Author: Toby Ashraf

berlin art film festival

Introducing: Berlin Art Film Festival

It was a mellow summer afternoon at the Stil in Berlin office when Mary Scherpe said something pretty much out of the blue: “Why don’t we do a film festival?” It wasn’t like I always had that in mind anyways plus I wouldn’t have suggested it by myself and so I just smiled with joy at the idea and Mary’s great suggestion. But what to show? My first idea was to link a festival to my weekly film column “Discover This” on Stil in Berlin and therfore to organize a re-run of all these films. But then a much better idea struck me as I browsed through the blog and thought about what it actually represents…

Discover This: 48 Stunden Neukölln/ Wolf

It takes some courage these days to come up with the plan to open up a cinema in Berlin. First there came the multiplexes, then there came the Internet and although I lost track of the number of Berlin cinemas that had to close down in the last twenty years, it’s fair to say that most small cinema owners are struggling nowadays – especially in a town where you can get everything, all the time, all at once. Wolf owner and founder Verena von Stackelberg is an activist, and this year’s theme of 48 Stunden Neukölln couldn’t be more fitting for her ambitious endeavour: courage. Last night, I took a stroll through the improvised interiors of her soon-to-be cinema in the heart of trendy Neukölln and met Verena for a little pre-opening talk.

Discover This: Lupu

It’s the very first scene of the film and it already sets the tone for what is to follow: Clara is sitting on the couch watching something that is hidden from our view. We start hearing regular slapping noises and when the camera cuts to a wider shot, we see a middle-aged man with his pants down masturbating in front of the young woman whose face is motionless and detached. Our perspective is that of Lupu, a young man who is watching from a distance and whose mysterious tale of lust, desire and death is told in this spellbinding new film from Romania.

Discover This: Zuwandern

People collecting recyclable bottles on the streets of Berlin are a common sight. It’s also common knowledge that if you’re too lazy to return your bottles you don’t throw them in the trash can but put them at the side for collectors to get at them more easily. During the summer, picnickers, revellers and sunbathers often have their empty bottles ready for the inevitable person who wanders around parks and open places, carrying a big plastic bag or a trolley filled with bottles in the hope of making a few Euros for their troubles – a single bottle usually being worth between eight and 25-cents when returned. The understanding between those who have enough and those who make a living from the waste of others often strikes me as unique and without trying to romanticise the situation, can bring an element of dignity to the situation of poverty.

Discover This: Meteora

Somewhere up in the mountains in the Greek region of Thessalía there is a group of ancient monasteries built on sandstone formations, which appear to be the remains of a massive continental drift. These settlements are called metéora, which means “hanging in the air” or “floating” to emphasize their closeness to God and their general otherworldliness. A new film by director Spiros Stathoulopoulos is set in two of these monasteries and tells the simple story of two people falling in love, using images of breath-taking beauty and beautiful unreality.