New German cinema in Bangalore

With Germany's renewed focus on the technology of film-making, new opportunities for collaboration between Germany and India might open up in the years ahead.

Cinema in Germany is changing. Even as traditional approaches and perspectives to cinema remain, new currents are finding their way into mainstream filmmaking. These varying influences and emerging trends were all seen at the 5th Indo-German Film Festival, held in Bangalore recently.

Source: Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan

The festival that ran under the theme of ‘Two nations – a single screen’ was held by the Goethe-Institut in collaboration the FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, Germany and Suchitra Film Society. Over the course of a week, 10 German and Indian films were screened at the event.

The Indian panaroma had a well thought out selection of films that included Bettada Jeeva (Kannada), Adaaminte Makan Abu (Malayalam), Balgandharva (Marathi), Peepli Live (Hindi), Kharghosh (Hindi), Memories in March (English), Udaan (Hindi), Kutty Srank (Malayalam), Puttakana Highway (Kannada), Stanley Ka Dabba (Hindi) and I am Kalam (Hindi).

The German panorama had Almanya, Buddenbrooks – The Decline of a Family, The Story of Brandner Kaspar, Jasmin, Vincent wants to sea, Wader Wecker – Father Land, Rock it!, Lilli the Witch 2 – The Journey to Mandolan and Vickie the mighty Viking.

Signaling a break from the past, director Yasemin Samdereli’s Almanya – Welcome to Germany opened the film festival. A tale of the meaning of identity and belonging, the film tells the story of a Turkish immigrant family’s search for home in contemporary Germany. Yet while set in the landscape of Yasemin’s experiences as a German of Turkish origin, the film is not autobiographical.

An award-winning film, Almanya has been highest grossing film in Germany in the last year, and reflects the winds of change that seem to be sweeping over Germany. Like in the rest of the world, Germany is becoming a nation of heterogeneous ethnicities as well, and its cinema reflects this diversity. While set in Germany and narrated in German, the director’s unique approach to storytelling remains Turkish. Interwoven through the narrative is a sense of tradition, a love of community and a zest for life most associated with Eastern European and Italian cinema. The film is German, and yet universal. It makes you think, but more importantly it inspires.

Almanya also mark’s Yasemin Samdereli’s debut as a director. The film that was eight years in the making was co-written with Yasemin’s sister Nesrin Samdereli. A gifted director, it would be interesting to keep a look out for the cinema that flows from Yasemin’s lens in the years ahead.

Also among the early work screened at the film was Jasmin from director Jan Fehse. More representative of the traditional cerebral approach to German cinema, Jasmin is a psycho-analytical perspective into the mind of a mother who has killed her infant child.

As Jan’s second film, Jasmin displays much of the innovation that comes with early experimentation. The film develops as a series of conversations between a Forensic specialist Dr. Feldt (Wiebke Puls) and a young mother Jasmine (Anne Shepherd) awaiting trial. While the film is shot in a single setting, eight cameras rolled to record the action, with most shots being completed in a single take.

The straight forward narrative that proceeds with no embellishments, depends on strong performances to engage the audience. Here Wiebke Puls and Anne Shepherd rise to the occasion. They spar hard and long, taking the audience along with them.

Other diverse voices were also heard at the 5th Indo-German Film Festival. In director Heinrich Breloer’s Buddenbrooks, there was a return to the forgotten art of making of a period film. Later, director Mike Marzuk gave us a modern youthful German musical with Rock it!. All these varied approaches and themes are clearly alive and thriving in contemporary German cinema today. 

Another interesting trend that emerged during the festival was the growing number of children’s films being made in Germany and the renewed focus on the technology of film-making. The later development, in keeping with the theme of the film festival, also opens new opportunities for collaboration between Germany and India in the years ahead.

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