There's nothing like a weekday afternoon playing hooky at the movies, especially if you're sneaking off to films as uniquely thought-provoking as those on offer at the 17th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, playing September 27 through October 4 at the Castro Theatre.
I got in the mood this week by catching a day-before showing of Pina, Wim Wenders' celebrated 2011 film about the late German choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch. It's not often you get to wear 3D glasses for an art film, but Wenders' film revealed Bausch's unique vision, and her dances, with a gorgeous vigor and vision unmatched by any other dance film I've seen. And while it wasn't part of the festival, it was a good introduction to this eight-day banquet of German and Austrian films.
Presented by the Goethe Institute, this year's festival features over two dozen films, most of which you won't see anywhere else. In putting together what has become the largest North American showcase for German-language films, the selection committee watches virtually the entire year's crop of German, Austrian, and German-language Swiss films, as well as a few made further afield, in Russia, Finland, even Kazakhstan and Iceland. While a few features--like the opening night film Barbara, which will be Germany's entry into the foreign-language category for the 2013 Academy Awards--may end up with distribution deals, showings of many of these small, independent films will remain limited to the festival circuit. So, you've got a week. What to see, and where to eat (and drink) before or after your films? It's also time for Oktoberfest, so many of the places mentioned below will have special beers on tap as well as seasonal menu specials.
A quirky film like This Ain't California, a loose documentary about the rebellious skateboarding scene in East Germany during the 1970s, deserves discussion at the East German Walzwerk in the Mission. Spare, cool decor belies autumn-hearty food like herring in cream sauce, soljanka (cabbage-bacon soup with salami and pickles), jaeger schnitzel (pork loin) with spaetzel (small, squiggly boiled dumplings) and mushroom sauce, followed by apple strudel and kalter hund, or "cold dog," a layered cake made from rum, chocolate, and butter cookies. (They offer vegetarian dishes, too.)