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Berlinale 2009 Post Script

Dieter Kosslick's comment that “Reality has actually surpassed fiction this year” fits rather well the 2009 edition of the Berlinale. Kosslick has directed the Berlinale since 2001 and helped to elevate it to rank with Cannes and Venice as one of three most important global film festivals. His take on the Berlinale as being political has often been criticized yet not detracted from the importance of the festival.
The opening film THE INTERNATIONAL by Tom Twyker about the criminal activities of a global bank could be labeled a fictional documentary and fits Kosslick’s visions, as did numerous other films in the program providing commentaries on or documenting the frequent dismal state of our world. STORM by Hans-Christian Schmidt is a political thriller providing
unexpected insights into the war crime tribunals’ prosecution of crimes in former Yugoslavia. FOOD, INC, a documentary, one of the highlights of the Berlinale program was part of the Culinary Cinema and Berlinale special programs. Robert Kenner’s powerful and well researched analysis of the global food industry demonstrates profit driven corporate practices threatening the long term food supply and genetic variety and shows the devastating impact of genetically manipulated mono cultures on the environment. The film outlines the impotence of consumers and farmers vis-à-vis the agricultural business whose co-opted political allies serve on all levels of government. This includes Clarence Thomas, a current US Supreme Court Judge who had worked before as a lawyer for Monsanto, a giant seed corporation, and who has cast his votes consistently favoring the food business. In the Panorama selection THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD by Mile Bonanno, Andy Bichlbaum and Kurt Angfehr stands out, a fast paced subversive unmasking of corporations and agencies profiting from globalization and its conflicts. Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross provide in their documentation THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, based on Naomi Klein’s book, the theoretical underpinning for the documentaries noted thus far. Though the film received some spurious academic criticism for its flexible use illustrative footage, it makes a clear and rather logical argument that excessive privatization, exploitation, and the neutralization of an independent political realm was essential to unfettered turbo capitalism as conceived by Milton Friedman and his followers. As the film shows rather convincingly, this an unregulated global market capitalism had devastating consequences which can be observed all over the world. The Brazilian documentary GARAPA by Jose Padilha and Chema Rodrieguez film COYOTE provide cogent illustration for THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, to wit, the disempowerment of the poor and the need to leave their Latin American homes for work as illegal migrants in the U.S. One film selected by Christoph Terhechte for the Forum program, complements the Panorama films discussed thus far. In the Canadian film L’ENCERCLEMENT by Richard Brouillete a cogent investigation of the transformation of neo-liberalism into the dominant economic ideology.

These titles from the 2009 Berlinale edition synched perfectly with our current malaise and
are superb additions to the reflexive cinema.

Claus Mueller
New York Correspondent


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