Now Playing! A Touch of the Verboten Enlivens Berlin & Beyond

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Still from 'How About Adolf.' (Courtesy of Berlin & Beyond)

In Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s shocking Chinese Roulette (1976), an awkward family get-together devolves into a harrowing “game” of “What did you do in the war, mommy?” All these years later, German filmmakers continue to grapple with Hitler and his legacy, though the passage of time has allowed for the introduction of humor.

How About Adolf?, a sparkling comedic high point in the Goethe-Institut’s Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, imagines another casual bourgeois dinner spinning off its axis—in this case, when a father-to-be announces that he and his wife are going to name the child Adolf. Based on a sharply written play, How About Adolf? waltzes this absurd yet plausible notion from the realms of history, semantics and politics into the dark heart of personal secrets and bottled-up resentments.

Still from 'The Reformer.' (Courtesy of Berlin & Beyond)

The 24th edition of the festival, which runs Feb. 7–9 at the Castro followed by the Shattuck in Berkeley (Feb. 10), the Vogue (Feb. 11) and the Goethe-Institut (Feb. 12–13), also reprises Swiss director Stefan Haupt’s The Reformer. Zwingli: A Life’s Portrait, an under-the-radar inclusion in last fall’s Mill Valley Film Festival. The film pays thoughtful homage to the revolutionary young priest (and less-remembered contemporary of Martin Luther) who challenged Catholic orthodoxy and power in Zurich.

Another Swiss filmmaker, Barbara Miller, will be on hand for #Female Pleasure, a documentary portrait of five gutsy global crusaders for expanded female rights. Earnest and inspiring, the doc is not without smiles and chuckles, thanks to the taboo-trampling Japanese artist and provocateur Rokudenashiko.