Achtung! – 20th German Film Festival 2016

By Bay Jia Wei (17S06R)

As a student taking German as a foreign language, my friends have taunted me with an endless series of wurst jokes for the past five years. Occasionally, learning the language comes with benefits such as being arrowed to mispronounce German words in History class, or being deemed an expert at German beer brands. But really, Germany is more than our stereotypes would suggest.

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GFF 2016 © Goethe-Institut Singapore

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the German Film Festival in Singapore. From 3rd-13th November, more than 30 German-language films from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany will be screened. While a significant portion of the films is rated M18, there is a range of more age-appropriate films for younger audiences that promises to be as exciting.

On the 4th of November, my H2 German class travelled to The Projector to catch The Audition, a documentary featuring the selection process of the National Acting School in Hannover. While the film did not leave a strong impression on me and was not particularly thought-provoking, it did manage to reflect how gruelling an audition can be for both the applicants and the adjudicators.

I found the documentary to be rather plain, given that there was hardly any central conflict, with the film simply portraying the selection process. Larger themes of competition, disappointment, or aspiration were not brought to life, causing the documentary to take on a dull tone for what could have potentially been a passionate topic. That was fortunately compensated through the comedy provided by scenes of the auditions, ranging from hysterics to an overload of sleaziness.

The Audition has a second screening on 12 November at Golden Village VivoCity. If you are into theater or would like to watch some funny audition clips, it might be worth your time and money. If anything, this documentary will correct the stereotype that Germans are strict, stern, and dreary human beings with no sense of humour.

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H2 German Class of 2017 after the documentary

For the typical 17-year old J1 unburdened by the A-Levels season, here are some films that are still screening and that you can catch to peek into the narratives and culture of German-speaking countries:

Historical

There are many films out there depicting various accounts of Germany during the Nazi’s reign. For the unintroduced, Alone in Berlin sets the tone right. Based on the true story of an ordinary couple living in Berlin during the World War II, the film recalls the universal struggle of humanity against the Nazis through a personal and provoking account.

In the face of adversity and crime against humanity, Alone in Berlin shows a couple’s resistance against Nazi rule. A story of pain, suffering, and yet of will and power, the film does not downplay the devastating effects of Nazi rule on Germany; at the same time remembering the relentless spirit of those who fought in what may have been a hopeless fight.

While the film may be rather slow-paced at certain moments, it is definitely worth a watch. With many films depicting notable people of this period such as Gretel Bergmann in Berlin 36, a German Jewish athlete, or Claus von Stauffenberg in Valkyrie, the main man behind Hitler’s failed assassination, Alone in Berlin follows a couple who represents the ordinary man on the street at that time, and the people’s quest for freedom from Nazi rule in their own ways. Watching this film may prompt you to think twice before you make a Grammar Nazi or “I did Nazi that coming” joke, with the understanding that this was one of the most oppressive and painful periods in history, which is still difficult to forget even till today.

Documentaries

Democracy

The Audition

Other Stories

Destiny

Lotte

Wings of Desire

Eva Hesse

The Nibelungs I & II

The Weather Inside

Most films are screened at The Projector or Golden Village VivoCity, and non-English films come with subtitles. Tickets can be purchased directly from their websites. For more information, visit Goethe Institut’s webpage on the festival.

Hopefully, these films can help to clarify some of the stereotypes that we have about the German-speaking countries, and to instil in us a broader understanding of their culture and history. After all, there is more to Germany than sausages or the World Cup.

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