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The Berlin & Beyond in Focus film festival jets its way into the Bay Area just as many of us are dealing with emotional baggage about not being able to book a vacation because of safety concerns.
From Thursday through Saturday, you can do the next best thing, take a virtual tour of German destinations — and some Switzerland locales as well — by kicking back and watching 10 films. Better yet, it won’t cost you a cent — all screenings, some that are pinned to specific dates and times, are free.
For a full lineup, visit https://berlinbeyond.com/focus/.
All of it’s being made possible through the help of the Goethe-Institut San Francisco and the city’s Special Projects and Unexpected Needs grant.
Don’t dilly-dally, though; just like at actual movie theaters, there’s a limited number of tickets available. And if you’re not a Bay Area resident, you’re out of luck; only folks in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties can watch.
Here are five features not to miss.
“I Was, I Am, I Will Be”: While on vacation in Turkey after receiving news that she has breast cancer, German pilot Marion (Anne Ratte-Polle) meets Baran (Oğulcan Arman Uslu), a gigolo searching for a means to get out of a dead-end routine. Frustrated with her relationship to a married musician, Marion impulsively agrees to marry the imploring Baran so he can move to Berlin and create a better life. Once there, Baran confronts the harsh realities of being a stranger in a different land. Director and co-screenwriter Ilker Çatak takes what could have been a salacious scenario and imbues it with care and compassion. It’s a delicately told and absorbing drama. (Opening night film, 7:30 p.m. Thursday; followed by a Q&A with Çatak; https://berlinbeyond.com/focus/movies/i-will-be-live/ )
“My Little Sister”: Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger give powerful performances as devoted twin siblings Lisa and Sven in a poignant, character-driven family drama from directors Stéphanie Chuat & Véronique Reymond. Switzerland’s official entry to the 2021 Academy Awards for Best International Film never rings a false note as Sven, an established gay theatrical actor, moves in with Lisa, her ambitious hubby (Jens Albinus) and their children at their home in Switzerland. Emotions boil over for all involved as career and bonds get further tested in this well-made, bittersweet must-see. (1 p.m. Saturday; followed by Q&A with the directors; https://berlinbeyond.com/focus/movies/sister-live/ )
“Cleo — If I Could Turn Back Time”: A light dusting of fantasy gets sprinkled into this bouncy romantic drama from Erik Schmitt, a quirky and sweet-hearted treasure-hunt confection. Wanting to turn back time to save the lives of her parents, Cleo (Marleen Lohse) joins the impossibly handsome Paul (Jeremy Mockridge) as they search for a magical clock in Berlin that will turn back time. Schmitt seasons it with Paul Thomas Anderson’s fanciful stylings, but never goes overboard on being enthusiastic. It’s an absolute charmer with two lovely leads. (https://berlinbeyond.com/focus/movies/cleo/)
“Lovemobil”: Shockingly candid and intimate, this compelling documentary from Elke Lehrenkrauss adopts a fly-on-the-wall approach as it drops into the lives of prostitutes who ply their trade in camper vans along a stretch of road in Germany. Lehrenkrauss doesn’t soft-pedal what the women, who are mostly refugees, experience and the danger of the job (a murder occurs — off camera, of course). It’s not an easy film to watch, but it is revelatory. (https://berlinbeyond.com/focus/movies/lovemobil/)
“When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit”: While the above titles aren’t exactly suited for families, this Germany/Switzerland production that’s based on Judith Kerr’s semi-autobiographical novel makes for ideal fare for kids. A Jewish German family in the 1930s uproot from their home and live in Switzerland, and eventually France, to avoid Nazis that are targeting them due to their patriarch’s (Oliver Masucci) published thoughts critical of the Fuhrer. Told through the eyes of the impressionable Anna (an adorable Riva Krymalowski), “Pink Rabbit” is a handsomely produced family film that addresses important historical subjects sensitively but truthfully. Winner of the best children’s film at the 2020 German Film Awards. (https://berlinbeyond.com/focus/movies/pink-rabbit/)