Berlin – Day 2

So when I said yesterday that I don’t need sleep I was grossly in error.  By the end of my second screening it was all I could do but stagger to the nearest S-Bahn station, find my way back to the hotel, and collapse in bed.  This jet lag is a killer.

I made it to my 9am screening of “War Child” which was barely a 5 minute walk from my hotel.  This documentary film tells the story of Emmanuel Jal, a one-time child soldier for the Sudanese SPLA, and now a rap singer.  A tad heavy for the early morning the film was an insightful look at the North/South conflict in Sudan, a conflict that predates the current Darfur crisis.  Oddly enough, I am in the middle of a book called “What is the What” by Dave Eggers, that tells the story of another Lost Boy.  Following the film, the director and Emmanuel Jal got up on stage for the obligatory Q&A, and when prodded, the singer broke out into song.  If you don’t know anything about this piece of world history, I strongly recommend learning.  As the moderator at the Q&A reminded us, the media tends to be so focused on a very limited range of topics, and there are many things we know next to nothing about.

Following “War Child” I headed back across to the Zoo Palast for a 12pm screening of the Generation Shorts Program 3.  I’ve only been here a day, but I’m getting extremely comfortable with the lay of the land thanks in large part to the excellent public transportation.  Given that Berlin is somewhat depressed economically the city is a major draw for foreigners, attracted by low rents and cheap prices.  However, work is scarce so Germans from other regions are not as eager to move to what is technically an Eastern Bloc city.  Subsequently, the city feels a little empty, traffic is relatively light, and finding a seat on the bus is a breeze.

The city also has a tremendous elegance that is made all the more poignant because it is mired in such a complicated history.  Perhaps I feel this because of my own familial attachments here, making the history as much my burden as it is that of a native Berliner.  The time of year probably has something to do with that too, as a wistful melancholy does tend to go hand in hand with icy temperature and barren trees.  Or am I just waxing poetic?

The Shorts program was a treat, and a preview of what I can expect tomorrow when “A Little Night Fright” premieres here.  As expected, the quality of the films is outstanding, displaying an array of unique perspectives and strong directorial voices.  Standout films include “Andante Mezzo Forte” by Italian director Annarita Zambrano and “Nana” by Autralian director Warwick Thornton.  I feel honored to be in such good company.

One oddity about the screening of the K-Plus films (which is a sub-division of Generation, the other being 14-plus) is the addition of live voice over.  I had been “warned” about this ahead of time, and I’m glad to have seen it in action before my own screening.  Rather than add German subtitles for an audience that may simply be too young to read fast enough, the festival has taken an interesting, if possibly controversial, approach.  As each film plays, a narrator reads the German translation over the original language.  For films that are not in English, this didn’t prove too distracting, but for those that were, the addition of another voice competing with those of the characters on screen is odd.  I was given a headset that would play back the original sound track, meant to nullify the effect of the voice over, but that felt weird too.  It reminded me of the elderly people you sometimes see at the theatre who use the in-house hearing aids.  Ultimately, the films were strong, and I still can’t get over the sheer size of the screen.  This is going to be the largest “A Little Night Fright” has ever been.

The evening wound up at the Generation reception, a get together for everyone involved in the section.  I am bummed to say I forgot to take my camera with me, so subsequently have no pictures to document the event.  However, I’m going to convince myself that doing so allowed me to simply enjoy the evening, without any pressure to photograph it for posterity.  Suffice to say much alcohol was consumed, and I have learned how to swear so vulgarly in German that I am guaranteed to get punched in the face.

Tomorrow is my premiere, and I’m very nervous.  Talking to other filmmakers about their experiences here is encouraging, as one finds that we all experience a very similar neurotic process.  For me it’s mainly a technical issue, as the creative side is complete and I can only worry about whether the aspect ratio will be correct, the sound will be loud enough, or the film will play without snapping midway.  Oy Vey!

On a side note, I finally spoke my first complete German sentence today.  Arriving back at the hotel to write this blog entry I ordered a beer at the bar.

“Ich möchte ein hefeweizen bitte,” I asked, and was proudly presented with a pint of good German beer.


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