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Celebrate Oktoberfest with German Cinema

by Sarah Soliman

It’s Oktoberfest at The Picture House! This month, we’re taking a cinematic trip to Germany as we host our German Film Festival from October 15 through 17. The festival will highlight some of the most exciting films to come out of Germany in the past two years. 

We’ll say “Prost!” at the complimentary German beer and wine tasting taking place outside the theater prior to the opening night film, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, the moving story of a Jewish family’s escape from 1930s Berlin. We’re excited to follow up the film with a pre-recorded Q&A with filmmaker Caroline Link, who joined TPH at a screening of the film earlier this year. 

The other festival selections are:

Curveball (dir. Johannes Naber)
A German biological weapons expert believes Saddam Hussein is making weapons of mass destruction, despite a lack of evidence, and the subject seems closed until an Iraqi asylum seeker makes a statement.

Free Country (dir. Christian Alvart)
A couple of years after German reunification, two detectives — one from the West, one from the East — are forced to work together when two teenage girls go missing in a small community. The detectives must work through their differences while uncovering the many secrets the remote town has to hide.

Rocca Changes the World (dir. Katja Benrath)
11 year-old Rocca lives with her father, an astronaut who works on the International Space Station. Instead of regular schooling, Rocca has been exposed to much of the astronaut training program. When she’s sent to Hamburg to live with her estranged grandmother she must go to regular school for the first time. 

Undine (dir. Christian Petzold)
A mythological figure, Undine is a water sprite who becomes human when she falls in love with a mortal man. Christian Petzold’s film boldly reimagines this folklore in a modern-day tale of romance and betrayal. Undine works as a historian lecturing on Berlin’s urban development. When the man she loves leaves her, she is meant to kill him for betraying her and return to the water. Will Undine defy fate when she meets a diver offering her a chance at new love? 

Along with the festival, TPH’s education department is offering a class on German Cinema to take an even closer look into this vibrant national cinema. We’re excited to have Jed Rapfogel, film programmer at Anthology Film Archives as the instructor for the course. 

Here’s a note from Jed introducing himself:

I’ve written about film for magazines and journals including Cinema Scope, Senses of Cinema, and Cineaste (where I’m an Associate Editor), and have also guest-curated programs at various film festivals. My main role for the past 15 years has been as the Film Programmer at Anthology Film Archives, in Manhattan, where I’m responsible for curating and organizing the film screenings that take place year-round in our two theaters.

I came to Anthology almost immediately after college, simply because I was deeply invested in the art of cinema and drawn both to Anthology’s (now 50-year) history and its community of film lovers. At Anthology we try to make our programming as eclectic as possible, showing films from all periods of the history of cinema, and from all over the world. We have a long tradition of showing German cinema, both past and present (thanks in large part to our relationship with the Goethe-Institut and now the German Film Office). We’ve premiered many new German films over the years, as well as presenting retrospectives of some of the most important German filmmakers of the past half-century, including Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Monika Treut, Harun Farocki, Klaus Kinski, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Edgar Reitz, Dominik Graf, and Ulrike Ottinger. I’ve also regularly attended film festivals in Berlin, Leipzig, and Oberhausen, where I’ve learned about and met many other German filmmakers.

All that said, this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to engage with German cinema outside the contexts of Anthology or a film festival, and to explore this incredibly rich realm with a class of students! I’ve tried to select four films that demonstrate how many different approaches contemporary German filmmakers take in making their films (from dramatic realism to magical realism and stylized drama to personal documentary), and to choose films that speak — directly or indirectly — to German film history.

The class will watch Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder) on October 5, Styx (dir. Wolfgang Fischer) on October 12, Undine (dir. Christian Petzold) on October 19, and Paris Calligrammes (dir. Ulrike Ottinger) on October 26.

We’ll see you there! Or, wir sehen uns dort!   

The German Film Festival is held in partnership with the German Film Institute.  

Funding for the German Film Festival was made possible, in part, by the Westchester Community Foundation, a division of New York Community Trust. Westchester Community Foundation’s mission is to connect generous people to the causes they care about and invest in transformative ideas and organizations to improve lives and strengthen our community. WCF is a division of The New York Community Trust, one of the largest community foundations in the country, with assets of approximately $2.6 billion.