Author: Toby Ashraf

Discover This: The Singing Ringing Tree

It’s all smoke and mirrors – cinema, that is- and magic. Sometimes, when you watch too many films – like myself- you tend to forget that magic exists. Luckily, every so often, and regularly around Christmas time, there are re-runs of classic films whose magic is made for the holidays and will be best seen on a majestic screen like the one hidden behind two glitter curtains at the Kino International this Christmas day. The Singing Ringing Tree is one of my all-time favourite films and once you see the haughty princess being high-jacked by a bear in a fabulously camp studio setting, you will know what I am talking about…

Discover This: Alois Nebel

One of the great things about cinema is that it becomes your reality for the length of a film, no matter how surreal or fantastic, weird or artificial it presents itself. In the case of animated pictures you are even looking at a painted reality which can still be more touching and thrilling, exciting and, in fact, close to life than a regular film. This week’s film tip, Alois Nebel, was made with the special method of roboscobing, which consists of taking previously shot real film material and repainting it (almost) frame by frame and then putting it together as an animated film. The result of this is visually stunning. What’s more, Alois Nebel is the translation of a story that is taken from a graphic novel, originally set in the real world and then put into a very special film.

Ursúla Guðmundsson with pink umbrella near a hot geyser

Discover This: Home in the Ice

Ursúla Guðmundsson likes to polish her nails. She says it’s important because her hands are very precious to her. We watch her carefully apply the polish on her 80-something year-old hands and we realise that she is trying to match the pink with her lipstick and her outfit. When Ursúla was a young woman, her hands bled from the manual labour she did and hurt from the washing powder she used to handwash the clothes of 13 people every week. Ursúla Guðmundsson was born Ursula Quade and emigrated from Germany to Iceland after the Second World War. She is one of six enigmatic older women that director Heike Fink portrays in a beautiful film that talks about a little known part of German migration.

Blancanieves in the group of dwarfs

Discover This: Blancanieves

What is it about fairy tales that still makes them so fascinating to us even though we have known their stories since our childhood? Is it nostalgia? Are we conservative if we like them because we need to be retold the same old tale over and over again? More than 200 years after the Grimm Brothers wrote Snow White, Spanish director Pablo Berger now retells the story of a young beautiful girl and her vicious stepmother for the cinema. The result might be based on a famous fairy tale, but it is so unique, original, and enchanting that you almost wish more filmmakers would use well-known stories to express their fresh artistic visions.

A Still from From Up on Poppy Hill: Umi and Shun in front of Umi's house

Discover This: From Up on Poppy Hill

Do you still remember the first time you rewatched an old animated cartoon film as an adult? I still do, and I was amazed that this film- I believe it was a Disney classic- worked for a grown-up audience as well. I realized that it was filled with innuendos, puns, and cultural references and simultaneously worked for its main target audience, the child viewers. Despite the impressive empire of Walt Disney Company, great animated films have always had a second home in Japan, often with a slightly more poetic and less conventional feel to them. Now, more than two years after its release in Japan, From Up on Poppy Hill, a fascinating coming-of-age story from the famous Japanese Ghibli Studios, finally finds its way into German cinemas and reveals its beautifully drawn magic on big screens around the country.