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CULTURE

In-person Berlin film fest stands up to pandemic and streaming

The 72nd Berlin film festival opens Thursday, bucking a trend of pandemic on-the-couch streaming with a packed programme of live premieres featuring a stable of European screen legends.

A golden and a silver Berlinale Bear trophy are pictured at the Noack foundry in Berlin
A golden and a silver Berlinale Bear trophy are pictured at the Noack foundry in Berlin, on January 25th, 2022 ahead of the 72nd Berlin film festival.  Hannibal Hanschke / POOL / AFP

Just as the coronavirus outbreak roars toward its peak in Germany, Berlinale organisers have opted for an 11-day, in-person celebration of new movies and a gala ceremony to award its Golden Bear top prize.

The festival said it was crucial to give cinemas a boost when Covid-19 fears had fuelled home viewing on small screens, and the German government called the “courageous” step of holding the event “a sign of hope”.

“It says: we won’t let corona beat us. We need cinema and culture,” government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner said.

Artistic director Carlo Chatrian said the Berlinale aimed to give weary audiences a break and some inspiration.

“Never before we have seen and welcomed so many love stories as this year — crazy, improbable, unexpected and intoxicating love, which is after all what all encounters are about deep down.”

Nick Cave, conflict zones
In competition are 18 films from around the world from hot young auteurs and cinema veterans — including seven directed by women. More than 200 other pictures are showing in sidebar sections.

A jury led by Indian-born American director M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”) will pick the winners.

The line-up includes new movies from French directors Francois Ozon and Claire Denis, “Carol” screenwriter Phyllis Nagy and Italy’s Paolo Taviani, a previous winner and at 90 the oldest award contender.

Italian horror master Dario Argento will show his first new picture in a decade — “Dark Glasses”, starring his daughter Asia Argento.

Autograph seekers will be banned from the red carpet but stars including Emma Thompson, Sigourney Weaver, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert and Mark Rylance have been invited to present their latest films.

Huppert will also pick up a Golden Bear for lifetime achievement.

South Korean festival favourite Hong Sang-soo will unveil “The Novelist’s Film” and Li Ruijun, part of a new generation of Chinese arthouse directors, will show his village romance “Return to Dust”.

In keeping with its tradition as the most politically minded of the big festivals, the Berlinale will turn the spotlight on conflict zones including South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Myanmar and eastern Ukraine, with a slew of new documentaries.

Plus “This Much I Know To Be True” will show how Australian rocker Nick Cave stayed creative under lockdown.

‘Extra sausage’ 
The Berlinale ranks among Europe’s top festivals alongside Cannes and Venice, which also went live last year but during ebbs in the pandemic.

The recent Sundance and Rotterdam festivals were forced by Covid to go entirely virtual and many expected Berlin to follow suit.

But after an all-online festival last March, followed by outdoor screenings in the summer, the Berlinale worked with authorities to develop crowd safety measures.

The decision has caused controversy, with local media asking how organisers could justify it while the virus has closed hundreds of creches and hospitals strain under the outbreak.

The B.Z. tabloid said the festival seemed to be getting “extra sausage” — German for special treatment — while public broadcaster RBB called it “delusional” and newspaper Tagesspiegel warned: “The virus will be pleased”.

Industry insiders noted that the festival’s requirements on vaccination, daily testing and reduced capacity marked a valiant effort but wondered if it was all worth it.

“Berlin is quite well organised. The safety measures are top notch so if anyone could pull it off successfully and safely, they can,” Scott Roxborough, Europe bureau chief for The Hollywood Reporter, told AFP.

“But it’s a question as to whether it was necessary or sensible to do it.”

He said Berlin, as the first major global cinema showcase of the year, was trying to live up to a responsibility to promote daring new movies against the odds.

“There’s been a massive success of the latest ‘Spiderman’ — one of the most successful films of all time now — despite the pandemic,” he said.

He said independent films, by contrast, had suffered.

“I think that’s making the industry very concerned about the future,” Roxborough said.

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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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