The Munich Film Festival kicks off June 23 with some 180 feature films, documentaries and TV movies, including Maren Ade’s Cannes competition title “Toni Erdmann,” which opens this year’s event. Festival closes July 2. Germany’s second-biggest film fest offers an ideal summer platform for world cinema, cutting-edge German films, and new discoveries while also showcasing young talents. “We have a fantastic line-up with well-known directors, but also discoveries from countries like Vanuatu or Nepal, which are in our program for the first time,” says festival director Diana Iljine. Matt Ross’ “Captain Fantastic” closes the event.
The Spotlight sidebar is known for presenting lavish productions, big-name filmmakers, and major stars. This year is no different. The lineup includes: Paul Schrader’s “Dog Eat Dog,” starring Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe; Jason Batemen’s “The Family Fang,” with Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken; Werner Herzog’s documentary “Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World”; and Andy Goddard’s “A Kind of Murder,” starring Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, and Haley Bennett.
It’s a particularly good year for German cinema, Iljine says. “The New German Cinema section shows the most innovative and original world premieres from Germany.” Highlights include films by Aron Lehman, Klaus Lemke, Dani Levy, Sven Taddicken, a special selection of never-before-seen short films by “Der Nachtmahr” director Akiz.
This year’s Independents lineup offers a strong selection of works from U.S. filmmakers, including Brady Corbet’s critically acclaimed “The Childhood of a Leader”; Chad Hartigan’s “Morris From America,” about a 13-year-old African-American boy living in Heidelberg and trying to fit in; Kerem Sanga’s teen romance “First Girl I Loved”; and Maggie Greenwald’s World War II-set love story “Sophie and the Rising Sun.”
Munich’s Kinderfilmfest sidebar unspools 10 feature films, six shorts and a special screening of a 360-degree film: “The Secrets of Gravity — In the Footsteps of Albert Einstein.” Dominik Wessely’s “Nelly’s Adventure,” about a 13-year-old girl who is kidnapped in Romania but rescued by two friendly siblings, opens the section. Other films include Rafig Aliyev and Cavid Tevekkul’s Azerbaijani title “The Lesson,” about an overweight boy who can’t play football but who writes beautiful poetry, and Mamoru Hosoda’s Japanese animated pic “The Boy and the Beast.” In addition, German director Andreas Dresen, who is remaking German children’s classic “Timm Thaler,” will host a filmmaking workshop for kids.
Munich is one of Germany’s main film hubs. It is home to HFF Munich, one of the country’s premier film schools, media heavyweight Bavaria Film and its vast studio complex, camera and production equipment giant Arri, and countless production, post-production, and vfx companies, not to mention regional funder FFF Bayern, which has an annual budget of €31 million [$36 million] and a special incentive for international co-productions. Canadian writer-director Mark Palansky’s “The Jester,” a thriller based on “Hop-Frog” by Edgar Allan Poe and starring Peter Dinklage, is being backed by FFF Bayern to the tune of $1.7 million.
About a third of Germany’s film industry is based in Munich, making the fest an ideal meet and greet for local and international filmmakers and industry insiders. The European Commission’s Creative Europe Desk is organizing a panel on comedy in film, while Arri is hosting a workshop on its latest gear.
NEW GERMAN TV MOVIES
Munich is a major TV production hub, so it’s no surprise that the fest offers a showcase of upcoming German TV movies, many of them from public broadcaster ARD and its regional affiliates. This year’s 20 TV pics range from tales of political scandal to psychotherapy and sports-shoe empires. “Rivals Forever — The Sneaker Battle” tells the story of brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, the feuding founders of Adidas and Puma. In “The Fourth Estate,” a journalist [Benno Fürmann] exposes a government scandal, while “Dead Man Working” offers a scathing look at the banking industry.
The fest is paying tribute to actress Ellen Burstyn this year with its CineMerit Award. In addition to the premiere of Todd Solondz’s “Wiener-Dog,” in which she stars, Munich is screening a selection of her works, including “The Last Picture Show,” “The Exorcist — Director’s Cut,” and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”
Munich is honoring Kurdish filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi and German helmer Christian Petzold. As part of the Retrospective, the fest will screen all of Ghobadi’s works, including his latest films, “A Flag Without a Country,” which examines the current plight of the Kurdish people, and “Life on the Border,” a documentary directed by refugee children and that the filmmaker produced. The event will also present all of Petzold’s works as well, including his recent festival circuit hits “Barbara” and “Phoenix.”
Pictured above: “Toni Erdmann”