Film in Berlin: DISCOVER THIS!

Toby Ashraf, looking for new film discoveries, even in the grim Berlin winter… Photo: Mae Ost

A weekly Berlin–based film comment

Hello and welcome to Discover This! Every week from now on, I’ll invite you to be curious and open–minded and discover films that you might otherwise overlook. It might not always be apparent, but film is a very political subject. I am not even talking about its contents here, but rather about the politics of attention and money.

The films that shine brightest—the ones that have huge billboards on Potsdamer Platz, international TV trailers, and big-name actors—are obviously the films with the biggest budgets. Having money is not bad per se (quite frankly I would love some to spare!). What money creates, however, is inequality and the film business is no exception here. I am talking about the unequal situation for films that struggle from beginning to end, from the phase of coping with obscure film funding regulations to finding a cinema that will show them. And yet, many films are getting made. With an average of ten film releases per week, it’s hard to keep track and decide what to watch. That’s where I step in.

I love good entertainment, but I love challenges more. In this column I will try to talk about unique films that don’t get the attention they deserve. Many of these films will be documentaries, many of them have small and ambitious distribution companies, and many of them are generally hard to sell. They are all daring, often uncompromising, unusual, edgy, and artsy.

Toby Ashraf
Photo: Mae Ost

Many of the films I will write about disappoint conventional audience expectations because they aim less at selling a product and more at challenging their audience to think. Many of these films will take your breath away if you are willing to go on that journey. They will take you to places you’ve never been—an ambulance car in Bulgaria, a German crematorium, or even a doctor’s office in Casablanca where sex changes were performed in the 1950s.

Many of these films employ a form and a style that you may have never seen. You might not be certain if you are watching a fiction film or a documentary. You might not hear any commentary or dialogue in a documentary film. You might discover stories and people you wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. These discoveries demand your curiosity, but I assure you that it will be gratifying and worthy to keep an open mind.

Having worked for small film distribution and production companies and having sold tickets behind the counter for films that no one wanted to see, I might be an idealist and I might be naive, but I take this column very personally and very seriously. I want to invite you to be curious with me and discover something new every week. My weekly selection will be no doubt personal and sometimes controversial, but I’ll try my best to stick to the exceptional. So join me, take the ride and be ready to discover!

edited by Cristian Gonzalez