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    KINO! 2010: New Films from Germany at MoMA, New York (April 2010)

    By Tanja Meding | May 17, 2010

    Since last year’s edition New York’s Museum of Modern Art has moved the dates of its annual survey of German films from a dark November slot to a sunny spring one in order to benefit from the new crop of German productions premiering at the Berlinale.

    And so this year’s KINO! 2010: New Films from Germany was held between April 21 –30, featuring some familiar as well as fresh faces with an unusual high number of documentaries. Seven out of 10 full-length film slots were occupied by non-fiction films!

    Margarethe von Trotta’s latest work Vision (Vision – Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen, 2009) opened this MoMA showcase. A feature about the life and times of German Benedictine nun, Hildegard of Bingen, a healer, herbalist, composer, and writer, Vision stars Barbara Sukowa as Hildegard.  This is Sukowa and von Trotta’s fifth collaboration which began in 1981 with Juliane And Marianne (Die bleierne Zeit) followed by Rosa Luxemburg (1986), L’Africana (1990) and The Other Woman (Die andere Frau, 2004). Known and celebrated for her portrayals of strong-willed, independent women, von Trotta’s Vision is an  impressive addition to her collection of exceptional female heroes.

    A discovery of this year’s KINO!  was emerging filmmaker Jan Raiber’s documentary All My Fathers (Alle meine Väter, 2010). Arriving in New York after its world premiere at this year’s  Berlinale, Raiber’s debut is a brave film about the filmmaker’s search for his biological father. But, just as courageous as the  filmmaker are his parents who wholeheartedly embrace and support their son’s project. On the start of production, Raiber’s mother discloses to her son a big secret which really sets the film in motion: that Raiber’s biological father is someone other than the man he knew about. So, off they go – mother and son – on a journey of honesty, openness and closure.  All three generations in this family, grandparents, parents and children, address, discuss and deal with this traumatic issue which has haunted the filmmaker for all his life in order to finally resolve it with affection, clarity and mutual understanding. The camera is always there: cautious, calm and collected, capturing it all, including the doubts, expectations, fears and worries as well as the relief and happiness. At one point in the film, Raiber’s mother confesses that she doesn’t feel courageous at all. Courage is something else, she says,  and when her son asks her to define being courageous, she answers: “someone who jumps into the water to rescue another person from drowning”,  to which her son wonders whether this was exactly what she has done for him.

    Another documentary about a closure of sorts is Marco Wilms’ Comrade Couture (Ein Traum in Erdbeerfolie, 2009). Some 20 years ago, Wilms was a fashion model and part of the East Berlin underground fashion scene before he started making films. And reminiscing about the zeitgeist of a place and time that no longer exists, Wilms sets out on a trip to search for the subversive, underground fashion and party scene of the German Democratic Republic of the 1980s.  Rallying up former friends and associates, Wilms re-stages one of his most memorable fashion shows, with fashion designer Sabine von Oettingen actually re-creating her former collection (the originals are stored at the national archives and cannot be accessed because of their delicate nature and importance as belonging to the cultural heritage). With plenty of archival and home video footage Wilms takes us back in time and then jumps forward to today’s Berlin, producing a most lavish fashion extravaganza. However, although all of the ingredients are right, Wilms concludes that it feels quite different than in the 1980’s, but is nontheless really good!

    Bridging different cultures and times is the subject of Irene Langemann’s documentary From Ramstein With Love (Liebesgrüße aus Ramstein, 2009). The filmmaker follows three US-German marriages, based in Germany’s Ramstein at the US Air Forces in Europe as they try to balance their family life and their army career – travelling between the picturesque small town of Ramstein and the bleak landscapes of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. How does one reconcile war-torn conflict zones with the amenities of affluent Germany?  And how do the partners who are left behind deal with worrying about their loved ones? A lot is implied, but not much spoken about in this thought-provoking documentary which presents war and its consequences through yet another important prism.  A film that should speak to both German as well as US audiences.

    Rounding up this year’s KINO! line up were Hans-Christian Schmid’s documentary The Wondrous World Of Laundry (Die wundersame Welt der Waschkraft, 2009) Andrea’s Dresen’s latest feature Whisky With Vodka (Whisky mit Wodka, 2009), the Academy Award-nominated short documentary Rabbit à la Berlin (Mauerhase, 2009) by Bartek Konopka and Piotr Rosolowski, Enrique Sánchez Lansch’s feature documentary The Reichsorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich (Das Reichsorchester: Die Berliner Philharmoniker und der Nationalsozialismus, 2008) and Susanne Schneider’s feature The Day Will Come (Es kommt der Tag, 2009) as well as Next Generation, a programme of shorts by emerging film makers from Germany’s film academies.

    In addition, MoMA presented previous German highlights with Requiem (Requiem, 2006) by Hans-Christian Schmid, Philip Groening’s documentary Into Great Silence (Die grosse Stille, 2005)  and Hans Weingartner’s 2004 Cannes competition film The Edukators (Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei).

    For more information on KINO! 2010, please visit: www.moma.org/visit/calendar/films/1053

    Tanja Meding

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