Now Playing! European Unions Thrive at Berlin & Beyond

Still from 'Fukushima, Mon Amor.' (Courtesy of Berlin & Beyond)

The numerous Downfall parodies on the internet derive their humor from the harshest imaginable German speaker ranting about a minor modern-day development. The language also has a softer side, evinced by Doris Dorrie’s black-and-white odd-couple movie Fukushima, Mon Amour. A highlight of the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival (Feb. 3-8 at the Castro and Goethe-Institut, with a day of docs at Oakland's Pro Arts Gallery on Feb. 4), this eloquent, ephemeral movie pairs a former geisha and survivor of the 2011 tsunami, nuclear accident and radioactive ruination with a young German woman at loose ends.

Still from 'Frantz.'
Still from 'Frantz.' (Courtesy of Berlin & Beyond)

Prolific French filmmaker Francois Ozon’s bilingual romantic drama, Frantz -- just nominated for 10 César Awards, including Best Film, Director, Cinematography and Original Score -- also applies a black-and-white aesthetic to a trans-national relationship, in this case the post-World War I encounter between a grieving German woman and a French former soldier.

(Offscreen) war and the angst of exile plagues the famous German-Jewish protagonist of Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe, a uniquely structured and altogether fascinating film that was Austria’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar. If you like your historical drama spiked with a bit of glamour, actress-cum-director Maria Schrader will be honored before the screening with the festival’s Career Achievement Award.