The 2012 Audi Festival of German Films is on in Melbourne from 19 – 30 April. An exciting program of films and documentaries promises an insightful examination of some topical themes in German society.
One of the top picks is Combat Girls (Kriegerin), a debut feature from David Wnendt about a young neo Nazi gang member who meets an Afghan refugee. With a recent rise in racial tension in parts of Germany, this film has caused much debate in Germany. As one of the Film Festival's special events, the Sunday 22 April screening of this film will be followed by a panel discussion on the film's themes and how they relate to Germany's current social climate.
Combat Girls promises a hard-hitting look at neo Nazi culture
The provocative drama Three (Drei) is directed by Tom Twkyer, best known in Australia for his hit 1998 film Run Lola Run. He won Best Director at the 2011 German Film Awards for this feature about a long-married couple who indulge in a ménage-a-trois.
Continuing the examination of the impact of immigration is Colour of the Ocean (Die Farbe des Ozeans) by Maggie Peren, about a German tourist in the Cayman Islands who discovers a group of African refugees in detention, and the consequences of her offer to help one of the refugees and his young son.
Nominated in multiple categories at the 2011 German Film Awards, If not Us, Who (Wer Wenn Nicht Wir) examines turbulent 1960s Germany through the relationship between the revolutionaries Gudrun Ensslin and Bernward Vesper. Gudrun was one of the founders of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang, and Bernward was her husband before she met Andreas Baader.
The former East Germany continues to provide much artistic inspiration for filmmakers, with this year's festival showing several films set in the East:
Westwind tells of twin sisters, elite rowers from East Germany, who are in Hungary for a training camp when they meet and fall in love with two West German men.
In Westwind, two East German girls meet two West German boys
Sun Alley (Sonnenallee) explores the lives of a group of young people living in East Berlin, contrasting their apparently happy lives with the communist control around them.
World War Two also continues to be a popular theme for German directors, and my pick of several WW2 films in this year's Festival is 4 days in May (4 Tage im Mai ), which is based on actual events that occurred during a standoff between Russian and German troops at an orphanage near the Baltic coast.
Going further back in history is the Dead Poets Society style drama Lessons of a Dream (Der ganz große Traum), about a conservative German school in 1874 coming to terms with a new English teacher who is quite radical in his teaching methods.
Another interesting historical drama, Mahler on the Couch (Mahler auf der Couch), tells the story of the relationship between composer Gustav Mahler and Sigmund Freud, which began when Mahler discovered his wife was having an affair.
More light-hearted entertainment comes with the comedy Men and the City 2 (Männerherzen 2), a follow-up of the very popular film that was shown at the 2010 Festival. The boys are back but still struggling with women, careers and life in general.
The boys from Men and the City are back
Some fine documentaries also feature on the Festival program. If you're even slightly interested in recent German politics, then Joschka and Mr Fisher (Joschka und Herr Fischer) promises some fascinating insights into the political career of the sometimes controversial former cabinet minister Joschka Fisher.
The environmental documentary Peak is an examination of the impact of climate change on the Alps, and features some beautiful footage of this spectacular mountain range.
Some well-known directors will be appearing in various Q&A sessions throughout the festival. Leander Haußmann (Director of Festival films Hotel Lux, Sun Alley and Robert Zimmermann is Tangled Up in Love), Hendrik Handloegten (Director of Summer Window, which will be the opening night film for the Melbourne part of the Festival) and Alice Gruia (Director of Rodicas) will all be Festival special guests.
The full program is online, and all films are being screened at the Palace Cinema Como in South Yarra, or the Kino Cinemas in Collins St, Melbourne. General admission tickets are $19, concession $14.50, and there are Five Film passes for $75 full, and concession $60.