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Berlinale: Berlin Festival to award first ‘gender-neutral’ acting award on final day

The 71st Berlin Film Festival wraps up on Friday after a pandemic-era edition unlike any before, with the awarding of its Golden Bear best picture prize and its first "gender neutral" acting gongs.

Berlinale: Berlin Festival to award first 'gender-neutral' acting award on final day
A sign to buy tickets for the Berlinale. In June, the festival will take place live. Photo: DPA

The later, shorter, all-online Berlinale which started Monday replaced the usual 11-day star-studded extravaganza normally held in February.

Critics watching the movies on their laptops said that for all the lack of red-carpet glamour, it was a vintage year for the main selection of 15 films, with few duds and a clutch of gems.

“Petite Maman”, a moving coming-of-age drama by France’s Celine Sciamma, and “Mr Bachmann and His Class”, an ambitious German school documentary, were lavished with praise.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called Sciamma’s latest “a spellbinding jewel” and a “beautiful fairytale reverie”, while New York-based critic David Ehrlich compared it to the Japanese classic “Spirited Away” for blurring the “soft borders between real and invented worlds”.

Outdated sex distinctions

Weighing in at nearly four hours, Maria Speth’s “Mr Bachmann and His Class” portrays an iconoclast teacher on the cusp of retirement who takes his secondary school pupils from a range of immigrant backgrounds under his wing.

Indiewire said it was “one of the year’s most hopeful movies” while Britain’s ScreenDaily said the affable Bachmann seemed like “Bill Murray’s German cousin” with a knack for boosting his pupils’ self-esteem in the face of poverty and discrimination.

Germany turned in two light crowdpleasers — albeit without the crowds — with actor Daniel Brühl’s directorial debut “Next Door” and “Unorthodox” director Maria Schrader’s sci-fi romance “I’m Your Man”.

READ ALSO: Berlin gentrification takes spotlight in new film by actor Daniel Brühl

In the latter movie, British star Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) uses his fluent German to play a custom-made humanoid robot designed to win the heart of a flinty Berlin museum researcher.

Variety called him a “wry revelation, progressing from rigid, unworldly physical comedy to near-living, breathing emotional turmoil”.

The enthusiasm raised speculation Stevens could walk away with the Berlinale’s first “best performance” Silver Bear, after the festival did away with its best actor and actress trophies. A supporting performance will also be rewarded.

Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton have both welcomed Berlin’s bid to set aside outdated sex distinctions, a move the festival’s director Mariette Rissenbeek told AFP was aimed at “spurring the discussion about gender justice” in the entertainment industry.

‘Gripping and impressive’

Reviewers also swooned over the first Georgian picture in competition in almost 30 years, “What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?”, about two lovers who don’t recognise each other when a curse changes their appearance.

Variety reviewer Jessica Kiang called the “witty, warm, surprising modern folktale” her favourite of the race.

Mexico’s Alonso Ruizpalacios premiered the Netflix feature “A Cop Movie” which mixes documentary and narrative techniques to look at the struggles of police work in the country’s capital.

The Hollywood Reporter hailed it as a “an intriguing, completely deconstructed look at what it takes to both be a cop and to play one, especially in a place where cops are often regarded as criminals themselves”.

Meanwhile German drama “Fabian: Going to the Dogs”, a Weimar-era tragedy about the descent into fascism, drew favourable comparisons to the hit series “Babylon Berlin”, with Der Spiegel magazine calling it “gripping” and “impressive”.

The Berlinale jury is 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 saw the films in person in the German capital in a specially reserved cinema, while Rasoulof watched from Tehran under house arrest.

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FOOD&DRINK

Five German drinks to try this summer

There’s nothing quite like a cold drink on a hot summer’s day and the Germans know it well. That’s why they’ve got a variety of tasty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to cool them down in the hottest months. Here are five you should try.

Five German drinks to try this summer

Summertime in Germany can get pretty hot, but thankfully there are plenty of popular drinks which can help you cool down, as well as tickle the tastebuds.

In Germany, fizzy water is wildly popular, so it’s not surprising that Sprudel is a key ingredient in most of the drinks on this list.

Hugo

A Hugo cocktail. Photo: Greta Farnedi/Unsplash

The Hugo is a cocktail made of Prosecco, elderflower syrup, mint leaves, a shot of mineral water and a slice of lime.

This refreshing alcoholic drink was invented by Roland Gruber, a bartender in South Tyrol, the mainly German-speaking region of northern Italy in 2005.

Though the drink wasn’t invented in Germany, it quickly spread across the borders of northern Italy and gained popularity here. Nowadays, you’ll be able to order a Hugo in pretty much any bar in the country.

Radler

A woman holds a pint of Radler. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

One of the best-known and most popular mixed beer drinks is the Radler: a concoction of beer and lemonade, a bit like a British shandy. In some areas of Germany – particularly in the south – the mixture is called Alster.

Usually, the ratio is 60 percent beer and 40 percent lemonade, but there are also some interesting variants. In some regions of Germany, a distinction is made between sweet (with lemonade) and sour (with water) Radler. Some foolhardy drinkers even mix their beer with cola (called a diesel).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German regions producing the most important beer ingredient

Apfelschorle

A woman pours apple spritz into plastic cups. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Soeren Stache

Apfelschorle is an absolute German classic.

The traditional mix of apple juice and fizzy water is a 1:1 ratio, but if you’re making the drink at home you can adjust the measurements to your liking. 

The concept of Saftschorle (fruit spritzer) has moved way beyond the plain old apple in Germany though. On Supermarket shelves, you’ll find major drinks chains offering a wide variety of fizzy fruit beverages, including  Rhabarbe-Schorle (Rhubarb spritz), Schwarze Johannisbeer-Schorle (Black currant spritz) and Holunderschorle (elderberry spritz).

Berliner Weiße mit Schuss

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin.

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Britta Pedersen

The Berliner Weiße (or Weisse) is an old, German beer, brewed with barley and wheat malt.

As the name suggests, it originates from the German capital, where it was extremely popular in the 19th century and was celebrated as the “Champagne of the North”.

But by the end of the 19th century, sour beer styles, including this one, became increasingly unpopular and they almost died out completely. 

READ ALSO: Five German foods that aren’t what you think they are

So people started mixing the drink with sweet syrup. This gave rise to the trend of drinking Berliner Weissbier with a shot (Schuss) of raspberry or woodruff syrup, which is still widely enjoyed today. Some breweries even ferment fruits such as raspberries or strawberries.

The drink is so well-known in Germany, that there was even a TV series named after it which ran for 10 years 1984 to 1995.

Weinschorle

Water and wine in equal parts and both well chilled – a light summer drink. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | DWI

Another fizzy-water-based German classic is the white wine spritz. 

A wine spritzer is a refreshing drink on warm summer days which has the advantage of not going to your head as quickly as a regular glass of wine. With equal parts fizzy water and wine, the drink has only about 5-6 percent alcohol, compared to glass of pure white wine, which has about 9-14 percent. 

For optimum German-ness when making this drink at home, choose a German white wine such as Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner or Riesling.

Enjoy and drink responsibly!

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