• Germany's news in English

Filmmakers scrutinise Germany 20 years after the fall of the Wall

AFP · 13 Feb 2009, 17:32

Published: 13 Feb 2009 17:32 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"Deutschland 09", which premiered Friday at the Berlin Film Festival, brings together the cream of German film-making to offer a decidedly pessimistic take on the direction of the country since that euphoric November day in 1989.

The worst economic slump since World War II, a state trampling on civil liberties in the name of fighting terror, disaffected youth turning toward extremism - the film paints a hyper-critical self-portrait.

Fatih Akin, the Turkish-German film-maker who scored arthouse hits with "Head-On" and "The Edge of Heaven", focuses on the true story of a former prisoner of the Guantanamo anti-terror jail who has accused Berlin of refusing a US offer to release him despite its vocal opposition to the facility.

Akin features an interview with an actor playing Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen but life-long resident of Germany who was held for almost five years before being released from the prison in Cuba without charge in 2006.

"This was also a German scandal," Akin told a news conference with his 12 fellow short-film directors. "This case changed the way I look at the world ... and I didn't want it to simply be forgotten."

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a candidate for chancellor this September, was forced to appear before a parliamentary panel to defend himself against accusations he had personally blocked Kurnaz's release.

Akin bristled when a reporter asked why the man playing Kurnaz, who frequently appeared in public with bushy facial hair growing down to his chest, was shown without a beard.

"Because he doesn't wear one anymore," he snapped. "Maybe you should get a bit informed."

The project is modelled on the 1978 compilation of short films "Germany in Autumn" by seminal directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Volker Schlöndorff when the country was rocked by a wave of left-wing terror attacks. Tom Tykwer, who gained cult status in 1998 for his groundbreaking heist caper "Run, Lola, Run" and who opened the Berlin festival this year with the finance sector thriller "The International," said he had aimed to shine a light on "the new Germany."

"I guess it was pretty reckless to bring together 13 quite eccentric personalities and try to unite it all under one umbrella," Tykwer said.

"We couldn't really identify the theme running through all the films until after we were finished," added Angela Schanelec, whose "First Day" with scenes set at dawn opens the film.

Swiss-born Jewish director Dani Levy drew big laughs for his satire on cantankerous Berliners and his own ambivalent relationship with the denizens of the city where the Holocaust was planned.

"Yes, I have faith in Germany," Levy tells a psychiatrist in a scene that could have appeared in a Woody Allen movie. "But what happens if the global economic crisis goes on?"

Story continues below…

The psychiatrist prescribes pills that send Levy into a dream world in which his grumpy neighbours shower him with kindness. But he panics when his young son suddenly takes flight. The boy winds up in the "first Nazi village in the new Germany" where the skinheads take him for the new "Führer" sent from the heavens.

"For all the heavy things I could have put in, there was a lot of humour too," he said.

"Deutschland 09" is screening out of competition at the 59th Berlin Film Festival which will crown the winners of its coveted Golden and Silver Bear prizes Saturday before wrapping up Sunday.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd