Fokus: Films from Germany Preview
German film celebration Fokus returns this winter – we dive into the programme, which takes us back to the hope and creativity of the Weimar era, the darkness of National Socialism and to the most daring works of New German Cinema today
Now in its fifth year, Fokus: Films from Germany (running from November to January across the country) presents an exciting, eclectic snapshot of the contemporary film scene in Germany. The festival is a partnership between the Goethe-Institut in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, but the two-month tour of Scotland also incorporates screenings at Byres Theatre in St Andrews, the Hippodrome in Bo’ness, Dundee’s DCA, Ayr Film Society and Aberdeen’s Belmont Filmhouse, plus the GFT as an extra venue in Glasgow.
The opening film – which screens at Filmhouse on 21 Nov before making its way to the other participating venues – is the UK premiere of Bauhaus Spirit: 100 Years of Bauhaus. The documentary, funnily enough, explores the history and lasting influence of the Bauhaus period of art, design and architecture at the time of the school's 100th anniversary.
Speaking of 100 years ago, Filmhouse and GFT will each host a screening of a silent film from 1919 that was almost destroyed in the Nazi era (the original, not the current one). Once believed completely lost, Different from the Others is said to be the first explicitly LGBTQ film made anywhere in the world, at least in terms of a pro-gay message. It sees a romance between a musician (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’s Conrad Veidt) and his pupil complicated by stigma and the interference of a blackmailer. These centenary screenings will be accompanied by an illustrated talk on queer culture in the Weimar Republic by researcher Keava McMillan.
Filmmaking and Nazi Germany are also addressed in Hitler’s Hollywood, a documentary that explores the roughly 1000 feature films produced in Germany between 1933 and 1945 and how the film industry there projected certain values and attitudes into the minds of the German people at the time. The National Socialist regime is also present in documentary The Resistance, which incorporates dramatic re-enactments alongside interviews to tell the story of four contemporary witnesses to incidents of Jews hiding underground in Berlin in 1943.
Taking place in the more recent past, Adam and Evelyn is an arthouse romance set in 1989 as the border with Austria falls, allowing the eponymous couple to decide whether to make the Eastern or Western world the place to make a happy life together. Gundermann, meanwhile, tells the story of the life of Gerhard Gundermann, a singer-songwriter with strong social commentary in his work, whose musical career began in the former East Germany. After the reunification, his fame spiked once again thanks to his music's popularity among East Germans who felt disenfranchised in the new era. All About Me is another biopic, based on the autobiography of beloved German entertainer ‘Hape’ Kerkeling and portrays his onscreen surrogate’s childhood in the context of his mother’s mental health struggles.
Non-period films are on offer in the form of The Most Beautiful Couple and Atlas, two dramas which deal with the repercussions of criminal activities of different types: the former looks at the aftermath and lingering trauma of an assault on a young couple, the latter concerns a complicated father-and-son story in the context of an illegal real-estate business in German cities.
Fokus also offers a second chance at a big-screen viewing of one of the most acclaimed German films to have received a nationwide release in UK cinemas earlier this year: Wolfgang Fischer’s sea-set drama Styx. As we said in our review from its Glasgow Film Festival screening, Styx offers “one of the most compelling cinematic attempts to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis because it boils it down to one empathetic woman’s personal experience, placing her in a moral quandary that offers no easy answers."