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Berlinale Film In Focus: Cherry Blossoms

When a German film has its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, it can be both a source of local pride or a target for local critics. One of the truisms on the international film festival circuit is that oftentimes local filmmakers are appreciated more outside of their home country.....and in their native land, are sometimes the brunt of criticism that is both pointed and relentless. So far, the film CHERRY BLOSSOMS, one of two German productions competing for the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale, has engendered both kinds of responses.

The film is the latest from Dorris Dorrie, who began her career in the 1970s, during the golden age of the New German Cinema, exemplified by such auteurs as Fassbinder, Wenders, Schlondorff and others. Along with Margarethe Von Trotta, Dorrie was one of the few females allowed into the club, and she has sustained a career that now includes over 20 feature films over 30 year career. Her film MEN, an acerbic take on the psyche and psychological phobias of men (and the women who tolerate them), was an international arthouse hit in 1985. She also scored with such films as STRAIGHT THROUGH MY HEART (1983) and AM I BEAUTIFUL? (1998). Her documentary HOW TO COOK YOUR LIFE (2006) was a major hit on the festival circuit.

In CHERRY BLOSSOMS, Dorrie tells a story of selfless love that is also a poetic journey into the meaning of life itself. Inspired by Japanese director Ozu’s 1953 film, TOKYO MONOGATARI, the film tells the story of Trudi, who is the only one who knows that her husband is terminally ill with cancer. When his doctor suggests that the couple undertake one last trip together, Trudi persuades her husband to accompany her to visit her children and grandchildren in Berlin. However, the members of their family are far too wrapped up in their own lives to be able to take care of the couple. After a theatre trip to see a Butoh dance performance, Trudi and Rudi decide to go and stay at a hotel on the Baltic coast. And then, out of the blue, Trudi dies. Rudi is completely at a loss. He has no idea what to do with his life, until he decides to go to Japan to visit their youngest son, Karl.

The film stars veteran German actress Hannelore Elsner, whose career begain in post-war Germany and continued through the New German Cinema decades of the 1970s and 1980s, has recently won acclaim for her roles in the international arthouse hits NO PLACE TO GO (2000) and GO FOR ZUCKER (2005). CHERRY BLOSSOMS has already won two prestigious Bavarian Film Awards, including Best Production Design and a Best Actor nod for Elmar Wepper.

With German film on a roll after last year's Oscar win for THE LIVES OF OTHERS, industry wags are wondering if this beautifully told tale of humanity and family can match the intense critical and public interest of the earlier film and find its way to the Oscar stage next year. For the moment, CHERRY BLOSSOMS stands a good chance of being honored with Golden or Silver Bear Awards here at Berlin.......something that will, characteristically, be greeted by local critics and pundits with applause and boos in equal measure.

Sandy Mandelberger, Berlin FF Dailies Editor

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