Thursday, January 20, 2011

German Gems at the Castro Theatre: A German Film Extravaganza

Filmmaker Bjoern Richie Lob with festival coordinator Ingrid Eggers

The Bay Area is a central location for people who appreciate German high culture which celebrates high-quality cinema, art, music, theater, science, and philosophy. The first year of the German Gems Film Festival in 2010 was a success, so much admired festival coordinator Ingrid Eggers moved forward for a weekend of new German cinema at the Castro Theatre from Jan. 14–16. The films drew large crowds that made clear their approval for the German films, and intelligent questions were a welcome challenge to the filmmakers during the Q&A’s.

Eggers is the former Goethe Institut (the German cultural center that is in cities worldwide) powerhouse who founded the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival and she has a fine eye for the best movies that she views on her travels to Germany.

The opening night feature was “Mahler on the Couch” which is an unusual film that portrays two monumental intellectual giants of the last century — psychiatrist Sigmund Freud and composer Gustav Mahler — when Mahler sought Freud’s help to deal with his brilliant, adulterous wife.

The Castro Theatre’s mezzanine was the site of the opening night party where again Walzwerk — the German restaurant that serves East German cuisine with camp overtones — offered taste treats. There was also vodka and caviar, and surprisingly, pizza. Guests could wonder how far Bavaria extends into Italy to produce German pizza.

Director and producer Bjoern Richie Lob, who is a German river surfer, showed up with his film “Keep Surfing” and a huge red surf board. His sport could spread from Munich to American rivers after they check out his unique movie.

Transcendental Meditation was examined in David Sieveking’s film “David Wants to Fly.” The filmmaker revealed that though the process works to relax and alter consciousness for some people, there are alternatives. Tech scientist and inventor Mitch Altman was one of the audience members who asked Sieveking probing questions about his movie during the Q&A.

"Mountain Blood" musical composer Sami Hammi with festival coordinator Ingrid Eggers

Charming and handsome music composer Sami Hammi fielded questions about the closing night film “Mountain Blood (Bergblut),” which he scored. The film is a stupendous costume drama about the hopeless fight for Tyrolean independence in the early 19th century.

Gay men were thankful for views of the splendor of attractive lead actor Wolfgang Menardi’s body, though he did not shower under a waterfall. The film belonged to the women, led by actress Ina Birkenfeld who played a difficult role with ease.

Stunning Tyrolean mountains, woods, and waterfalls were a vivid treasure of “Mountain Blood” and the production values of every part of the film were first class. The shocker of the evening was when it was revealed that this is filmmaker Philipp J. Pamer's first film and that it was his graduation project!

Karen Larsen and her crew members from Larsen Associates, Leo Wong and Ani Klose, wrangled the media and got fine results for their work. There was sustained applause throughout the festival for coordinator Eggers, and also for her generosity when she invited everyone to the last screening for free.

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