Tag Archives: Film

Cold War Cinema: Revealing the Cracks in Communism

A retrospective series of Eastern European films is about to go on tour in Germany. What unites these very different movies is the way they reveal the tensions that would eventually lead to the collapse of the communist regimes.

Two teenage punk girls back-comb their hair while they talk about hating school and running away from home; a wizened old woman who has just celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary confides that she married the wrong man; a single mother carries out dirty and repetitive tasks in a factory before speaking about her loneliness and the difficulties of raising her disabled daughter alone.

This is a film depicting women, young and old, frankly talking about their hopes and fears, their marriages, children and jobs. It wouldn’t be so very remarkable were it not for the fact that the year is 1988 and this is communist East Germany. Helke Misselwitz’s ground-breaking documentary “Winter Adé,” or “After Winter Comes Spring,” caused a sensation when it was first shown in the Eastern German city of Leipzig exactly one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Continue reading

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Sharing Klein’s Vision: Winterbottom Brings ‘The Shock Doctrine’ to the Silver Screen

Award-winning directors Michael Winterbottom and Matt Whitecross have turned Naomi Klein’s bestselling “The Shock Doctrine” into a documentary. They deny the film is a conspiracy theory, arguing it is simply showing how free market ideas came to dominate the world.


How do you turn a 600-page history of the economics of the past 30 years, replete with in-depth research and footnotes, into a 90-minute movie? Not easily — but it’s something filmmakers Michael Winterbottom and Matt Whitecross have taken a stab at with their cinematic version of “The Shock Doctrine,” Naomi Klein’s polemical account of the rise of what she calls “disaster capitalism.” And their timing is impeccable as the world searches for a narrative to explain the current economic turmoil.

The two British directors have chosen to take up the mantle of her alternative history of the past three decades which argues that the dominant free market ideology was imposed as a kind of “shock therapy” in times of deep crises. Continue reading

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Lights, Camera, Activism: New Wave of Films Tackle Globalization Head on

This year’s Berlin International Film Festival provided a veritable showcase for films that criticize globalization and free market ideology. From Michael Winterbottom’s “The Shock Doctrine” to “The Yes Men Fix the World,” many films cast businessmen as the world’s new baddies.

A German politician said recently that people are now more afraid of their financial adviser than of al-Qaida. If the latest string of films dealing with the globalization, business and free market ideology are anything to go by, bankers and corporate executives are fast replacing terrorists as the baddies in the popular imagination.

This year’s Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale, is a veritable showcase for films that attack globalization, big business and the ideology of so-called neo-liberalism, as well as films that plumb the consequences of decades of unfettered capitalism. Offering a range of films with wildly different tones and forms, from the madcap hoaxes in “The Yes Men Fix the World” to the sober intellectual history of neo-liberalism portrayed in the “L’encerclement” to Michael Winterbottom’s cinematic adaptation of Naomi Klein’s bestselling book “The Shock Doctrine,” this year’s Berlinale has tapped into a zeitgeist that resoundingly rejects the notion that “greed is good.” Continue reading

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Gonzo Filmmakers in Action: The Yes Men’s Brilliant Plan to Fix the World

Can ridiculous inflatable costumes and anti-corporate publicity stunts save the world? The PR guerillas known as the Yes Men hope so. In Berlin to promote their new film, the duo sat down with SPIEGEL ONLINE to talk about their unique form of political activism.

A group of businessmen sit in a hotel conference room in Florida and nod eagerly while two supposed Halliburton representatives don ridiculous inflatable suits that they have dubbed the “SurvivaBall.” The company has supposedly designed this advanced survival suit to protect executives from the ravages of climate change and global warming, as well as epidemics and social unrest. “It’s essentially a gated community for one,” the speakers explain.

But these are no Halliburton representatives. They are the Yes Men, two anti-globalization pranksters who specialize in wrangling their way into conferences and the media to turn the logic of big business on its head. Continue reading

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Sexual Violence in World War II: New German Study Looks at Rape Trauma 60 Years On

A new German film explores the fate of one of the many women who were raped by Red Army soldiers at the end of World War II. A research project launched the same week is hoping to find some of the victims more than six decades later.

Germany in the spring of 1945. Hitler’s Nazi regime was on the brink of defeat in the catastrophic war it had launched six years earlier. After invading and occupying large swathes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union — and murdering tens of millions of people in the process — the German army was retreating, and the Red Army was following hot on its heels, intent on revenge.

Sweeping across German territory, many of the Russian soldiers burned, killed, looted. And they also raped German women. The Soviets, of course, weren’t the only ones; soldiers from other Allied armies were also guilty of sexual violence as they moved into Germany from the West. But most agree that the problem was particularly acute in eastern Germany. Historians estimate that close to 2 million German women and girls were raped in the closing months of the war, many repeatedly. Continue reading

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Congo’s Female Boxers Float Like Butterflies, Sting Like Bees

Muhammad Ali and George Foreman once fought there, but now, the stadium in Kinshasa plays host to female boxers-in-training. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to French film maker Renaud Barret about his new film documenting the lives of the boxing Congolese women.

Good memories are in short supply in Kinshasa. But if there is one thing people there remember with fondness, it is the “Rumble in the Jungle,” the legendary 1974 battle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

But the “Rumble” isn’t just history. It turns out that the stadium where the two fought still plays host to a boxing gym. Not only that, but a number of Congolese women also train there, punching away among their male colleagues. Continue reading

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Interview with Indian Director Parvez Sharma: ‘A Jihad for Love’ Gives Voice to Gay Muslims

The documentary “A Jihad for Love” explores the lives of devout Muslims around the world who are also gay. Director Parvez Sharma speaks to SPIEGEL ONLINE about the dangers of filming in some Muslim countries and why the bitterest battles gay people face are on the front lines of religion.

The “Panorama Dokumente” section of the Berlin International Film Festival focuses on documentaries. This year the section’s opening film was “A Jihad for Love,” by first-time Indian director Parvez Sharma.

Sharma traveled the world from South Africa to the Middle East and Europe, to talk to devout Muslims who are also gay. His film gives his subjects the chance to speak about their sexuality and their faith.

SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to Sharma about the difficulties he faced making the film, the differences between the gay communities in Muslim countries and in the West and why he wants to reclaim the concept of jihad. Continue reading

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Interview with ‘Lemon Tree’ Director Eran Riklis: ‘There Are So Many Mental Borders in the Middle East’

The Berlinale’s “Panorama” section opened this year with “Lemon Tree,” the story of a Palestinian widow’s fight against the Israeli defense minister to save her lemon orchard. SPIEGEL ONLINE speaks to director Eran Riklis about his attempt to show the human side of a political story.

The “Panorama” section of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival opened with the world premiere of “Lemon Tree,” the story of a Palestinian widow’s fight to save her family’s lemon orchard.

After the new Israeli defense minister moves in next door, he decides her trees pose a security threat and she is ordered to uproot them. She enlists the help of a young lawyer and a tentative romance begins, as the two take their David and Goliath fight to the Israeli Supreme Court.

“Lemon Tree” is directed by one of Israel’s leading filmmakers, Eran Riklis, whose films include 2004’s well-received “The Syrian Bride.” Award-winning Israeli Arab actor Hiam Abbass, who plays the Palestinian widow, was a Berlinale jury member last year. Continue reading

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Germany’s New Year ‘procedure’

GERMANS HAVE a rather peculiar New Year’s Eve tradition. Everybody — yes, really, everybody — gathers around the TV to watch “Dinner for One,” a short black-and-white comedy, in English, about an aristocrat and her butler.

Given the film’s astounding popularity, Germans assume that “Dinner for One” is a classic of British cinema, that it must be a huge hit elsewhere in the world — and they feel lucky to be in on the big English joke. It can be a terrible blow to the average German’s weltanschauung when he finds out that the English-speaking world is largely unaware of this pearl of British comedy. Continue reading


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