Fokus, Films from Germany: 2024 preview

Fokus returns for an eighth edition with a sharply curated lineup of brand-new German films, recent highlights from some of Germany's best contemporary filmmakers and some little-seen gems made in the German Democratic Republic

Feature by Jamie Dunn | 21 Dec 2023
  • Fokus

German cinema gets its annual celebration in Scotland once again with the return of Fokus, Films from Germany, the film festival from the Goethe-Institut Glasgow. Taking place 9 to 31 January, Fokus will be bringing the best of German cinema – past and present – to venues across Scotland, with screenings planned in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, St Andrews, Ayr and Dumfries. 

It’s the perfect chance to catch up on some recent gems of contemporary German cinema, with films like Christian Petzold’s Afire and Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man at the heart of the programme. You’ll also find powerful documentaries like Andreas Dresen’s Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush and Uli Decker’s Anima – My Father’s Dresses. Below we pick out five more highlights from this year's programme.

Sisi & I

(Dir. Frauke Finsterwalder)

Fokus kicks off with Frauke Finsterwalder’s pin-sharp black comedy Sisi & I, which co-stars actor of the moment Sandra Hüller. After knockout performances in Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest, Hüller is one of the frontrunners for this year’s Best Actress Oscar, but she’s equally great in this stylish and irreverent film as Countess Irma Sztáray, who was lady in waiting to Empress Elisabeth of Austria — or Sisi to her adoring subjects. Expect a wickedly funny period drama with a modern feminist bend, fun needle drops and gorgeous fashion. Director Frauke Finsterwalder will attend the screening for a post-film Q&A, which will be moderated by Lauren Clarke. Glasgow Film Theatre, 9 Jan

The Forger

(Dir. Maggie Peren)

Rising star Louis Hofmann plays real-life Jewish artist and World War II resistance fighter Cioma Schönhaus. The film shows how Schönhaus used his talents as a forger to continue to live and survive in 40s Berlin right under the Nazi government’s nose. There’s an inherent tension in the setup, but director Maggie Peren is also interested in realistically portraying life in Berlin around this time. Hofmann is as compellingly watchable as ever as Schönhaus, a charismatic hustler trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities. Institut Français d’Ecosse, 22 Jan; Dundee Contemporary Arts, 23 Jan; Glasgow Film Theatre, 24 Jan

Run Lola Run 

(Dir. Tom Tykwer)

This crackerjack thriller from Tom Tykwer remains a high-octane highlight of 90s German cinema. The film shows us three different versions of our kickass heroine Lola racing across Berlin in an attempt to save the skin of her small-time drug dealer boyfriend. He’s lost 100,000 Deutsche Marks belonging to some very bad men, and she has 20 minutes to get hold of the money or her boyfriend gets whacked. The sheer energy and colour of Tykwer’s filmmaking is invigorating, but at its heart it’s a sweet film about love with a banging industrial soundtrack. Dundee Contemporary Arts, 14 Jan; University of St Andrews, 23 Jan

Midnight Revue 

(Dir. Gottfried Kolditz)

This cult comedy, made by DEFA – East Germany’s state-owned film studio that made films from 1945 up until the fall of the Berlin Wall – sounds wild and is ripe for discovery. It follows a film producer who boasts he’s going to make a new kind of revue film, and resorts to desperate measures to get it made: namely, having his young female assistant hold a dramaturg, a composer and a set designer hostage until they create a cheerful revue film that will please both the public and the critics – a possibly impossible task. Goethe-Institut Glasgow, 30 Jan

Coming Out 

(Dir. Heiner Carow)

Another DEFA gem, Coming Out was released on the same night in 1989 that the Wall fell. It tells the story of a closeted schoolteacher whose life goes into a tailspin one night after stumbling into a gay bar and falling hard for a man. Coming Out is a raw and moving piece of queer cinema, and a great time capsule of this nervy moment in German history, filled with fine-grained details of what life was like for gay people in East Germany, taking in real-life leather bars and cruising scenes in Berlin parks. Glasgow Film Theatre, 18 Jan; University of St Andrews, 30 Jan; Dundee Contemporary Arts, 31 Jan

Fokus takes place 9-31 Jan at Glasgow Film Theatre, Dundee Contemporary Arts, the Ayr Film Society, the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre in Dumfries, St Andrews University and Institut Français d'Écosse in Edinburgh, along with the Goethe-Institut Glasgow

Tickets and the full programme are available at the Goethe-Institut's website or from participating cinemas