Britspotting film festival hits Berlin

The 10th annual Britspotting Film Festival will serve up a diverse programme of new British and Irish movies from November 13 to 18 in Berlin. Check out The Local’s guide to the cinematic highlights from those wilful, windy islands off Europe’s northern coast.

Britspotting film festival hits Berlin
Peter Capaldi and Jams Gandolfini in In the Loop. Photo: IFC Films

The growing minority of Brits in Berlin now have a place established on Berlin’s cinematic calendar. Over the past decade Britspotting has become the most important platform for independent British and Irish films in Germany.

For the German film industry, it’s the ideal place to uncover an eccentric sleeper hit overlooked by the major distributors. For homesick Brits it’s a chance to retreat to the comforts of terraced houses, back gardens, thick gravy and nasal accents.

But Britspotting is not a twee nostalgia trip for the expat. Despite being a non-profit, low-budget festival, hardly a year has gone by when Britspotting did not give German audiences a first look at a future hit – there was, for example, Michael Winterbottom’s “24 Hour Party People” (2003), Edgar Wright’s “Hot Fuzz” (2007) and Martin McDonagh’s “In Bruges” (2008).

This year, the festival has expanded again: apart from the great movies, there are tea parties, coffee evenings, and more. Better yet, the whole thing will be repeated in Leipzig from December 6 – 16.

Britspotting highlights:

In The Loop (dir. Armando Iannucci) – This vicious, destructive, ice-cold satire gives us the first really satisfying dramatic portrayal of the run-up to the Iraq war. Iannucci’s movie, which opens Britspotting, stormed the Sundance indie festival in the US and made critics all over the world go floppy with admiration. As funny as the British sitcom “The Thick Of It” from which it sprang, this movie’s subject is a lot darker than its TV original. If it wasn’t so funny it’d be incredibly depressing.

Nov 13, 7:30pm

The Last Thakur (dir. Sadik Ahmed) – The classical tragedy is more or less dead in film, but this sparse allegory is a deceptively compelling new rendering of the workings of fate. Set in an eerie, timeless Bangladeshi village, the movie is about a sullen stranger – lost and hungry, but in possession of a rifle – who upsets the power balance between a slick local Muslim politician and a rich and deluded Hindu landlord.

Nov 15 9:45pm, Nov 18 6:15pm

Sounds Like Teen Spirit (dir. Jamie Jay Johnson) – “Heart-warming” and “feel-good” are the patronising adjectives that most critics have attached to this fantastic documentary about the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. But the film itself never condescends to its subjects – young contestants, aged between 10 and 15, whom we follow from Georgia, Cyprus, Belgium and elsewhere to the main event in Rotterdam. The film brilliantly captures the lives of these kids, and shows, if nothing else, that ten-year-olds have as much angst as teens. Johnson edits it all together with a great comic touch. The lightness with which Eurovision is put into the context of Europe’s militaristic history is particularly fun.

Nov 14 7:30pm, Nov 18 7:45pm

Identities (dir. Vittoria Colonna) – Colonna’s aesthetic black-and-white documentary is a portrait of the multicultural transgender community in Ireland. It profiles five different people on various grades of the sliding inter-gender scale. An artistic sequence precedes or interrupts each profile, giving a surrealistic insight into the sub-conscious of each subject. But as three of the subjects are also cabaret artists, we are also treated to an excerpt from their stage show. Unsurprisingly, the most interesting subjects are those who are not professional performers – particularly the ageing transvestite science fiction author who remains a devout Catholic and writes earnest, troubled letters to the Pope.

Nov 15 8:15pm, Nov 16 6pm

The Hide (dir. Marek Losey) – This debut movie, based on a two-man stage play, is one of those absorbing, pared-down character-driven stories in which actors show what they can really do. An increasingly murderous scenario is played out on only one set – a bird-watching hut, filled with worn out almanacs, faded ornithological charts and Tupperware sandwich boxes, surrounded by bleak British mud-flats. This leaves the whole length of the film for the two actors to fill out the darkest corners of their characters. And as the tense dialogue unfolds, we discover plenty of those. Expect twists.

Nov 15 5pm, Nov 17 6:30pm

No Greater Love (dir. Michael Whyte) – This perfectly pitched documentary records life in a Carmelite convent in the Notting Hill area of London. But it could be anywhere since we never see the nuns leave its high walls. Instead we see them engaged in their eternal rituals of prayer, contemplation, gardening and the endless work of cleaning the building. We also watch them ordering groceries on the internet, sewing, and line-dancing. They are relieved of their vows of silence for some extremely interesting interviews that will debunk your preconceptions of a spiritual life.

Nov 15 4pm, Nov 17 6:15pm

The Contemporary Unspeakable: Three Films by Vivienne Dick – A very special guest at this year’s Britspotting, Vivienne Dick is an Irish experimental film-maker who found her way to New York in the 1970s. The three short films shown here reflect the unrestrained artistic spirit of that city in that hedonistic decade. Included in the short series are “Visibility Moderate,” a confused and out-of-place American tourist takes a part-fictional, part-documentary picaresque journey to Ireland, and “Guerillere Talks,” a series of short portraits of lost and lonely women in lower Manhattan.

Nov 14 4pm

Colin (dir. Marc Price) – With a micro-budget, though probably not as micro as the hyped-up £45, this horror film has a mundane feel to it that makes it even more depressingly and realistically English than “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later.” It’s a zombie film with an interesting take – the hero’s a member of the undead – and it has all the intestines, flaps of skin, and improvised blunt weapons that horror fans need. It also concentrates on the emotional journey of the undead a lot more than George Romero might have had in mind.

Nov 14 midnight

All films are being shown in Babylon Mitte (Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30), while the Filmcafé (Schliemannstraße 15) is hosting this year’s short film programme.

For members


EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.