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Berlin and Beyond in San Francisco

Undeniably one of the most unique German language film festivals in the United States, BERLIN & BEYOND provides Bay Area moviegoers with a chance to enjoy highlights of recent European cinema. Almost all the films in the series will be making their Bay Area premieres and many filmmakers will appear in person to introduce their work to the public. The festival runs from January 8th –14th at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, and January 18th in Point Arena at the Mendocino Coast.

The festival kicks off Thursday, January 8 at 6:30pm with an Opening Night celebration upstairs at the Castro, followed by Margarethe von Trotta’s ROSENSTRASSE / The Woman of Rosenstrasse an award winning and critically acclaimed film which portrays a holocaust incident. The title refers to the name of a street in Berlin where in 1943, some 5000 Jewish men married to Aryan women were held in waiting areas for deportation. The German wives and their families gathered every day in Rosentrasse trying to win their husband ’s release, which eventually happened. By turning the resistance movement into a love story von Trotta gives the event a contemporary spin with impressive performances by Katja Riemann and Maria Schrader. Von Trotta’s strongest films have always centered around the friendship between women, and ROSENSTRASSE depicts this camaraderie between women of all ages. Katja Riemann received the Best Actress Award in Venice 2003 for her performance.

Fatih Akin (IN JULY) brings his latest film, SOLINO to San Francisco to close the festival on January 14. Co-starring Moritz Bleibtreu, the story follows brothers Gigli and Giancarlo who moved as young children from sunny Italy to industrial Germany. The boys make their own experiences with their newfound freedom, but they will become rivals in their quest for love and success – and each of them wants to be the first to answer the big question: What is really important in life? Fatih Akin will be present at the screening.

The First Feature Award this year goes to Oliver Paulus and Stefan Hillebrand Swiss/German production, WHEN THE RIGHT ONE COMES ALONG/Wenn der Richtige Kommt. Filmed mostly without professional actors and with an improvised script, the film’s subject Paula Hartnagel leads an ordinary life. She loves life but, being a dreamer, she lives in a world of her own. She believes to have found the man of her dreams in Mustafa, a Turkish security guard, who however, shows no signs of infatuation. She mistakes politeness for love, but when she finds out Mustafa is back in Turkey she travels to his hometown of Adana to look for him. Winning a special mention from the San Sebastian’s New Directors jury, WHEN THE RIGHT MAN COMES ALONG “sails merrily on the bare bones of a story with spontaneity and some truly exhilarating moments.” (Deborah Young, Variety). Oliver Paulus will be present at the screening.

Integral to the festival each year is a screening of a newly restored silent film. In this year’s feature, F.W. Murnau’s 1924 classic THE LAST LAUGH/ Der Letzte Mann, an old doorman of a luxury hotel is given the job of lavatory attendant, but when he comes into an unexpected fortune, he achieves an ironic vengeance. Murnau’s film is made that much more powerful by its rejection of dialog in favor of a more cinematic treatment. Rarely has the camera been used in such an exacting, precise method, creating a film that, although silent, would speak so loudly and profoundly to so many. Murnau’s masterpiece will be accompanied on the Mighty Wurlitzer with an original score by Dennis James.

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