The 12th “Berlin and Beyond” lends a few more hammers and hacksaws with which to shape society…

Goethe’s 12th “Berlin and Beyond” festival at the Castro looked a little thin and fluffy from the program at first glance, but we are very happy to have our first impression totally dismantled. All of the films we have seen in this year’s selection so far have either proven to be unexpected surprises, engaging, intense, challenging, or in a couple cases, curious fodder for XL terrestrial (propaganda) analysis. And this year’s filmmaker panel session grappled with the complexities of “violence in film”, which reflected a recurring theme from many featured guest directors. Following the screening of Mirko Borscht’s neo-nazi vive-(id)-sections “Combat Sixteen”, one audience member, with a bit of a grin, asked Ingrid Eggers, the festival’s founder and director, if, with all these extremely dark films, there was some intent to reflect some rising social malaise. She replied that there wasn’t any intention, just an attempt to bring the good films. Unfortunately the panel itself didn’t follow that line far enough to ponder the glaring evidence either, but the gravity of the issues were not lost and provided an initial opening of the can of worms. From shameless, profit-driven mass media, to the sheer seductiveness of cruelty meets spectacle (targeted more often than not at youth culture), the copy-cat factor, social responsibilities and integrity of the artist, etc. etc. all plopped out messily onto the table, unresolved, conflicting, multiplying. A philosophical bloodbath at best, and a society neck-deep in crises with its proliferating vampiric marketplace “artworld” going for the full-on ticketed ride …at worst.

Still processing the research on the violence themes, so before week’s end we’ll have a full plog on that… ( reviews/perspectives on Der Kick, Knallhard, Combat Sixteen, The Short Life of Antonio Gutierrez, etc. )

But for Now, for the purposes of plugging the last 2 days of one of SF’s deep-venturing film festivals, you can still catch these promising features:

1. Wholetrain ( about grafitti-writers in Munich and Warsaw)

2. Einstuerzende Neubauten ( the 1st live concert film in their 26? years featuring the Palast der Republik as the venue recently demolished and erased from “unified” Berlin’s gritty history )…see more below.

3. Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback ( “5 American GIs heavy on feedback, nihilism, and electric banjo” …the document of the anti-pop group who were precursors to punk/industrial forays more than a decade later).

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While Neubauten the band is probably little more than a museum-piece of itself at this point, many current and former members remain highly active experimenting with Other artworlds, often with a seasoned Berlin eye and ear for alternative routes… And always inspiring to see when a high-profile group gets so disgusted with the music industry they start looking for innovative methods of self-distro… www.neubauten.org

Should add that one of the members that has been delving into intriguing new forms has been Alexander Hacke… (brief aside: F*k!! , it’s painful everytime we link a f*king corporate myspace site, apologies, rant topic coming soon!). If you haven’t seen Fatih Akin’s Crossing The Bridge: The Sounds Of Istanbul (featuring Hacke), it is one of the best music docs to come out perhaps since … Step Across The Border. And we haven’t had a chance to hear it, but he’s releasing solo work on the Bay area’s KoolArrow label.

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