Das Filmfest brings new wave of German cinema to Prague

For the sixth year in a row Czech cinemas will be filled with a selection of the latest German-language films with Das Filmfest

Michael Stein 21.10.2011

Dancing in the streets in 3D in ‘Pina’ by Wim Wenders foto: © Das FilmfestČeská pozice

Dancing in the streets in 3D in ‘Pina’ by Wim Wenders

For the sixth year in a row Prague cinemas will be filled with a selection of the latest German-language films as Das Filmfest kicks off on Oct. 19. Featuring productions by world-renowned directors such as Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, the festival also showcases the broad range of cutting edge work being done in Germany,  Austria and Switzerland.

The 26 festival films are grouped into four thematic areas: The Rebels, The Threshold, The Documented and The Wall. Following a week of screenings in Prague, the festival will head to Brno from Oct. 24 to 28.

The festival represents an excellent opportunity to see the range of feature and documentary films being made in the significant German-speaking film production market, as the majority of the films in the festival will not be otherwise available in Czech theatrical releases.

Speaking at a press conference for the festival, Angelika Eder from the Goethe Institute in Prague, pointed out, however, that the festival has previously served as the occasion for the acquisition of films to be shown on Czech television, something which she says can be expected to occur again in the future.

German in 3D

One of the features of this year’s festival is the inclusion of 3D films. While people usually associate 3D with Hollywood science-fiction features, those in Das Filmfest come from the opposite end of the spectrum, being documentaries on two sensitive, artistic subjects.

Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” came out in the US in 2010 to broad critical and public acclaim. The film gives a privileged look inside the cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc and its prehistoric paintings, estimated to be as much as 32,000 years old. Herzog does the voice over himself and has been lauded as a highly entertaining guide to an evidently static subject.

The same is not the case for the subject of Wim Wenders’ documentary “Pina,” a documentary on the work of the radical choreographer Pina Bausch. Wenders has filmed Bausch’s dance company performing not only in the studio but in disused factories, traffic islands and darkened tunnels, with the idea that dance is a part of our regular lives. Add the 3D filming and the effect is riveting.

Both of these films are being given regular theatrical releases in the Czech Republic.

Teenage tasteland

The other film being shown in the festival that will receive a wider showing is the debut film of director Ziska Reimann, “Lollipop Monster.” The film shows a friendship between two teenage girls — one a black-clad goth-girl, the other her seeming opposite in a rainbow of happy, pastel-colored clothes — and is in many ways a YouTube, new media version of Peter Jackson’s classic “Heavenly Creatures.”

The festival is not the first time “Lollipop Monster” has played in the Czech Republic as it competed in last year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF). Both its director and its leading actress, the goth girl Oona played by 18-year-old Sarah Horváth, will be guests at Das Filmfest to present the film.

In an interview prepared for the festival Reimann discussed how much her personal experience went into the characters:

“I wrote the screenplay together with my childhood friend Luci van Org, who lived in the same neighborhood as me … We were both pretty wild and wanted to try almost everything. When I was 13 I left home and lived on the streets of Berlin. Luci and I met many years later, and our shared memories inspired us to write the screenplay where our alter-egos played the main roles.”

©YouTube Das filmfest — Festival deutschsprachiger Filme

From granny-lifting to Goethe

The festival will host a number of other notable guests, among them a director who many will recognize from his role on the television serial “Inspector Rex” (Kommissar Rex). Director, screenwriter and actor Karl Markovic played the character of Ernst Stockinger on the popular Austrian detective show and is coming to Das Filmfest to present his directorial debut “Breathing.” The film follows a 19-year old ex-convict struggling with life outside prison and received extremely strong reviews when it appeared at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Actor Andreas Kindl will also be present in Prague to present his work in “The Unintentional Kidnapping of Mrs. Elfreide Ott.” The comedy about a man collecting the pension for his dead grandmother arises from the unwelcome visit of a local politician to celebrate her 95th birthday. When his friend kidnaps a substitute it turns out that it is not any ordinary old lady, but famous actress Elfreide Ott. The film’s tag line is “Granny-lifting might be illegal, but it still is great fun!”

Other festival films cover recent and distant eras of German history, from the Red Army Faction in the 60s to World War II to director Philipp Stölzl’s “Goethe,” which shows the great poet in his Romantic youth. 

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Michael Stein

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