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Reverse Shot, Berlin & Beyond

"For our 28th symposium, Reverse Shot's American All-Stars, we asked our writers to pick a contemporary filmmaker from a Latin American country who they'd like to champion; this could trigger a longer discussion about an oeuvre or an idea on a national cinema — politically, economically, aesthetically — or it could remain a close reading of a film itself." Posted so far: Michael Koresky on Julián Hernández's Raging Sun, Raging Sky (image above), Genevieve Yue on Sandra Kogut's Mutum and Chris Wisniewski on Lucrecia Martel's La ciénaga.

The Goethe-Institut is bringing a sampling of recent films from Germany to California, ranging from a children's film (Vicky the Viking) to a doc (Rock Hudson, Dark and Handsome Stranger) to a long distance festival circuit runner (Benjamin Heisenberg's The Robber). German Currents: New Films from Germany opens tonight in Los Angeles with Germany's horse in the Foreign Language Oscar race, When We Leave (Die Fremde) with Sibel Kekilli.

On Friday, then, the 15th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival opens in San Francisco and runs at the Castro Theatre through October 28, reemerging in San Jose for a one-day program on October 30. Michael Guillén has previewed the lineup of 24 features and six shorts (there's considerable overlap with German Currents but also a few titles from Austria and Switzerland) and spoken with festival director Sophoan Sorn. Also at the Evening Class, Frako Loden reviews three entries: Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis's Pianomania, Christoph Schaub's Julia's Disappearance and Feo Aladag's afore-mentioned When We Leave. For more on Berlin & Beyond, see Nicole Gluckstern's overview in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

A few related notes. First, Girish Shambu describes his "peculiar experience" with Christian Petzold: "On the one hand, I'm riveted by the precision and rigor of his style: the intelligence of his compositions, the confidence with which he handles shot duration, the sharp surprises in his cuts, and the masterful, exhilarating control of his mise-en-scène. Watching these films do their work is to be immediately reminded of the stylistic flabbiness of most films. But the content of the first three films — their narratives, characters and themes — while promising and interesting, struggles in vain to equal the marvels of their style." He's also sparked a discussion of the so-called Berlin School.

In the New York Times, Michael Slackman profiles 29-year-old filmmaker Burhan Qurbani: "He suddenly realizes that he is a foreigner at home, and that his audience sees him as an Afghan immigrant who made a movie about Islam, not as a talented German filmmaker who chose to explore issues common to all mankind.... Shahada, his student thesis and debut feature-length film, was screened at the Berlinale festival in February, and was shown in theaters in Berlin in the past two weeks. On Saturday night, the Chicago International Film Festival awarded Mr Qurbani the gold medal for best new director for Shahada." And CIFF jury member Ray Pride blogs about seeing his citation quoted in the paper.

Meantime, in Berlin itself, the Asian Hot Shots Festival opens tonight with Glen Goei's The Blue Mansion and runs through Sunday with a focus on Singapore and programmed in cooperation with the Five Flavours Film Festival, running October 26 through November 1 in Warsaw and November 5 through 15 in Krakow.

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