Cinematic Oktoberfest: A weekend of new German movies in L.A.

© Copyright Goethe-Institut Los Angeles.

Coming just after two nights of appearances by Austria’s Michael Haneke in Los Angeles, another notable local event for German-language cinema: The annual German Currents film series, showcasing the best of recent German releases. This year’s program consists of five films shown over three nights, this Friday through Sunday, October 5th through 7th.

All films play at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and are in German with English subtitles. For the complete schedule, click here.

Foreign film lovers and Germanophiles alike should make time to check out the titles in this series; this may be your sole chance to see these films on the big screen. (It’s worth remembering that neither If Not Us, Who? nor Westwind, the standout titles in last year’s festival, got picked up for theatrical distribution in the U.S., and they haven’t turned up on Region 1 DVD or streaming yet either. Schade!)

This year’s opening night film Kaiserin (a.k.a. Combat Girls) won several prizes at the 2012 German Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Given the grim news stories about neo-Nazi cells in Germany over the past year, the movie is undoubtedly timely: it’s about a young girl who falls in with the neo-Nazi subculture and then finds it’s not so easy to get out. Lead actress Alina Levshin will appear in person at the screening.

This writer is particularly looking forward to the closing film in the series: Sunday night’s This Ain’t California, a documentary about skateboarders in East Germany during the 1970s and ’80s. The distributor describes the story as “a punk fairytale” that shows life in the GDR as it has never been seen before. Director Marten Persiel uses newsreels, animation, re-enactments and — maybe most promising — actual Super 8mm footage from back in the day, shot by the kids who were participants in this rebellious, independent scene. Persiel will attend the screening, and afterward there’s a closing reception for ticketholders.

The skateboard probably goes faster than the Trabi.

one night only in L.A.?Earlier on Sunday, audiences can see leading German actress Nina Hoss in Fenster zum Sommer (a.k.a. Summer Window). Hoss previously starred in several films that made it to our shores, such as Yella, Jerichow and A Woman in Berlin, and will shortly be seen in Barbara, a drama about life in 1980s East Germany that is Germany’s submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film this year (and a favorite of critics at the Toronto and New York film festivals).

One last tip: Don’t leave when the movie is over. In my experience attending previous German Currents screenings both here in L.A. and at the annual Berlin and Beyond series in San Francisco, Q&As with visiting German filmmakers tend to be just as interesting as the films themselves. The discussions are often more thoughtful and  even intellectually contentious than the standard “How big was your budget?” Q&As you get at film festivals.

Visit the L.A. Goethe-Institut’s Web page for this year’s German Currents.

On the Egyptian Theatre’s site, you can see trailers for all the movies.

For more on German-language movies, clicken Sie hier, bitte!

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