Debates about controversial topics, sensitive portraits of artists and a look into rough-and-tumble working worlds: the documentary films in the German Competition manifest themselves thematically and artistically as cutting-edge and broadly diversified. Particularly gratifying is that this year half of the 12 works come from female directors who contribute perspectives unperceived in previous years. Eleven of the twelve films selected are having their world premiere in Leipzig.
Imagine Swimming (2016); Director: Susanne Kim
Issues about dreaming at an old age are approached by two young directors in a compassionate and humorous fashion. In “Imagine Swimming” (“Trockenschwimmen”), filmmaker Susanne Kim from Leipzig accompanies senior citizens who swim their way free. Carolin Genreith examines her father’s relationship with a young Thai woman in terms of different conceptions of love and happiness in her entry entitled “Happy”.
Undisputed is the fact that Germans and foreignness are a subject that occupies many filmmakers. The way a table of regulars at a railway station kiosk in Mecklenburg encounters refugees en route is observed warmly and with a straightforward eye by former Leipzig award-winner Dieter Schumann in “Off the Tracks” (“Neben den Gleisen”). The stories of unaccompanied minor refugees, who crop up facelessly abbreviated in German headlines as “umFs”, is told by Andres Rump in austerely framed black-and-white scenes. He sees them as “Distant Sons” (“Ferne Söhne”). Based on transcripts and set in hybrid form, the conflict concerning construction of a mosque in Berlin-Pankow is reconstructed in “Moschee DE” by Mina Salehpour and Michał Honnens.
Distant Sons (2016); Director: Andres Rump
Through montage the film creates a social dialogue that no longer takes place in real life. The detective-style exploration entitled “Kokolampy” equally revolves around the concept of foreignness. Here Hajo Schomerus sets off on the trail of a German adventurer in Madagascar and unearths tangible post-colonial problems such as biopiracy from the depths of diverse archives. In contrast, how ‘being different’ is construed in the immediate surroundings and made a scapegoat for bloody conflicts is recapitulated by Ayşe Polat, a renowned Kurdish-German director: “The Others” is a polyphonic oeuvre that follows up on the tale of a genocide in Van, a province in eastern Anatolia.
How to live on in the aftermath of a catastrophe has captured Thorsten Trimpop’s attention, too: in “Furusato”, a film that employs monumental images to describe the lives of the people from Fukushima.
Enigmatic is a good word for the paintings by Neo Rauch, a Leipziger star on the international art scene. Nicola Graef sketches him in a subtle portrait as remote as the beings he paints, though without losing sight of the sphere posed by the art market along with the artist’s local attachment: “Neo Rauch – Comrades and Companions” (“Neo Rauch – Gefährten und Begleiter”). In turn, the connection between word, image and landscape is traced in a contemplative stream of scenes by Bernhard Sallmann, a festival guest for many years, in “Oderland. Fontane”.
Oderland. Fontane (2016); Director: Bernhard Sallmann
In her essay entitled “Dog Soldiers” (“Hundesoldaten”), Lena Leonhardt reflects on the symbiosis between human being and animal via training and drill. At a German Bundeswehr training camp for dogs in military service and their handlers, the film searches the essence of being a soldier.
The trainee teachers whom Jakob Schmidt accompanies during their first year are torn between their own will, idealism and adaption, educating and being educated. “To be a Teacher” is to be “Zwischen den Stühlen”, caught in between: With a fine eye for detail and a feel for situations he achieves an intriguing social study that challenges a system.