My Picks for German Currents 2018

by Tom Nguyen

The 12th Annual German Currents Film Festival in Los Angeles, happens October 19-22, 2018 at the Egyptian Theatre. The annual festival features the latest German and Swiss cinema and is a co-production between of the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles and the American Cinematheque. This year’s festival kicks-off with a red carpet opening night LA premiere of director Arne Feldhusen’s tragicomedy MAGICAL MYSTERY OR THE RETURN OF KARL SCHMIDT, and will conclude with the US premiere of KREATUR by the renowned dance company Sasha Waltz & Guests, followed by an after-party at The Theater at Ace Hotel, co-presented with UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance.

Here are the films I’m looking forward to seeing, all of which are making their Los Angeles premieres: Continue Reading →

Recent Film Reviews from German Currents, LA Brazilian and LA Eiga Film Festivals

by Tom Nguyen

It goes without saying that we’re pretty spoiled as film lovers in Los Angeles. Filmmakers from around the world flock here to premiere their films in Hollywood and our pleasant weather makes LA attractive for film festivals throughout the year! Some weeks when it’s not uncommon to have 3-5 different film festivals all over LA, I consider myself lucky if I manage to see at least one film from each! Our site’s film focus is on foreign and independent films and documentaries…so no time to waste on big budget Hollywood films here! Here are some excellent foreign films I’ve seen at 3 recent film festivals from 3 continents: German Currents, LA Brazilian Film Festival (LABRFF) and LA EigaFest.

Beloved Sisters (Die Geliebten Schwestern) – This period film is based on a complex love triangle between German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter) and two sisters, utterly devoted to each other: an unhappily married Caroline von Beulwitz (Hannah Herzsprung) and the shy younger Charlotte von Lengefeld (Henriette Confurius). Taking place in late 18th century Germany, the film is an absorbing look at the mores and values of the time, particularly within the conservative German nobility and the sisters’ conflicts between marrying for security and standing vs. marrying for love. It seems that both security and love might just be possible as they both fall in love and decide to share the same man. The costumes, set designs and cinematography were excellent but I just didn’t feel the chemistry and passion in this menage à trois. It’s Germany’s official Oscar submission so we’ll see if the film manages to raise any emotions from the Academy members.

Now how about this for an international film: Dark Valley (Das finstere Tal) is an Austrian film that is a cowboy Western taking place in the Alps, with English actor, Sam Riley, playing an American named Greider. The story is already well-traveled territory in this genre: a quiet stranger rides into a small town and both the local residents and the bullies who control the town don’t know what to make of his arrival or his motives. So does the director Andreas Prochaska succeed in putting a fresh spin on a classic tale of revenge and retribution, by setting it high up in the snowy Austrian mountains? Absolutely! Everyone was perfectly cast in this film and the purposely gray, dark cinematography really brought out the beauty, harshness and isolation of the forboding mountain setting. Even though things go predictably by the numbers plot wise, fine acting, especially by Riley, Paula Beer as the headstrong Luzi resigned to her fate, and Tobias Moretti, as the head of the band of cruel brothers, kept me engaged through the end! Austria’s got a strong Oscar contender with this one!

The two films were the opening and closing films of the 8th Annual German Currents film festival, one of my favorite and well-run festivals of the year. The festival is put on by the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles and the American Cinematheque, which runs the Egyptian Theatre where the festival screened. The Goethe-Institut Los Angeles has lots of great cultural programming throughout the year, including regular free screenings of recent German cinema, so don’t worry if you missed this festival. They’re located on Wilshire near LACMA, with convenient cheap parking (which is a blessing in the Miracle Mile area) and they are also very supportive of other community programming, like the first ever International Yemeni Film & Arts Festival they hosted this past January. The Goethe-Institut Media Lounge has a vast film catalog of German film and for a small membership fee, you can rent films for free!

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Double Oscar Entry Feature: Two Lives and I Am Yours on Fri 11/22

two lives
This Friday, November 22, the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica will be showing a free double feature of Two Lives, Germany’s official Oscar entry and I Am Yours, Norway’s official Oscar entry. Both films deal with the fallout of intermingling between cultures. The event is free with RSVP and there will be a wine & cheese reception following with directors Georg Maas and Iram Haq and actress Amrita Acharia in attendance!

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