Forum & Forum Expanded

Jan 13, 2022
An Awareness of History. Nine Film Programmes Showing as a Forum Special

This Makes Me Want to Predict the Past by Cana Bilir-Meier

This year, a Forum Special consisting of nine film programmes complements the main programme of the independent section of the Berlinale. A significant part of these programmes are dedicated to the eleven short films and feature-length works which continue the “Fiktionsbescheingung” series, which was originally launched online during the Berlinale Summer Special and was later shown on the big screen at SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA.

The series explores the question of how culture in general and cinema in particular are related to society and racism. It is dedicated to the work of Black directors and directors of colour in Germany and sees itself as an experiment in shared curatorial responsibility that also seeks to shine a spotlight on a chapter of German film production that has been unfairly neglected.

This time, the film selection was put together by curators Enoka Ayemba and Biene Pilavci, supported by Karina Griffith, Jacqueline Nsiah, Can Sungu and the Forum selection committee. Six programmes consisting of short films and feature-length works bring together titles from four decades, including Fremd. Yaban. (2007) by Hakan Savaş Mican, with the wonderful Sema Poyraz in a key role, In der Wüste (1987), a feature by Rafael Fuster Pardo about two penniless artists in the still-divided Berlin, Dreckfresser (Dirt for Dinner, 2000) by Branwen Okpako, a documentary about a Black police officer in post-reunification Saxony, the essay films Die leere Mitte (The Empty Center, 1998) and Normalität 1-10 (Normality 1-X, 2001), both by Hito Steyerl, and a film from Raoul Peck’s time as a student, Merry Christmas Deutschland oder Vorlesung zur Geschichtstheorie II (1985).

The curators explain their selection in a statement: “The series sees itself as a snapshot of an ongoing, self-determined process of intervention and protest. Each of the films functions as a suggestion as to how the white German gaze can be countered with diverse, intersectional perspectives, with all of them having one thing in common: their own visual and textual practice of testimony from within, not from the margins.“

The eleven “Fiktionsbescheinigung” titles are joined by three further films that are either historical works now available in newly restored prints or reflect on the history of Forum. Med Hondo’s 1979 West Indies ou les nègres marrons de la Liberté (West Indies) explores the transatlantic slave trade, the situation in the French Antilles and the immigration policies of the grande nation by way of a pared-down setting that spawns ever greater inventiveness. A sparse aesthetic rubs up against the flamboyance of a musical, the resultant friction producing a grotesque vision that has lost nothing of its bitter topicality.

Borhane Alaouié’s feature Beirut al lika (Beirut the Encounter) is no less topical, even though it was made in 1981. A young woman is in the midst of leaving the civil-war-scarred city to head to America, without knowing whether she’ll stay six months or forever. There is also a young man who would like to see her again before she leaves, if it weren’t for the road blocks, bugged telephone connections and traffic jams. In crafting this melancholy sketch of a farewell, could Alaouié have had any idea that many Lebanese would find themselves in the same situation 41 years on?

Last, but not least, Forum also takes a look at its own history. Alice Agneskirchner’s film portrait Komm mit mir in das Cinema – Die Gregors (Come With Me to the Cinema – The Gregors) is dedicated to Ulrich und Erika Gregor. With film excerpts, archive footage, re-enacted scenes and interviews, the Berlin director examines the biographies and considerable impact of these two legendary film curators without whom Forum would not exist.

Forum Special


United Kingdom 2017
by Forensic Architecture
On April 6, 2006, Halit Yozgat was murdered by the National Socialist Underground at an Internet café in Kassel. State intelligence officer Andreas Temme was in the café around the same time. An architectural dissection of his police statement.

Dilim dönmüyor – Meine Zunge dreht sich nicht (Dilim dönmüyor – My Tongue Does Not Turn)
Germany 2013
by Serpil Turhan
Serpil Turhan’s grandparents gave up Kurdish for Turkish and the village for the city, just as her mother gave up Turkish for German and Istanbul for Berlin in turn. The director gently compiles fragments from the life of a family marked by migration.

Dreckfresser (Dirt for Dinner)
Germany 2000 (Forum 2001)
by Branwen Okpako
Born in Saxony, Afro-German Sam Meffire has had a chequered life. At the start of the 1990s, his face was used as the symbol of an open-minded state, before he became a police officer, friend of the minister of the interior and eventually a criminal.

Fremd. Yaban.
Germany 2007
by Hakan Savaş Mican
with İsmail Şahin, Sema Poyraz
Meryem is visiting Berlin from Turkey, although she’s come at the wrong moment for Adem, whose architecture course is his only focus. A sensitive study of the dynamics between the Gastarbeiter generation and the following one, between mother and son.

In der Wüste
West Germany 1987
by Rafael Fuster Pardo
mit Claudio Caceres Molina, Mustafa Sagili, Adriana Altaras
Fernando is Chilean, Timur is from Turkey, both are penniless artists living together in Kreuzberg. They wander through the city in search of money and distraction. This portrait of friendship in the urban desert is full of mischievous charm.

Die leere Mitte (The Empty Center)
Germany 1998
by Hito Steyerl
Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz: in the 1990s, the former death strip became the site for emblematic construction projects and a new centre of power. Steyerl’s incisive essay reveals a whole nexus of political forces based on exclusion and suppression.

The Maji-Maji Readings
Germany 2006
by Ricardo Bacallao
with Philippa Ébené, Grada Kilomba
A theatre reading about the Maji Maji uprising in the former German East Africa reveals that colonial, racist patterns of thought still dominate in Germany today. Philippa Ébené, Grada Kilomba and others linked to the production all get to have their say.

Merry Christmas Deutschland oder Vorlesung zur Geschichtstheorie II
West Germany 1985
by Raoul Peck
Raoul Peck’s student film at the DFFB dips into the prevailing mood in Germany in 1984 and the conception of democracy of the time. Images of the grey city, people in a festive mood and clips from West German television exert an atmospheric pull.

Normalität 1–10 (Normality 1–X)
Austria / Germany 1999-2001
by Hito Steyerl
At the turn of the century, neo-Nazi marches, racist attacks and the defiling of Jewish graves formed part of everyday life in Germany and Austria. Steyerl’s series of essayistic shorts give an account of violence mistaken for normality.

Der schöne Tag (A Fine Day)
Germany 2001 (Forum 2001)
by Thomas Arslan
with Serpil Turhan, Bilge Bingül, Florian Stetter
A long summer’s day in Berlin: a young actress still in training wanders through the city. She ends things with her boyfriend, meets another man, thinks about love. With typical restraint, Arslan crafts a narrative of purpose and exploration.

This Makes Me Want to Predict the Past
Germany / Austria 2019
by Cana Bilir-Meier
with Sosuna Yıldız, Aleyna Osmanoğlu, Berfin Ünsal
A visit to a mall, old photos, a bomb scare, an attack: lines of connection and ruptures between everyday life as a migrant in past and present alike, between youthful exuberance and ongoing racist violence in Germany.

Additional Films

Beirut al lika (Beirut the Encounter)
Lebanon / Tunisia / Belgium 1981
by Borhane Alaouié
with Haytham Al Amine, Nadine Acoury
In the midst of the civil war, a Shiite man from West Beirut and a Christian woman from the east of the city try to see each other one last time before she emigrates to the US. Newly restored, a film that has lost nothing of its topicality.

Komm mit mir in das Cinema – Die Gregors (Come With Me to the Cinema – The Gregors)
Germany 2022
by Alice Agneskirchner
with Erika Gregor, Ulrich Gregor
From the 1950s onwards, Erika and Ulrich Gregor brought countless film historical milestones to Berlin and shaped cinema discourse in post-war Germany. A look at the life and work of the couple without whom Arsenal and the Forum wouldn’t exist.

West Indies ou les nègres marrons de la Liberté (West Indies)
France / Algeria / Mauretania 1979
by Med Hondo
with Robert Liensol, Hélène Vincent, Toto Bissainthe, Cyril Aventurin, Theo Légetimus
This stirring 1979 musical encompasses 400 years of French occupation of the West Indies: a theatre stage becomes a slave ship where Africa, Europe and the Caribbean interlock. Med Hondo’s classic now returns to the big screen in a new restoration.

Press Office
January 13, 2022