With a wonderfully audacious collection of contemporary German cinema, the 12th annual Audi Festival of German Films, presented by the Goethe-Institut in association with German Films, celebrates the rich diversity of one of Europe’s most dynamic and creatively renowned cultures. This year, for the first time, the biggest festival of German language films outside Germany will be screening in Byron Bay at Palace Cinema, kicking off on Friday May 10 with an opening night party and the Byron Bay premiere of Summer Window, directed by Hendrik Handloetgen. What would you do if you had the chance to relive part of your life? That’s the premise of this intriguing mystery drama, starring Nina Hoss as a woman who experiences something very unusual. While travelling with her husband in Finland, Juliane awakens one morning to find herself back in her native Berlin. She’s travelled back in time six months, and experiences again the events leading up to a tragic situation and a major change in her life.
This Ain’t California, screening at 4pm on Saturday May 11, is sure to be a hit with Byron’s huge skateboard culture. This fascinating documentary about teenage rebellion and skateboarding in East Germany follows three childhood friends from the 1970s until the present day. Combining priceless propaganda footage and amazing black-and-white home video footage from the era, documentary maker Marten Persiel creates a vivid portrait of Dennis, Dirk and Nico, childhood friends living in dreary New Olvenstedt who were drawn together by a shared love of that most American of leisure pursuits. Following his subjects to 2011, Persiel deftly weaves skateboard nostalgia into the story of their experiences as teen rebels in a totalitarian state and the profound change that came over their lives following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. You don’t need to be a fully-fledged skaterpunk or even a fan of ‘sidewalk surfing’ to enjoy this high spirited and poignant tribute to the pursuit of happiness on four small wheels and a short wooden plank.
Saturday night’s film is the comedy drama Hotel Lux, a satire recounting the remarkable events experienced by comedian, impersonator and cabaret actor Hans Zeisig (Michael Herbig), and his encounters with communism. The film opens in 1938 with Zeisig stranded on the roof of the Hotel Lux in Moscow, and then flashes back to how he got to be there. The parody of Hitler and Stalin that he and Siggi Meyer (Jürgen Vogel) present in a cabaret in 1933 is hilarious but also prescient. Their act is looked upon as seditious by the emerging Nazi regime and Zeisig’s flight to Russia and his impersonation of Hitler’s astrologer for a bemused group of Russians leads to an incredible series of events. Can Zeisig survive this outlandish situation?
The world’s bee population is diminishing by billions every year and with it the world moves closer to an environmental catastrophe. The equation is chilling: without the pollination provided by honey bees an incalculable amount of the food we eat would simply not be produced. Oscar-nominated documentary maker Marcus Imhoof – grandson of a professional beekeeper – investigates this critical issue in More than Honey, screening on Sunday afternoon. Using state-of-the-art photographic equipment to bring us up close and personal to the flying insects on whose wings so much of human life depends, Imhoof travels to three continents searching for answers to a mystery that has so far defied any easy explanation. His conversations with experts and farmers throw the spotlight on global food production and ask whether the problem lies with the bees or with us.
Sunday brings the outstanding Dreileben Trilogie, three individual stories revolving around the same “fait divers”: the escape of a convicted criminal from police custody. Dominik Graf’s Don’t Follow Me Around tells the story of a police psychologist who meets old acquaintances while investigating a case. Christian Petzold’s Beats Being Dead features a young man doing alternative national service who experiences a love story without a future, and in Christoph Hochhausler’s One Minute of Darkness, an indefatigable policeman hunting an escaped prisoner begins to doubt false “certainties”. Three films, three styles, three exciting approaches to contemporary cinema.
Closing the festival on Sunday night is Breathing, directed by actor Karl Markovics and Austria’s entry in the Foreign Language Academy Awards. Roman Kogler is a 19-year-old ward of the state living in a detention centre following a serious crime. As part of the centre’s day release program, Roman’s only hope for rehabilitation comes when he is offered the position of assistant undertaker at the local morgue. Also screening over the weekend are The Foster Boy and My Beautiful Country.
Palace Byron Bay Cinema Friday May 10 – Sunday May 12.
For full program details, session times and to book tickets, go to www.palacecinemas.com.au.