A pretty, blue-eyed blond and a young boy say a tearful goodbye to one man, and in the next scene, leave by car with another. Border patrol, strip searches, humiliating intrusive interrogations lead to a refugee camp with more of the same. According to filmmaker Christian Schwochow after a screening of his nail-biting drama West, a film he co-wrote with his mother, Heide Schwochow based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Julia Frank, this was not an unusual situation for citizens leaving East Berlin for the West. In fact, this story, involving trust in the time of the Stasi, hews close to his family experience, and others' he and his mother knew. As opening night of the Kino! Festival of German Films, this past Thursday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, West is of a particularly German narrative, as is another fine movie, Hanna's Journey, directed by Julia von Heinz, about a Berlin-based student who goes to Israel to complete credits in community service, needless to say, a transformative adventure.
Perhaps least German of the offerings is the documentary about the American photographer, Nan Goldin: I Remember Your Face, whose early work documented a subversive New York demimonde, intimate portraits of friends in various stages of drug use, a naked documentation of the counter culture in the time of AIDS. This film, by director Sabine Lidl and producer Irene Hofer, on hand at the festival, came about as the subject was living in Berlin. In order to gain her participation, the filmmakers had to work sparely. Sabine Lidl would arrive, without a crew, filming and taking sound terrified to get it right, she said. The film reveals many poignant aspects of Nan Goldin's life, that she's a collector of Christian religious artifacts, and that she has a penchant for loving homosexual men, regretting that she will never have children. Originally made for European television, the documentary will be screened every day for the festival's run till June 19 at the Quad Cinema.
As to Christian Schwochow, he may have made his name on German based projects, including a successful television series, The Tower, but up next is a period drama to be shot in Ireland.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.