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Germany holds virtual Berlinale film festival

With theatres shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak, Europe’s first major cinema showcase of the year begins in Berlin on Monday.

Germany holds virtual Berlinale film festival
German actress Paula Beer poses with the trophy "Silver Bear for Best Actress" during the awarding ceremony of the 70th Berlinale film festival in Berlin on February 29, 2020. Photo: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

Due to the pandemic The Berlinale has been pushed back by a month, put online and divided into two parts as the movie industry struggles to find its feet. Now in its 71st year, The Berlinale will hold the competition virtually for critics, reporters and rights buyers from 1st-5th March. 

For the second stage, organisers hope to invite stars and screen the films for the general public in June, mainly at open-air cinemas. Last year’s event, one of the last before the pandemic, sold more than 330,000 tickets.

The festival has also gone “gender neutral” with its acting awards — best actress and best actor prizes are history, replaced with best lead and supporting performance.

Industry watchers say that despite severe restrictions on making and screening movies, the Berlinale has managed to pull together an exciting lineup.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that they were able to get what looks like a pretty impressive collection of solid movies together for this festival,” Scott Roxborough, European bureau chief for The Hollywood Reporter, told AFP.

The world premiere of a documentary about music legend Tina Turner and an “impressive” pack of pandemic-era movies will take the spotlight at an all-virtual Berlin film festival starting on March 1, 2021. Photo: by Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

‘Uncertain times’

One of the hottest titles is “Tina”, a star-studded HBO documentary about the queen of rock’n’roll by Oscar winners Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin (“Undefeated”) to be released on March 27.

The film features never-before-seen concert footage, interviews with the 81-year-old superstar and recollections from the likes of Angela Bassett and Oprah Winfrey.

Directors including Emmy winner Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox”), German-Spanish actor Daniel Bruehl (“Rush”) and France’s Celine Sciamma (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”) will be premiering new work in competition.

All 15 contenders for the top prizes to be awarded on Friday are films that were made or in post-production during the pandemic.

Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian said the selection captures “the uncertain times we are experiencing”.

Bruehl, who starred in the bittersweet German comedy “Good Bye, Lenin” and is now part of the Captain America franchise, will make his directorial debut with “Next Door”, a black comedy about gentrification.

Schrader will unveil “I’m Your Man”, a sci-fi comedy about a woman falling for a custom-made Mr Right, played by British actor Dan Stevens (“Beauty and the Beast”) while Sciamma offers up “Petite Maman”, a magical realist look at girlhood.

One of Romania’s top filmmakers, Radu Jude, is back with the intriguingly titled “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” about a teacher whose sex tape winds up on the internet.

Hong Sang-soo of South Korea, who won best director in Berlin last year for “The Woman Who Ran”, will show “Introduction”, vying against titles from Japan, Mexico and Lebanon.

 
Bear trophies for the upcoming 71st Berlinale film festival are displayed during a media tour at the Noack foundry in Berlin. Photo: Hannibal Hanschke/AFP)

Watching under house arrest

The Berlinale comes at a complicated time for the industry.

With the glamour of the red carpet and the magic of the big-screen experience sorely lacking, Roxborough said festivals were still “experimenting” with formats as the pandemic drags on.

“A danger of these virtual festivals is that even critics can’t get super excited about watching films at home,” he said.

“They have to have some kind of communal experience to go crazy for the movie that nobody’s heard about but that now everybody just has to see.”

Cannes hopes to hold its festival in July after being cancelled last year.

Venice managed to benefit from a break in high infection levels to take place last September with a range of special precautions.

But this winter, with the second wave raging, Sundance was held online.

The Berlinale jury will be made up of six previous Golden Bear winners including last year’s laureate, dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who claimed the prize for “There Is No Evil” about capital punishment.

Five of the members will all stay at the same hotel and sit, physically distanced, in a Berlin cinema made specially available under lockdown, while Rasoulof will watch from Tehran under house arrest.

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CULTURE

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

The holiday of Diwali kicks off on Monday. Here's where you can celebrate all around Germany.

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

With over 100,000 Indians in Germany, and over 175,000 people of Indian descent, it’s little wonder that Diwali – the famous five day Hindi festival of lights starting this year on Monday October 24th – is being celebrated all around the Bundesrepublik

READ ALSO: Indians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Even the House of Parliament in Frankfurt is honouring the holiday for the first time with a special reception on October 30th.

Diwali takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. With the days shortening in Germany, there’s all the more reason to celebrate light — especially over lively music, traditional dance and authentically spicy Indian cuisine.

We have rounded up some of the top events to celebrate around Germany, both the week of Diwali and afterwards, stretching into mid-November. If you have an additional event to suggest, email us at [email protected]

October 24th in Heidelberg

Happen to be in Heidelberg? Then it’s not too late to head to the Sweet Home Project, which will be cooking up a storm starting at 6:30pm. The menu includes an assortment of Indian sweets and savoury dishes. The collective only asks that participants bring along a candle (and a hearty appetite).

If you miss this event, and are still craving some (really) spicy traditional cuisine, the Firebowl Heidelberg is hosting a Diwali party on October 29th, replete with lots of food and drink and Bollywood beats the whole night. 

October 29th near Frankfurt

For those who fancy a Feier with a full-buffet, this celebration in Dreieich delivers through an all-you-can-eat dinner with traditional fare. Starting at 5pm and stretching into the early hours of the morning, the festive feast includes traditional Bollywood music by Derrick Linco. There’s also a dance party for kids, who receive free admission up to seven years old and €25 up to 14 years. Normal tickets go for €40 per person.

A previous Diwali celebration of traditional dance and music in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

November 4th near Düsseldorf

On November 4th at 6pm, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft Düsseldorf will be hosting a family-friendly party in nearby Ratingen with classical Indian music and dance, a huge dinner and Bollywood music led by DJ SA-ONE. Tickets cost about €40 each, but children under six receive free entry. 

November 5th in Bonn 

The Indian Students Association of Bonn-Cologne will be hosting its biggest event of the year: for €10, event goers can try an array of Indian food, play classic games and tune into cultural performances. 

READ ALSO: Moving from India to Munich changed my life

November 12th in Essen 

Whether you like traditional bhajans or meditative ragas, this concert will capture many of the classic sounds of Indian music with artists such as Anubhab Tabla Ensemble, Debasish Bhattacharjee and Somnath Karmorak taking center stage. The performance starts at 5pm and costs €10. 

November 12th and 13th in Berlin

Indian food fans will get to enjoy 12 stands devoted to Indian cuisine and products, all coming from the local Indian community. The weekend-long festival will also include stand-up comedy from the Desi Vibes Comedy Group. Karaoke fans will also enjoy singing along with the Sounds of India group, followed by an after party on Saturday. All this only costs €2 at the door. 

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