trio of popular films about the life of Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria. Her early fans expected her to repeat her early triumph in ways that no longer suited her talents. "3 Days" unfolds at a health spa in Brittany in 1981, a year before the screen star's death. (Castro, 3/9)

"Gundermann" Alexander Scheer stars as an irritating if well-intentioned misfit. (Castro, 3/10)

"This Crazy Heart" Director Marc Rothemund's Lenny, a Cruise-like playboy, does an about-face when his heart-surgeon dad introduces him to David, a bedridden 15-year-old who is not expected to see 16. (Castro, 3/9)

Scene from The Silent Revolution, playing Berlin & Beyond. Photo: Courtesy BBFF  

"The Silent Revolution" It's 1956, and East German schoolboys Kurt and Theo are playing hooky at a West Berlin cinema. Watching newsreels of the Hungarian Revolution, the teens impulsively decide to honor this anti-Soviet uprising with a minute of silence in their GDR classroom. (Castro, 3/9; Shattuck, 3/11)

"The Bra" Nurlan, a train engineer on his last run, discovers a bright red bra hooked onto the front of his locomotive. Director Veit Helmer creates a dialogue-free romantic comedy with Nurlan's attempts to convince the women of small-town Baku to try on the bra. (Castro, 3/10; Shattuck, 3/11)

"The Chairs Game" Alice is an unemployed young woman surviving on the detritus of a modern economy: gas vouchers exchanged for cash. Can she right herself? Director Lucia Chiarla's North American premiere. (Castro, 3/10)

"303" When 20-something biology student Jule realizes she's pregnant, she sets off in her 303 camper to inform her boyfriend in Portugal. She offers a ride to a Jan, who's hitching to Spain to see the biological dad he's never met. (Goethe, 3/14)

"As Green As It Gets" Georg's (Elmar Wepper) midlife woes include bankruptcy, a failed marriage and an estranged relationship with his daughter. A professional gardener, he seeks freedom in his small biplane. (Castro, 3/8)

"Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver" Director Dennis Gansel's buddy road-trip drama involves a small orphan boy and his adult locomotive engineer pal Luke. (Castro, 3/10)

"Only God Can Judge Me" This noir from director Ozgur Yildirim kicks off with a robbery gone awry. Ricky takes the rap and a five-year prison term for his brother and his sidekick. Flash-ahead five years, Ricky's free, and his pals want to show their gratitude. But no good deed goes unpunished. This one comes complete with an annoying femme fatale and plot complications galore. (Castro, 3/9)

"Exit" Director Karen Winther draws on her experiences as a member of a radical right-wing group to explore why modern folks fall victim to extremist ideology. (Goethe, 3/12)

"Sandstern" Oktay, a 12-year-old disabled boy, leaves his Turkish grandmother to join his parents in Germany. (Goethe, 3/13)

"Waldheim Waltz" Ruth Beckermann's doc explains the process by which the Nazi past of former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim was uncovered. Austria's 2019 Oscar entry. (Goethe, 3/13)

"Mountain Miracle" Tobias Wiemann's winning entry in the Youth 4 German Cinema competition. An asthma-afflicted teen girl discovers friendship with a young redheaded adult. Bart guides Amelie through the healing powers of fires in the Alps. (Castro, 3/8)

"A Jar Full of Life" Florian Ross' runner-up for the Festival's youth prize concerns a young woman, Maureen (Jella Haase), whose attempts to jumpstart her adult life lead her to the bottom of the world in Antarctica. (Castro, 3/8)