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How Berlin became home to the Hunger Games

As stars and fans of The Hunger Games series flock to Berlin for the European premiere of its finale on Wednesday, The Local looks at what the city brought to the film - and how exactly Berlin became Panem.

How Berlin became home to the Hunger Games
Mockingjay: Part 2, starring Jennifer Lawrence, premieres in Berlin on November 4th. Photo: DPA

Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games franchise has taken audiences by storm. 

With a novel trilogy having sold 87 million copies worldwide, and a film franchise already making over €900 million at the box office, expectations are high for the release of the story's epic finale Mockingbird: Part 2 this month.

But before then comes the ritual of the film's world premiere – set to take place on Wednesday evening in Berlin.

Hosted at Berlin's futuristic Sony Centre in Potsdamer Platz, the premiere's star-studded guest-list has already attracted hundreds of fans – many of whom camped out overnight in aluminium heat blankets to catch a glimpse of Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) and the film's other stars.

It was no accident that the world premiere came to Berlin: with parts of the Hunger Games finale filmed in the city, Berlin's “dark architecture” was the backdrop for much of the dystopian epic.

From Nazi airports to techno clubs

In May and June 2014, the Mockingjay cast and crew descended on Berlin.

“The city has a unique monumentalism in its architecture,” said director Francis Lawrence.

“Some of the dark architecture you find in the city suits the movie perfectly,” he told the Berliner Morgenpost.

So where could you go in Berlin to get a first-hand experience of Panem?

 Das Kraftwerk, Berlin Mitte – Beetee's weapons lab, District 13

Das Kraftwerk seemed an ideal location for a weapons lab. Photo: DPA

Built in the 1960s, this former power station supplied Berlin Mitte with energy until 1997.

Now, it's more of a recreational haunt – housing Berlin's famous techno club Tresor, the building also plays host to various concerts, events and exhibitions.

But it was also the perfect location for Beetee's weapons training facility, director Francis Lawrence told MTV.

“The size and scope of this place you can’t replicate, so we wanted to find as real an environment as possible,” Lawrence explained.

“It was actually quite difficult to find environments that felt like they were underground.”

Director Francis Lawrence inside Das Kraftwerk. Photo: DPA

Berlin Tempelhof Airport – District 2

Music fans gathered at Tempelhof in early September for Germany's first Lollapalooza festival. Photo: DPA

Built in 1927 and reconstructed by the Nazis in the 1930s, Tempelhof played a key role in the Allied Forces' famed 1948/9 Berlin Airlift, allowing over 2.3 million tonnes of food and fuel to be delivered into West Berlin after the Soviet Union blocked land routes.

After closing in 2008, it became a popular venue for festivals and public events – and in September, Berlin's iconic former airport made headlines after becoming a mass refugee shelter.

But between its roles in the German cold war and the current refugee crisis, Tempelhof also found time to transform into Panem for a short while.

The team spent 12 days filming here on the grounds of one of the world's largest buildings.

Lawrence and the team spent 12 days filming at Tempelhof. Photo: DPA

Babelsberg Film Studio

The oldest large-scale film studio in the world, Babelsberg has been producing films just outside Berlin since 1912.

In April 2014, a Berlin casting agency sent out a call for around 1,000 extras to feature in scenes filmed at the studio.

The crew was on the lookout for those with African, Asian, Southern European, Turkish or Afro-American appearances.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rüdersdorf – District 8

Ok, it's not strictly in Berlin – but for those willing to venture a little further afield, Rüdersdorf is another place to catch a glimpse of Katniss Everdeen's world.

A municipality in Brandenburg, Rüdersdorf is the location of a former cement factory – which the Mockingjay cast and crew used during filming of scenes set in Panem's District 8.

Panem arrives in Berlin

Cast and crew began arriving in Berlin in the week before the premiere.

Actor Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne in the series) posted a photo in the city on Tuesday:

 

Good morning Berlin!!

A photo posted by Liam Hemsworth (@liamhemsworth) on Nov 2, 2015 at 3:25am PST

Meanwhile Willow Shields – who play Katniss's younger sister Primrose Everdeen – tweeted her arrival on October 31st:

Wednesday's premiere at Cinestar Potdamer Platz is set to begin at 7:30pm.

By Hannah Butler

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WOMEN

7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers

To celebrate the works of women in the German film industry, and at the conclusion of this year's special outdoor Berlinale, we have compiled a list of seven must-watch German films directed by women. 

7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers
A scene from System Crasher. credit: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Peter Hartwig

This year’s Oscars marked the first time in its almost 100-year history that two female filmmakers – Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell – were nominated in the Best Director category. Only five women have ever been nominated for this award. Zhao took home the gong, becoming just the second woman ever to do so.

In 2021’s Berlinale Festival, 60 percent of the films in the Generation category were directed by women — with 75 percent of female filmmakers making up the Kplus selection (a category for younger audiences).

Here is a look at seven films by some of the most influential female directors in German cinema.

Never Sleep Again (1992) — Pia Frankenberg

Featured in Berlinale’s Retrospective series, meant to showcase female filmmakers, this film is written, directed and produced by Cologne-born filmmaker, Pia Frankenberg.

The film follows three female friends through post-unification Berlin, who are making their way to a wedding when their car breaks down. They wander through the streets of former East Berlin, roaming in and out of bars meeting men. 

The dilapidated sites of the former Cold War frontier city, still scarred by World War II, become a place for sheer endless personal experimentation where the women begin to reconfigure their lives and loves.

Frankenberg’s impressionistic portrait of three women in the city reflects on the state of the newly unified Germany, where for a moment all possibilities seemed radically open. (Available on Mubi, Binged)

The German Sisters (1981) — Margarethe Von Trotta 

Considered one of the classics of the New German Cinema movement, The German Sisters tells an intimate story of Germany. 

Based on the real-life story of the Enslein sisters, it is an expression of director Margarethe Von Trotta’s combination of the personal and the political. It’s the story of Juliane, a feminist journalist and her sister, Marianne, who is a terrorist revolutionary. The film, which won six awards at the Venice Film Festival including the Golden Lion, was Margarethe Von Trotta’s third film and first collaboration with Barbara Sukowa. The director-actor duo went on to do six more films together. (Available on Mubi, Prime)

Margarethe Von Trotta on set in 1975. Photo: dpa | Bertram

Toni Erdmann (2016) — Maren Ade 

Toni Erdmann is a German-Austrian comedy which was directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. The film, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, was named the best film of 2016. 

Meant to showcase the intricacies of a father-daughter relationship, the film pairs carefully constructed, three-dimensional characters in a tenderly funny character study. A hard-working woman reluctantly agrees to spend time with her estranged father when he unexpectedly arrives.

As a practical joker, the father does his best to reconnect by pretending to be her CEO’s life coach. (Available on Mubi, Kanopy, Prime, Vudu)

I Was at Home, But (2019) — Angela Schanelec 

I was at home, but (Ich war zuhause, aber) is a 2019 German drama film directed by Angela Schanelec. At the Berlinale that year, Schanelec won the Silver Bear for Best Director. 

The film is a story about a 13-year-old student, Phillip, who disappears without a trace for a week and suddenly reappears. 

It maps the existential crises his mother and teachers are confronted with that change their whole view of life. The film features several plots, which tell the stories of several people who are all connected to Phillip in some way. It has scenes with long silences, to contrast ones with heavy dialogue, which critics believe makes this film a cinematic masterpiece. (Available on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, or rent on YouTube).

The Audition (2019) — Ina Weisse

This film has been described as a symphonic study of human behaviour. It’s the story of a violin teacher, who takes great interest in mentoring a student for an audition. Anna, the violinist and teacher played by Nina Hoss, shows plenty of compassion toward the boy at first, but their relationship becomes much more strained as the date of Alexander’s audition nears and Anna begins to put him through musical torture. Come the day of the exam, events take a tragic turn. (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

Pelican Blood (2019) — Katrin Gebbe 

Pelican Blood is written and directed by Katrin Gebbe, who won the 2014 Preis der Deutschen Filmkritik (German Film Critics’ Prize) for her first film.

It tells the story of a woman who trains police horses. She adopts her second child, a severely traumatised five-year-old girl. When the girl shows violent and anti-social behaviour, her new mother becomes determined to help her.

The film has been described as raising fascinating questions – how do you draw boundaries for a child who seems to ignore them or even takes a perverse pleasure in overstepping them? What can you do as a parent when you realize that your love and protection aren’t enough? (Available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime)

System Crasher (2019) — Nora Fingscheidt

Another film about a rebellious child, System Crasher picked up a whopping eight German Film Awards after its release in 2019.

The film has a powerful political message about the inadequacies of the universal child care system. The protagonist, Benni, is a violent nine-year-old girl who suffers from psychotic episodes. Her key social worker, Frau Bafané, tries to get Benni into special schools or facilities; dozens turn her down and Benni is too young to be effectively sectioned as an inpatient.

In an interview with The Guardian, Fingscheidt says, “There’s a very German dimension to the film in the obsession with bureaucracy, with rules that need to be adhered to. Rules like, ‘this child cannot stay in this home because they are getting too emotionally attached,’ when that institution may be the first place where a child has begun to open up.”

The film has received an incredible amount of international recognition, garnering 45 international awards. (Available on Netflix)

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