BETTINA KINSKI The German Film Festival interview

Opening at Palace Cinemas this week and running till June 12, the German Film Festival showcases works of auteurs as well the brightest new talents the region has to offer. With a background in film and TV production in Germany and an obvious love of German cinema, Festival Coordinator Bettina Kinski is the ideal person to curate this selection of film. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to Kinski on what the Festival has to offer this year, and the special 30 year anniversary it is celebrating. 
The German Film Festival is showing at Palace Raine Square and Palace Cinema Paradiso from May 28 to June 12. Check the website for sessions and details.

I believe the German Film Festival is celebrating a special anniversary this year?

Actually we have two anniversaries, but one is particularly special. It’s 30 years ago that the Berlin Wall came down. To be honest, I have to say, I think for Germany itself, the celebrations will begin next year, celebrating the reunification. But I think internationally the fall of the wall is more symbolically important. It’s the reason why we chose to open our festival with Balloon, which is based on true events and tells the story of two East German families that escape to the West in a handmade hot air balloon during the Cold War. It’s probably one of the most daring escapes of its kind, and of course, just one story out of so many thousands. It’s a very substantial film.

Due to the central anniversary, we’ve included a special program strand in the line-up called Tear Down the Wall, co-presented by the German embassy in Canberra. It showcases documentaries, and beautiful feature films, that look back at the GDR. I like the biopic Gunndermann, he was such an interesting person. He was a passionate communist, a rebel, a digger driver, a musician, and he was also a Stasi spy. It’s a very interesting portrait. It teaches a lot about East Germany, but also what I like about this portrait, is nothing is black and white, a lot of grey shades. Sometimes people do the wrong thing that have good motivation, or good things with the wrong motivation. It recently took home six trophies at the German film awards (the national equivalent to the Oscars). Among others it got best picture, best director, and best actor.

So, what’s on offer for audiences this festival?

There’s a big range of films with a great variety. We have quite a few selections. We also have Swiss films, we have Austrian films, in total we have 31 feature films, and with a few exceptions all Australian premieres. We also have Kino for Kids which is one of the side streams. Along with the Goethe Institut, it’s a specially created program for kids. Looking at four school film that screen during the week, and on the weekend we have two family films.

Do you have any recommendations?

That depends on what film you like. When it comes to comedy, my favourite pic is 25 KM/H, it’s a smart and quality comedy. I really love Lars Eidinger. He’s also playing Bertolt Brecht in Mack the Knife, which is a very interesting film. When The Threepenny Opera opened in Berlin in 1928, the play was such an immediate sensation and travelled Europe, so the idea came up then to adapt the play into a film. It eventually resulted in a fierce battle between Bertolt Brecht and the producers of the film, and a court case that was lost by Brecht. So Mack the Knife deals with attempts by Bertolt Brecht to make a film more to his liking.

Another film, which is hidden gem for me, is Styx, which is an Austrian German co-production. It’s about emergency doctor embarking on a solo ocean voyage across the Atlantic. She’s super confident, and even an oncoming storm can’t intimidate her. But she comes across a sinking boat of refugees, and this suddenly changes everything. It’s a very powerful film, that has very little dialogue. What carries it is the acting, and Susanne Wolff got best actress award at the German film awards.

Are there any trends in German cinema at the moment, either in terms of genres, or themes that are often explored?

What always works well in Germany is comedy. I think in our line-up includes quite a lot of comedy. I think with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we also look back over our most recent history. We’re often reflecting our society, and the history, and the past. Another personal highlight, although I have to say this is not a comfortable film to watch, is The Captain. It’s a very dark story, based on a true story about a wartime deserter. During the last weeks of the Second World War, he finds an abandoned truck, and in this abandoned truck finds a captain’s uniform. He’s freezing, he’s starving, so puts on the uniform. What happens then, is his whole bearing changes, and he becomes the captain. What follows is a very chilling, and cruel story, about the atrocities and absurdities of war.

When you are curating a film festival, is there anything in particular that you look for in a movie?

For us here in Australia, presenting German films to a wide audience, it’s very important we screen Australian premieres, brand new films. And it’s also important to us, we screen a wide range, something for different interests. We look for crowd pleasers, of course, but I totally love Art House. So we look for a range of genres, and something for everyone.