German director defends ultra-violent film from #metoo attacks

One of Germany's most acclaimed directors, Fatih Akin, hit back Saturday at criticism of his new film about a real-life serial killer, "The Golden Glove", charging that it exploits the female victims.

German director defends ultra-violent film from #metoo attacks
Fatih Akin at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday. Photo: John Macdougall / AFP
Akin, who won a Golden Globe award last year for his terrorism drama “In the Fade” starring Diane Kruger, insisted the ultra-violent new picture aimed to grant “dignity” to both the killer and the slain women.
“We are living in a time in which the discussion about sexual violence is everywhere and that is justified,” Akin told reporters at the Berlin film festival, where the picture premiered. 
“But when you make a film about sexual violence, you have to show it,” he said after facing several pointed questions.
Akin said he had no desire to “glorify” violence against women with the film's scenes graphically depicting sexual torture, murder and dismemberment which many viewers said left them feeling queasy.
He said he had shown the film to pimps he knew from his hometown Hamburg's red-light district, where the movie is set.
“You can talk to them until you're blue in the face about how wrong violence against women is and #MeToo and it goes in one ear and out the other,” Akin said. “But if people who have committed violence against women say '(this movie's) too brutal for me', then maybe it's naive but I'm hopeful that the film will have an impact on them.”
Akin said for all the heightened sensitivity around sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry, it should not be used to stifle artistic freedom. 
“Of course you think about #MeToo stuff and I support it,” he said. “But it should not… create censorship.”
Akin, who has billed the film a “horror movie”, based it on author Heinz Strunk's novel of the same title, named for the seedy pub where the real killer Fritz Honka met his victims.
Most were alcoholics who went home with men in exchange for liquor. Honka killed at least four women between 1970 and 1975 until their mutilated rotting corpses were discovered in his flat.
'Not everyone's cup of tea'
Akin employed female psychologists on set to help the cast and crew deal with any intense feelings that arose. Actress Margarethe Tiesel said she had received “very dignified” treatment during difficult scenes.
“I did not feel used or helpless — I felt protected and we simply told the truth” in the film, she said. 
Akin admitted that the marketing of the picture could be tricky.
“I shouldn't even say it because I'm trying to get people into cinemas to watch this but the movie will not be everyone's cup of tea and that's OK,” he said. “If I started making movies everyone would enjoy then I wouldn't make anything truthful, dammit.” 
“The Golden Glove” is one of 17 films vying for the Berlin festival's Golden Bear prize for best picture, to be awarded by jury president Juliette Binoche on February 16.
Akin, whose family's roots are in Turkey, clinched top honours in 2004 for the gritty drama “Head-On”, set in Hamburg and Istanbul, which launched his international career. 
This year's festival has turned the spotlight on women with a record 41 percent of the award contenders made by female directors and a strong focus on female protagonists.

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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)