Finding gems in Berlin blitz

BERLIN — Part of the fun of film festivals is discovering the hidden gems, but with so many movies pouring into these events nowadays, there is indeed a lot of dross to plow through.

More than 1,000 films screened in Berlin over the fortnight, 373 in official sections and the majority in market screenings.

Not all of these movies would be something I’d pay to see back home.

Some of the titles alone make you wonder who’s sitting on those film subsidy boards: Among the wackiest on offer in Berlin were “Itty Bitty Titty Committee,” “Elvis Pelvis” and “The Girl Who Swallowed Bees.”

This last was an Aussie film whose plot centers around a young girl who feels so distraught that she ingests bees in an attempt to end her life. (It unspooled in the Shorts Competition.)

On the other hand, some titles were instantly intriguing, including “How to Cook Your Life,” “Don’t Touch the Ax” and “My Life in Ruins,” a comedy about a Greek tour guide at the Parthenon.

As one American film agent put it, “It’s no longer hard to raise money to make a film. Every country now has subsidies, there are sizeable monetary prizes dished out at fests, there are tax incentives, leaseback schemes, you name it. What’s hard is that there aren’t a commensurate number of good stories getting told.”

This being the most serious of the A-level festivals, there was a preponderance of movies devoted to weighty themes.

My rationale was, if you’re going to sit through a movie about the Holocaust, the best place to do it, clearly, is in Berlin alongside a local German audience.

Thus, I went along to the Competition premiere of “The Counterfeiters.” Dramatizing an actual incident, the pic centers on concentration camp inmates who were handpicked by the Nazis to produce fake currency, thus propping up the government in its waning months.

Stefan Ruzowitzky’s movie is jittery and jagged, with first-rate performances, including Devid Striesow, who plays the Nazi Herzog, and Karl Markovics, the head counterfeiter.

There was applause for all the talent at film’s end, and then a long standing ovation for a wizened little man who had to be helped to the stage. Turned out he was the actual man, depicted in the film, who championed defiance of the Nazis.

More current in its concerns was another Competition pic, “Bordertown,” Gregory Nava’s expose of the murders of female factory workers in Juarez. In this case, the press conference — which included an impassioned Jennifer Lopez — was more moving than the actual film.

Offsetting the gravitas of those competition pics was the light-as-a-feather confection cooked up by France’s Julie Delpy. The star and co-writer of the two-handers “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” pulled a Clint Eastwood with “2 Days in Paris”: She wrote, directed, starred and did the music for this Panorama entry. She even had her parents in it.

Everybody who saw it had fun.

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