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Author: Toby Ashraf

Discover This: Behind the Candelabra

I have to be honest with you: before watching Behind the Candelabra, I didn’t have any idea who Liberace was. Call me ignorant, call me not gay enough, or call me too young. Calling myself too young at the age of 30, on the other hand, is so gay that I will have to go with ignorant after all. Yesterday a film came out in Berlin that might feel inappropriate for this column and you might ask yourself why I want to talk about it. It got tons of good press already, it has Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in it, and it so glamorous that it stands out from the selection of small films that I usually discuss. But apart from being a glamorous, fabulous and insightful travel into the times of “Walter” Liberace, Behind the Candelabra is an astonishing testament of a film that was made for television and its queer discourse.

Discover This: Stranger by the Lake

I don’t remember the first time I went cruising but I still remember that my heart raced so fast I almost collapsed with excitement. Now that the summer is coming to an end and the leaves will soon be falling off the trees in the parks, the small refuges of anonymous gay sex will make way for a cold and unfriendly winter and cruisers will have to abandon the public spheres and escape to the private cellars and darkrooms of the bars and clubs again.

Discover This: Down Under Berlin

Starting tonight, expat Australian cinephile and festival director Frances Hill invites Berliners to discover her home country through film at Kreuzberg’s Moviemento. Frances, charming employee of the overall amazing crew of Moviemento, started the Down Under Australian Film Festival two years ago via crowd-funding and with the help of friends. This year, she has put together a diverse and exciting programme which includes documentaries, narrative films, and short films, as well as a couple of great events. I met Frances Hill and head of communication Berit Becker for an afternoon interview where we talked about transgender hairdressers, indigenous actors, and the new films from Australia’s film schools.

The main course: lamb shoulder at Nansen

Food in Berlin: Nansen

I never in my life thought I would be writing about a restaurant, but sometimes you just discover the fun in something while doing it. I have also never really been a food person to be honest and when my friends ask to “have dinner” with me I always roll my eyes thinking that this is the kind of shit rich people in New York do. You know, like the women from Sex and the City who hardly work but always make it to the openings of the hottest new restaurants in town.

But then…

Discover This: Wadjda

At the end of the film I sat in the darkness of the theatre and cried a little, simply because I was happy. The only reason for this unforeseen outburst of emotion is the image of a young girl in Saudi Arabia who is riding a bike – nothing more. There are no violins playing, no dramatic camera crane shots or sentimental close ups, just the girl riding a bike. Of course, there is a special political and social meaning connected to this image, and naturally it is the conclusion of a complex and yet simple story, but it’s surprising nevertheless that one single moment in cinema can be so powerful. And that’s not the only surprising thing about Wadjda, a beautiful and touching film that opened in Berlin last Thursday.