Author: Toby Ashraf

A portrait of Brian in disco, looking over his shoulder

Discover This: Land in Sicht

Welcome to Germany, foreigner! We like to call you “Ausländer”, because we find it very important to stress that you are from a country that is not ours. Our politicians create words like „Armutszuwanderung“ (poverty migration) to underline that you might be poor and needy, expecting Germany to help you. If you’re from Bulgaria or Romania, we mock your migration with expressions like „Sozialtourismus“ (social tourism) to make the nation aware that you only come here to profit from our social system. If your skin is black, we will ask you where you are really from, no matter if you were born here or if you are a war refugee. And, oh yeah, black man, be prepared for a large scale police operation on the subway if they find you without a ticket. You might be late for your meeting with the Senate.

Discover This: Nebraska

Before the American award season comes to full bloom, we already have a winner as far as the non-existent category of best film poster is concerned: it’s the shadowy and hardly visible silhouette of Bruce Dern’s head on the beautiful poster of the magnificent film Nebraska. With his hair uncombed and thinning and his face but a mysterious line as if posing for a paper cut, this image of Dern couldn’t be more fitting for a film about a man who is very recognizable yet full of secrets, some of them part of the dark shadows of his past.

Back portrait of Taryn

Discover This: I Used to Be Darker

The credits start rolling while Kim Taylor is still singing, holding a guitar in her arms, and expressing all her melancholy through a song that hasn’t left me since I first heard it: Days Like This. You look up at the sky above you/ Days like this/ You think about the ones that love you/All I wanna do is live my life honestly/ I just want to wake up and see your face next to me/ Every regret I have I will go set free / It will be good for me. I sighed, a little tear rolled down my face and later I came back for a second screening just to see and hear that song again.

Discover This: The Strange Little Cat

Some films are just too strange and beautiful to explain them. The Strange Little Cat is one of them. I just read a friend’s advice: “Don’t read anything about it beforehand, just go see it!” That’s what I did. So I decided not to write anything about it, for you to just go and see it. And just write down some simple phrases in simple English and try to seduce you to watch a film I have by now watched three times and could watch over and over again. A film like no other film you have seen before. Surely. A strange little film. A magical little film. The Strange Little Cat.

Discover This: Best of 2013

Children of the dark rooms and the lit screens, it is time to look back and remember some of the highlights of 2013. Personally, it has been an enjoyable but rough year for me, but thanks to my friend Mary I got my own English-language column on this very blog which I couldn’t be happier about. It’s also time to thank you, the readers, for your interest and your comments, for sharing the enthusiasm, and for being open to new discoveries. Thanks, lovely Cristian Gonzalez, for going over all my texts and saying things like “it’s grammatically correct, but I have no idea what you want to say.” Finally, thank you, distributors, cinemas and movie-goers for keeping film culture in Berlin and elsewhere alive. I have put together 11 of my favourite films of the year and have also tried to tell you where in Berlin and how you can get access to them in case you want to discover or re-watch them now. Film-wise, 2014 has some amazing surprises in store and I can’t wait to share them with you, but first, let’s take a look at the amazing year that lies behind us …