When its this cold, go to the movies

February 11, 2009

When I decided I was coming here in February, I discovered that my arrival would coincide with the Berlinale Film Festival.  I was excited to attend, because apparently its really famous and sets off the film festival season around the world.  The festival is almost a week in and I’ve just gotten around to checking it out.  But I’m really glad I finally did.  Cinemas all over the city are participating and hundreds of movies are being shown.  There is also a “Talent Campus” that consists of just as many workshops for young filmmakers.  I went to a workshop yesterday and grabbed some coffee beforehand in the cafe adjoining the theater.  It was packed with the cream of the film student crop milling around with their festival pink bags and smoking cigarettes.  A lot of people networking and discussion technique and holding eye contact a little longer than normal to figure out if they should know who you are.  I tried to act aloof, but probably just looked lost and overwhelmed.

The workshop was a panel discussion by a group called Filmmakers Against Racism.  They have produced 9 short films since their formation last May in response to violence against refugees in South Africa.  There are a lot of foreigners moving into poor areas of South Africa, creating resentment among the locals.  The films (which I saw in the evening – they let us into the press screening for free) addressed xenophobia from a number of different angles: housing (“Affectionately known as Alex” documents riots against foreigners in the slums of Alexandra who moved into housing that was intended to be free housing for residents of the slum), local economy (“Baracka” examined anger and violence against foreign shop owners who had returned to their community in South Aftrica after fleeing attacks), children and schools (“Angels on our Shoulders” is about a school inside a bus in a refugee camp where the parents fear what will happen if they go back to their old schools), and personal story (“The Burning Man” is about Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a man who was burned alive as part of the xenophobic attacks and who because a symbol of the violence that occurred across the country last summer).

All of the films were really interesting, and I was glad to have attended them in tandem with a discussion.  One of the questions the films raise is, “What do we do?” or, more importantly, “What do South Aftricans do?” to combat this sentiment that is causing such violence in their communities?  The filmmakers seemed to believe that they were the solution, which, while expected, is more than likely not true.  Most of them were not from the community and thought that if they could just get these films shown in the communities affected by this violence, then people would begin to discuss the situation and perhaps begin to understand each other better and heal.  I don’t know a lot about South African slum populations, but it seems doubtful…  On the other hand, I hadn’t heard anything about this violence over the summer, so I was glad to be educated about the situation.

I hope to see a few more films before the festival ends on Sunday.  One of the movies showing for the first time ever here at the festival is a Shock Doctrine documentary.  My Dad and I are currently reading the book together, and there was a short movie made about it in 2007 (kind of like if books had trailers) which was directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mama Tambien), but apparently this is a full-length documentary.  I’m seeing it tonight and I’m excited.  Plus, world premiere?  That just makes me sound cool.  I would also like to watch some films that are in German, since all of this English is great and easy to understand, but I’m supposed to be learning a language here!


One comment

  1. World premier of Shock Doctrine? You’re so worldly Alex!

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