Goodness, my head is spinning. For all kinds of reasons, but life changes particularly profoundly when you start to learn a new language. German will be the fifth language I've learned (including English). It doesn't get any easier. But I like this part, when you're hearing (and seeing) double, everything through the eyes and ears of your native tongue (the one you think and dream in), and things seeping through in the way an infant starts to take in the world, naming and identifying things little by little, everything disjointed and a bit janky at first. And then, slowly, alles becomes klar. And your pronunciation will even improve enough so that you're actually understood when you speak! Imagine. Yes, it's back-to-school season and I just cracked the spine on my brand new German grammar. Thankfully, I'm only one of two Yanks in a class of international kids (actually we're of all ages) seeking refuge in civilized Berlin. But it's not that great, so don't even think of coming here.
I am happy to report that fellow Yank (although he passes for British when he can--ha!) and film critic extraordinaire, Andrew Grant, aka, The Film Brain, has just moved here from New York, too, and we are in the midst of brainstorming on some interesting collaborations--more on that in a bit. He's also here to launch the European arm of Benten Films, the discerning and distinctive distribution company he runs with fellow critic and filmmaker, Aaron Hillis. Andrew and I are both interested in bringing the best of American and world cinema to Berlin in a series of curations at some really fantastic venues and spaces, pieces that have been grossly overlooked, or underwhelmingly exhibited in their countries of origin (or anywhere else for that matter). My audiences, right now, consist mostly of artists--fine artists, performance artists, video artists, installation artists, writers, musicians and a few filmmakers in the crowd, as well. Excellent group all around--open, inquisitive, patient, attentive, intelligent, engaged--a dream audience if ever there was one. And did I mention appreciative, since they (and, frankly, no one else) would ever have a chance to see some of this remarkable work anywhere.
This month, I have three screenings booked, the first of which is this Sunday at the MMX Open Art Venue, my home away from home. Ever since I arrived in Berlin, they have given me an opportunity to host several evenings in their micro cinema at the beautiful (and huge) space in the lovely Mitte section of the city. This Sunday the 5th, with the cooperation of the Scottish Documentary Institute in Edinburgh, I will be exhibiting eight short films from Scotland. The SDI was created in 2004 and is an internationally recognized documentary research center at the Edinburgh College of Art, specializing in documentary training, production and distribution. There is a wealth of cinematic riches coming out of that place, let me tell you, and I'm really pleased that I can share some of that work with my fellow Berliners. You can read about the MMX program (in German) here. Then, on Sunday the 12th, I will be bringing another program to MMX. Since I'm rabid about Danish films, I will be bringing selections from Denmark, program TBD for right now. You can keep checking the MMX site or join their Facebook page for updated info. (Film still from Julian Krubasik's hilarious Melissa Immaculate.)
On Thursday, September 16, I am very excited to announce that I will host my inaugural screening (hopefully, a full-blown series is in the works) at das Direktorenhaus, a brand new art venue with two floors of exhibition and event space that overlooks the River Spree. Das Direktorenhaus is an art space that aims to combine traditional art and craft methods with analog technology and digital media. The building that houses the venue was built as part of the German State Mint in 1935 and artworks from Berlin's state museums were protected in a secured vault there during WWII. The doors will open at 7:30 p.m. so people can come and tour the space, order a cocktail from the bar and take in the beautiful view. The screening will begin at 8:30. Called "Futuristic Cinema," the program will start with a premiere of the very first film to be shot in Direktorenhaus called "Live Animals," with the artists in attendance. Then, I will show two exceptionally beautiful (and multiple award-winning) films: The Shutdown (2010) from the UK, and October Country (2009) from the US. The event is free. I'm working on some other venues and collaborations, so stay tuned.
In future posts, I will write more about my experiences in Rome this past weekend at Giona Nazzaro's Gender DocuFilm Festival, the event's maiden voyage. It was part of the summer celebrations at Rome's Gay Village. Kimberly Reed's Prodigal Sons won the grand prize, and Turkish filmmaker, Ismail Necmi's haunting Should I Really Do It? won the audience award. I will post some thoughts on this film soon, as well as Israeli filmmaker and singer Zohar Wagner's Stretch Marks (pictured) which also exhibited at the fest, one of the most deeply impressive, original and honest portraits of pregnancy and new motherhood I've seen. Congratulations to Giona, his amazing right-hand man, Filippo Ulivieri, and activist, politician and "human volcano," the aptly-named Imma Battaglia, president of Di'Gay Project, on one hell of an accomplishment, staging something like this in the midst of an appallingly conservative city and state government--and il Vaticano, as well! They are starting small but making huge strides for equality, inclusion and a very vocal "leftist" voice in the maelstrom of modern-day fascism. (And if an American can't recognize and relate to modern-day fascism, I don't know who can.)
Also, more news soon from my incredible friends in Damascus who run ProAction Film, the only independently-run documentary production company in Syria, and the people who launched the DOX BOX festival three years ago: They are about to launch a new quarterly publication and website dedicated to the documentary arts. TAFASEEL is a new trade magazine that will be débuting soon. Planned to publish four times a year, the online version will equal about 120 pages of original articles, reviews, festival calendars, and much more. The print version will be distributed at international festivals and markets. Since they're starting this up with exactly zero financing, they will start to fundraise shortly after the journal's launch. Meant to reach Arabic filmmakers all over the world, TAFASEEL will be published in both Arabic and English. There is nothing like it that exists right now, not even close. I will publish another post upon the official launch with links and an opportunity to subscribe and contribute. (Pictured, ProAction Film's Orwa Nyrabia.)
Lastly, some news from Hamburg-based friends, A Wall Is A Screen: This Friday, September 3, AWIAS will perform their 100th short film tour! This will be in conjunction with the anniversary of their 6th performance at the Hamburg Mümmelmannsberg. Since 2003, the small group of unpaid film curators have illuminated many walls and wandered through many cities in more than fifteen countries (including Dokufest in Kosova last month). They are headed to Hyderabad in October and are calling for entries for short films from or about India. All dates for upcoming shows and more info can be found on their website here.
Fürs Erste, wünsche ich Ihnen eine gute Nacht und Süssen Träume.