The International Forum of Young Cinema will comprise some 500 titles this year, heavy on diversity and eclecticism.
The Forum has come to be considered Berlin’s festival within a festival, complete with its own special sections. The Forum began in 1971, after it was decided that the Berlinale needed a major venue for non-mainstream films. Ulrich Gregor and his group Freunde der Deutsche Kinemathek founded the Forum.
Last year, the Forum celebrated its 20th anniversary and the fall of the Wall with a heavy slate of East German films, some practically still dripping from the lab. Gregor says eastern Germany will be represented again this year, but not as heavily.
“Naturally, east German and Eastern European cinema is very close to home,” he says, “but the Berlinale is an international festival.”
Gregor has slated several documentary offerings from the DEFA studios, notably Sybille Schonemann’s well-received “Verriegelte Zeit” (Barred Time). In this docu, the filmmaker, who had been imprisoned and then expelled from East Germany, returns to question co-workers who turned her over to the secret police about their motives and civil servants involved in her arrest about their feelings toward the old regime.
Gregor cites this and other docus that have come from DEFA filmmakers this year as “very critical, dark and pessimistic films about what has happened in their country.” In total, the Forum will screen 94 German films.
East Euro cupboard nearly bare
The Forum topper laments the difficulty he has had in coming up with suitable fare from Eastern Europe this year. “The situation in Eastern Europe does not allow so many films to be made; there are other financial priorities. The region is disoriented at the moment. We haven’t been able to find anything from Hungary or Czechoslovakia, and only one film from Poland.”
“Gluchy Telefon,” by Polish filmmaker Piotr Mikucki, is described as one of the few films from the area not interested in an analysis of Communist society; instead, it goes in new directions, posing questions about human relations.
The only Socialist country where Gregor has found a thriving film industry is the USSR. This year’s Russian films in the Forum include Alexander Sokurov’s “Krug Vtoroi,” described as a meditation about death; and Alexander Seldovitsch’s “Sakat” (The Sunset), about Judaism in the USSR, a subject previously ignored by Soviet filmers.
“In the USSR, there’s a feeling of confusion,” Gregor maintains. “They make dark, heavy films. Sokurov’s film is quite melancholy. There are many experimental elements in Soviet filmmaking right now. We’ve always had many strong Soviet films, and there were quite a few in Cannes this year.” Gregor doubts whether this trend can continue as economic ills catch up with the Soviet film industry.
The Forum has promised a return in emphasis to sections from Latin America, Asia and Africa, areas which were neglected in last year’s glut of Wall movies. Strong entries are promised from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Papua New Guinea. Gregor has also come up with a film from India, Gautam Bora’s “Wosobipo.”
Western Europe is not producing much that Gregor finds appropriate for the Forum. He defines the region’s cinema as being about “conversation films” at the moment. One exception Gregor found is Italian feature-film helmer Nanni Moretti’s “La Cosa,” a tragi-comic docu about the state of Italy’s Communist Party.
Excited about the Yanks
Gregor radiates enthusiasm when discussing the U.S. indies slated for this year; he counts them among the Forum’s most exciting sections. In his search for what he describes as “new, experimental and innovative” films, Gregor sees the U.S. as a treasure trove right now, rich with “new ideas and new film languages.”
The Yank lineup includes two Jon Jost pics, “All The Vermeers In New York” and “Sure Fire,” both looks at what Gregor calls Jost’s love-hate relationship with U.S. society and a “fascination with sickness.” Amos Poe’s “Triple Bogey” is a ’50s-style gangster story which takes place on a boat circling Manhattan; pic toplines Eric Mitchell.
Other U.S. films skedded are Yvonne Rainer’s “Privilege,” Todd Haynes’ “Poison” and two docus about homelessness in New York, Bill Brand’s “Home Less Home” and Jennie Livingston’s “Paris Is Burning.” Frederick Wiseman, a Forum regular, is back with his lengthy docu “Central Park.”
A special entry this year, typical of the Forum’s iconoclasm, is Jacques Rivette’s 1971 “Out One” in its 12-hour 40-minute version, shown only once in its entirety 20 years ago. The Forum will screen the film over two days. Rivette has made a new print of his film, an experiment in narrative technique, which features Juliet Berto, Bulle Ogier, Bernadette Lafont and Jean-Pierre Laud. A 41/2-hour version was shown at the Forum in 1973 under the title “Out One Spectre.”
“We don’t know how many people will see it,” says Gregor, “but we feel it must be shown.”
Laud will visit the Forum to rep “Out One” and the new film by Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki, “I Hired A Contract Killer.” Laud toplines in “Killer,” also on the program.
A sidebar event to the regular Forum program is New Mexican Films 1989-91; the pics will be shown at the Delphi every morning as well as in other houses. Most of the films are the first works of young directors. Included are films by women, who don’t often get a turn at the helm south of the border.