Land of Mine film review

March 30, 2017

(This film review of Land of Mine appeared in the Australian Jewish News on 30 March 2017.)

Written and directed by Martin Zandvliet

The title of the Danish-German film “Land of Mine” (“Under Sandet”) holds a deliberate double meaning in English. Taking place in the immediate aftermath of World War II and based on true events, the film tells the story of young German prisoners-of-war who are forced to disarm the land mines that the German army had placed on the sandy west coast of Denmark. Intended to slow an Allied invasion that never happened, the mines are highly lethal and hard to disarm.  A particularly young group of German soldiers – most of them still in their teens – has been given this months-long task, supervised by a Danish sergeant (Roland Møller) who is filled with rage against the Germans.  Although there are no Jewish characters or themes in “Land of Mine”, this powerful portrayal of revenge, culpability and humanity speaks strongly to the questions that faced the Allies immediately following the war: who is to be punished because of the actions by Nazi state, and how? Møller wonderfully portrays the emotional journey of his character, giving the film a strong and satisfying emotional development.

“Land of Mine” is not a fanciful story: it happened. The Germans laid almost two million mines along the Danish coastline. The process of clearing them took more than five months, reportedly killing more people than the five-year German occupation of that country. More than 2,000 German prisoners were forced to undertake mine removal, and about half of them died or suffered serious injuries: the film does not shy away from these injuries (viewers be warned). Because forcing prisoners to undertake such work contravenes the Geneva Convention, this era in history remains a shameful one for Denmark – although it’s just that theme that attracted Danish writer/director Martin Zandvliet to the subject. Zandvliet credits Jewish documentary film directors (and brothers) David and Albert Maysels (“Gimme Shelter”, “Grey Gardens”) as his inspiration: “The way the Maysels brothers filmed their subjects was so vulnerable and sensuous that you could not help feeling the presence of their characters.”

“Land of Mine” was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost out to the Iranian film “The Salesman”. In a different year, “Land of Mine” could easily have won the Oscar. The film premiered in Australia at last year’s Sydney Film Festival, where it was one of the Festival’s most popular.


Film review of Labyrinth of Lies

April 3, 2016

(This film review of “Labyrinth of Lies” originally appeared in the Australian Jewish News on 31 March 2016.)

Directed by Giulio Ricciarelli; written by Giulio Ricciarelli and Elisabeth Bartel; starring Alexander Fehling and André Szymanski

As incredible as it may now seem, more than 70 years after the end of the Holocaust – and with Germany leading the way in continental European recognition of the horrors of the Nazi genocide – not until the early 1960s did Germans first widely understand what had happened in Auschwitz and other camps.

A key historical event that helped to create this consciousness was the “Frankfurt Auschwitz trials”, which took place from December 1963 to August 1965. While only 22 of the more than 7,000 surviving SS members involved in Auschwitz camp administration were charged during these trials (with more than 700 eventually sentenced), the events marked an important milestone. German prosecutors acted under German law in Germany, unlike the Allied military tribunals in Nuremberg in late 1945 and 1946.

This almost forgotten slice of German history provides the background to the fictional feature German film, “Labyrinth of Lies” (Im Labyrinth des Schweigens), which illustrates the dramatic events of that time. Following this film’s Australian premiere at last year’s Festival of Jewish Film, it is opening nationally in a limited number of cinemas, enabling a wider audience.

Hunky German actor Alexander Fehling plays Johann Radmann, an idealistic and naïve assistant prosecutor who decides to pursue the legal case against the former SS guards, spurred on by a passionate and crusading journalist Thomas Gnielka (André Szymanski), who also brings Johann into a bohemian world previously unknown to the young lawyer. Fehling is familiar to non-German audiences for his roles in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and as Claire Danes’ boyfriend in the “Homeland” TV series.

Radmann is supported by the Attorney-General Fritz Bauer (played by Kurt Voss), which is the actual name of the real German chief prosecutor at the time, and the true hero of the Frankfurt trials. Bauer’s history – mostly hinted at in this film – is worthy of its own feature, and is the story I really wanted to watch. Born in Germany to Jewish parents, after incarceration in the Heuberg concentration camp with his friend Karl Schumacher (a leader of German Social Democratic Party), Bauer fled to Denmark and then Sweden, returning to Germany after the war to resume his legal career as a prosecutor and judge.

“Labyrinth of Lies” fictionalises the stories, humanising the narrative by presenting the events through Radmann’s eyes, with his growing commitment, enthusiasm and identification with the victims of Nazi terror. He faces all of the usual barriers – people who don’t want to know (especially those in authority), and a society-wide willingness to “forget” and get on with life.

As Holocaust dramas go, “Labyrinth of Lies” receives a B+, notable because of some strong performances (Fehling, Voss and others) and its willingness to illustrate a forgotten moment of Holocaust aftermath. The film also touches on the role that Bauer played with helping to track down Eichmann and working with the Mossad. With a slow start, an often predictable plotline, and an unfortunate tendency to present Holocaust survivors as stereotyped two-dimensional damaged characters, “Labyrinth of Lies” finally proves its worth by illustrating what we all now know, but may forget: the Nazi war machine ran because of the willing participation of a large percentage of the German population, not just a select few.

Alexander Fehling (Rolle: Johann Radmann)

(Alexander Fehling as Johann Radmann in “Labyrinth of Lies”)


Film review of Phoenix

December 6, 2015

(This review of “Phoenix” appeared in the Australian Jewish News on December 3, 2015.)

Directed by Christian Petzold
Written by Christian Petzold and Harun Farocki
Starring Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld and Nina Kunzendorf

Sneaking into Australian cinemas this week with little fanfare comes one of the most important Jewish films of 2015: “Phoenix”, a noir-ish German drama that raises important questions of personal identity, collaboration and betrayal. Set in immediate post-war Berlin, German-Jewish Holocaust survivor and former nightclub singer Nelly (Nina Hoss) has been horribly disfigured. With the assistance of Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), a fellow survivor who works for the Jewish Agency, she starts to recover her life, first by taking the opportunity to reconstruct her face. Despite the horrors Nelly went through, all she wants to do is to pick up the pieces: her request to the facial surgeon is, “to look exactly like I used to”. But with such severe injuries, the result is a new face, along with the possibility of a new life, allowing Nelly to pass un-noticed among those she once knew.

Against Lene’s objections, Nelly wants to find her non-Jewish husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), who may – or may not – have turned her in to the Nazis. She’s a lost and broken soul wandering in a ruined Berlin, where she finds her way to the neon red-lit Phoenix nightclub (the double-entendre of rising from the ashes is intentional). And yes, there’s Johnny, a sleazy survivor ever “on the make”, who does not (or simply refuses to) recognise Nelly but sees enough of a similarity with his presumed dead wife to hatch a plan so that he can obtain her money.

To appreciate “Phoenix”, you must set aside the implausibility of Johnny’s incomprehension that this woman – to her great horror – is, in fact, his very alive wife. In a huge act of emotional subjugation with its horrifying psychological implications, Nelly goes along with the plan, believing that this is the way to regain her life and identity, going so far as taking Johnny’s instructions as how to act like Nelly and helping to create a “back story” for the “fake” Nelly.

Here “Phoenix” contains strong parallels to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958), with its psychological melodrama of masquerade and shifting and duplicate identities. These similarities may not be accidental, as both films are based on post-war French novels. Viewers with sharp memories may recall that this story has been told on film before, in the 1961 British film “The Return from the Ashes”, written by Julius J. Epstein (“Casablanca”). This tangled web of stories based on personal betrayal and psychological dysfunction reflects early attempts by European novelists and film-makers to grapple with the horrors of the Holocaust.

Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winner Christian Petzold directs “Phoenix” with great visual flair that has made it a universal darling of film critics. Despite this acclaim, “Phoenix” contains many elements that Jewish audiences may find uncomfortable, in the same way as last year’s Polish film, “Ida”, did. Both films show only a couple of depressive Jewish characters in bleak post-war landscapes. Unlike the triumphalism of films like “Exodus”, Zionism seems to offer these survivors little or no hope for the future.

Ultimately, “Phoenix” reveals more about the concerns of post-war Germany than it does about the Holocaust. As Ryan Gilbey wrote in The Guardian, the film’s “warped narrative functions as an allegory for the stories that people and nations recount to themselves in order to go on surviving”. The power of the Holocaust in our memory is now so great that its stories are unexpectedly at risk of being universalised to represent even the fate of Germany.

(In German with English subtitles.)

Phoenix poster


Sydney Film Festival 2015

May 29, 2015

(This article on the Sydney Film Festival appeared in the Sydney edition of The Australian Jewish News on 28 May 2015.)

Because the Sydney Film Festival considers more than 3000 films for its program each year, and holds no quotas for any country, the selection of films with Jewish themes provides us with an insight into the modern Jewish experience: what issues are on the minds of us Jews – and others in the world? As the German-Jewish cultural theorist Siegfried Kracauer wrote in 1947, the themes that people choose for films are important windows into the subconscious mind of their present-day moment.

This year’s result is a mixed one, portraying a great range of Jewish personalities across time and space. There is one Holocaust drama, an experimental drama about Russian part-Jewish film director Sergei Eisenstein, and three documentaries about prominent Jews: a British pop singer (Amy Winehouse), an American fashion designer (Iris Apfel) and an American classical pianist (Seymour Bernstein).

Undoubtedly the Jewish highlight of this year’s festival is the German film “Phoenix”, directed by Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winner Christian Petzold. Long-time Petzold collaborator Nina Hoss plays Nelly, a Holocaust survivor whose face has been horribly disfigured. Set in immediate post-war Berlin, Nelly takes the opportunity to reconstruct a new face that allows her to pass un-noticed amongst those she once knew, including her husband, who may – or who may not – have turned her in to the Nazis. The result is a noir-ish mystery of personal identity, masquerade and strong drama.

The film “Amy” brings to screen the creative life and tragic death of British-Jewish pop singer Amy Winehouse. This stunning evocation of the troubled artist’s impact, relationships, music and legacy arrives in Sydney direct from Cannes, where it premiered two weeks ago, and prior to its international cinema release in early July.

The late Albert Maysles was truly one of the great Jewish documentarians, the co-director of classics like “Gimme Shelter” and “Grey Gardens”. Although he passed away in March of this year at age 88, his final film is a biographical portrait of 93 year-old fashion designer Iris Apfel, a noted New York-born Jewish interior and fashion designer. Among other achievements, Apfel’s company, Old World Weavers, provided furnishings for every American president from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton. Maysles’ film, “Iris”, is her story, and a must-see for rag-traders.

Thinking man’s actor Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”) directs another Jewish biographical documentary, looking at the life of 87 year-old Seymour Bernstein in “Seymour: An Introduction”. Bernstein stopped his concert career abruptly at age 50 because of panic attacks, and this film touchingly charts his first performance in more than 35 years.

Fresh from this year’s Berlin Festival comes “Eisenstein in Guanajuato”, directed by Peter Greenaway (“The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover”) about time in Mexico spent by Sergei Eisenstein (“The Battleship Potemkin”) in 1930. This highly unconventional film features explicit gay sex, making it likely to be seen only at film festivals. The film industry weekly “Variety” calls “Last Tango in Paris” “tame” by comparison with Greenaway’s effort.

Two short films also contain Jewish themes: one from Israel (“Lama”, or “Why”) and a Palestinian-French co-production (“Ave Maria”) about an Israeli settler’s family whose car breaks down outside a West Bank convent.

Other films of interest include “God Told Me To”, a 1976 murder classic by Larry Cohen; “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”, a tell-all documentary that the Church of Scientology has bitterly opposed; “Love and Mercy”, a bio-pic of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, co-written by Israeli Oren Moverman; and “Theeb”, a Jordanian co-production set in 1916 Arabian desert.

There is also a special “focus on South Africa”, with five films, including the classic 1973 “blaxploitation” film, “Joe Bullet”, made with an all-African cast and banned by the Apartheid government after just two public screenings.

(Image from the film “Phoenix”, starring Nina Hoss, appears below.)

PHOENIX 2013


Film review of Woman in Gold

May 22, 2015

(This review of “Woman in Gold” appeared in the Australian Jewish News on 21 May 2015.)

Directed by Simon Curtis; Written by Alexi Kaye Campbell; Starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance and Antje Traue

With its wide historical sweep and Holocaust theme, the new dramatic film “Woman in Gold” is the first big Jewish film of 2015. This re-creation of the true story of how Viennese Jewish refuge Maria Altmann reclaimed her family’s Nazi stolen art is told from the perspective of E. Randol (“Randy”) Schoenberg, the American Jewish lawyer who took up her cause. The film ranges from early twenty-first century Los Angeles back in time to the 1920s – when Gustav Klimt painted a commission of Altmann’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer – and ahead to the 1938 Nazi takeover of Austria, finally concluding in 2006.

Directed by Simon Curtis (“My Week With Marilyn”), “Woman in Gold” stars Helen Mirren as Altmann and Ryan Reynolds as Schoenberg, who risks his professional career on the outcome of the case. As the grandson of the great Austrian-Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg, he had a strong personal interest in the fate of Austrian Jews and a long-time family connection with Altmann.

High production values add enormously to the impact of “Woman in Gold”. The classically defined nineteenth century architecture of Vienna nicely contrasts with the bland modern Los Angeles (which Randy Schoenberg describes as one of his grandfather Arnold’s “three great hates”) where Altmann and Schoenberg live.

“Woman of Gold” succeeds despite a pedestrian script (by first-timer Alexi Kaye Campbell), which frequently insists on “telling” the audience how characters feel, rather than showing us. Maria’s proclamation that, “I have to do what I can to keep the memories alive. Because people forget, especially the young. And then there’s justice”, feels stilted and predictable. There is too little mystery and little left to our imagination. We see scenes of Jews being forced to scrub sidewalks in 1938 Vienna, and of men having their beards cut off. Check and check. The problem is that we have seen these scenes before, all told in more affecting ways.

With no doubt about the film’s inevitable resolution, the main characters’ internal journeys needed to be made larger than life, in order to give us, the viewers, a reason to care about their fate. There was strong Austrian opposition to Altmann’s claims, concern that they would lose their national “Mona Lisa”.

Yet despite these faults, “Woman of Gold” works, in large part because of some exceptional performances, with Helen Mirren superbly personifying Maria. (This is Mirren’s third Jewish role, having played Ayn Rand in a 1999 telemovie and – most notably – the character of Rachel Singer in the Israeli spy drama “The Debt”.)

Ryan Reynolds bears a physical similarity to Schoenberg and performs strongly in an underwritten role that never quite illustrates the deep doubts, concerns and personal risks he most likely felt. The third key performance is by German actor Daniel Brühl, who does a great job in the role of the late Austrian investigative journalist Hubertus Czernin, who helped to uncover the false ownership claims of the Klimt paintings.

“Woman in Gold” also achieves a high level of verisimilitude in its use of language. Unlike many English language films that are partly set in Europe – including notable Holocaust dramas such as “Schindler’s List” – these on-screen actors speak German on screen (with subtitles) when their characters are meant to. This effect is important, because an underlying theme of “Woman of Gold” is not only personal and financial loss, but the cultural dissociation connected with becoming refugees from Nazi-occupied Austria – a loss that included the German language and culture that so nurtured the assimilated and successful Viennese Jews.

There are many other wonderful touches in “Woman in Gold”, including an exquisite re-creation of Adele Bloch-Bauer (played by German actress Antje Traue), Maria Altmann’s aunt. Klimt (played by Moiritz Bleibtreu) also makes an appearance, as does Jewish philanthropist Ronald Lauder (son of Estée, and played by British actor Ben Miles), who ultimately purchases the painting of Adele for his Neue Gallery in New York City. Katie Holmes plays Schoenberg’s wife Pam, Max Irons (son of Jeremy) plays Maria’s young husband Frederick, Charles Dance plays the boss of Schoenberg’s law firm and Elizabeth McGovern and Jonathan Pryce appear as American judges.

More than any recent mainstream feature film, “Woman in Gold” shows how we Jews regard ourselves as one connected family. As one of the characters proclaims, this is “a moment in history in which the past is asking the present” to make amends. Altmann and Schoenberg were driven in part by the great responsibility to honour the generations that came before them.

With the stunning Klimt painting at the heart of this story, it is tailor-made for film. Although the story has already been told in three documentaries, “The Rape of Europa” (2006), “Adele’s Wish” (2008) and especially “Stealing Klimt” (2007), this is the first dramatic feature. Last year’s “Monuments Men” with George Clooney covered similar ground, but “Woman of Gold” is far superior in tone, style and substance.

Klimt Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer

(above: Gustav Klimt’s painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer)


German Film Festival in Australia 2015

May 7, 2015

(This article on the Goethe Institute’s “Audi Festival of German Films” first appeared in a shorter version in the “Australian Jewish News” on 30 April 2015.)

There is no doubt that Germany has gone to great lengths to confront its Nazi past, and nowhere is that more evident than in the activities of the Goethe Institute, the official German international cultural organisation. The biggest event run by the Goethe Institute here in Australia is the annual Festival of German Films.

This year, the festival features three films of significant Jewish interest: a documentary about German film during the Weimar period, a documentary about a famous house in Czechoslovakia and a German-Israeli drama.

Certainly the true Jewish highlight of this year’s Festival is the documentary “From Caligari to Hitler – German cinema in the age of the masses”, directed by journalist Ruediger Suchsland. It is based on the book “From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film”, a 1947 book by Siegfried Kracauer that examined the history of German film during from 1895 to 1933.

Kracauer was a notable German Jewish film critic, journalist and philosopher who fled Germany in 1933, eventually settling in New York City, where the Museum of Modern Art funded the book’s writing. Close friends with noted Jewish philosophers Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch and Theodor Adorno (part-Jewish), Kracauer’s book is considered a classic of film historiography, interweaving social and political theory and positing that the rise of Nazism was foreshadowed in the films of the 1920s.

The documentary includes great clips from “The Golem” (perhaps the most famous of all German-Jewish films), “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, “M”, “Metropolis”, “Nosferatu”, “The Blue Angel” and other classics of the time. It also features interviews with director Volker Schlondorff, historians Thomas Elsaesser and Erik Weitz and director Fatih Akin, who is of Turkish background. (Included in the Festival is Akin’s film “The Cut”, set in about Turkish persecution of Armenians in 1915 Turkey.)

Other than Kracauer’s thesis, the Jewish significance of this documentary is that until the rise of the Nazis, German film was, quite simply, the best in Europe, an excellence powered by Jewish directors, writers, producers, actors and cinematographers. At the end of the “From Caligari to Hitler” film, the credits list a number of German film personalities of the period who left Germany, primarily fleeing the Nazis in 1933. This list includes well-known names such as Ernest Lubitsch, Max Ophuls, Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Peter Lorre, Robert and Curt Siodmak and Josef von Sternberg, but also a number of lesser known figures like cinematographers Karl Freund and Eugen Schüfftan, critic Lotte Eisner, directors Richard Oswald and Edgar Ulmer, actors Dita Parlo and Elisabeth Bergner, writer Carl Mayer, writer-directors Paul Czinner (husband of Bergner) and Richard Oswald, and composer Werner Richard Heymann. (Even Fritz Lang’s mother was born Jewish.) Many of these people were featured in the 2008 PBS documentary “Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood”.

Perhaps the most famous of the between-the-wars German films was the 1920 silent horror film “The Cabinet of Dr Caligari”, produced by Erich Pommer (Jewish), who also produced “The Blue Angel”, which co-starred Jewish actor Kurt Gerron, playing opposite Marlene Dietrich.  As one of the richest periods of European-Jewish cultural achievement, this period is truly worth celebrating. My critique of Suchland’s documentary is that, if anything, he follows Kracauer’s psycho-social thesis too closely, and does not pay sufficient attention to other factors influencing films at that time, and never really asks the question what did it mean that so many of the key players were Jewish. The English language subtitled narration is also excessively (and sometimes hilariously) dense, but I suspect that’s the way that German film theorists may actually talk.

Another Festival documentary, “Haus Tugendhat”, tells the story of a Mies Van Der Rohe-designed house in the city of Brno, Czech Republic. Originally built in 1929 for the Tugendhats, a Jewish family, this film examines both the history of the house – a classic modern architectural design – and its original owners.

The dramatic feature “Anywhere Else”, directed by Israeli-born Esther Amrami, tells what could be a partly autobiographical story of Noa, an Israeli woman who is graduating a university in Berlin with a masters thesis on untranslatable words, possibly a good metaphor for her split life. Noa impulsively returns to Israel on a visit, and her dilemmas all come to a head on Yom Hazikaron, in both comic and dramatic ways. It’s a slight film, but notable in how it deals with the Israeli expatriate experience.

******

The “Audi Festival of German Films” runs in Australia from 13 May through 31 May 2015 in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Byron Bay. Go to the Festival website for details.

 

From Caligari to Hitler_(c)Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin(still from “From Caligari to Hitler”)

HERO_Haus_Tugendhat_17© Goethe Institut copy(“Huis Tugendhat”)


Festival of German Films in Australia, April 2013

April 25, 2013

(This article originally appeared in a slightly different format in the Australian Jewish News on 25 April 2013.)

German films about Jews and Judaism carry a heavy weight of history.  While the many hundreds of American films that feature Jewish characters and themes focus mostly on upper-middle class angst (come on, Woody Allen lovers, admit it), German films deal with big issues.  The lingering impacts of Nazi persecution along with the guilt of later generations and the questions of communal responsibility for Nazi atrocities: these issues continue to engage German film-makers seven decades after the Holocaust.  For every “Go For Zucker” comedy, there are more than fifty Holocaust dramas.

The Goethe Institute’s annual “Festival of German Films” takes its pick of the best recent German films.  And this year the dominant Jewish theme is how German Jews and German Christians make life-long connections.

“My German Friend” is undoubtedly the highlight Jewish film of the festival. Writer/director Jeanine Meerapfel’s parents were German-Jewish refugees living in Argentina when she was born in 1943.  At age 21, she went to Germany to study film, and all of her films reflect the dislocation that she and her family have felt.  “My German Friend” is clearly a semi-autobiographical story – Meeraapfel’s own.  A young Sulamit Löwenstein (Celeste Cid) becomes friends with a neighbouring boy, Friedrich (Max Riemelt), who in turn is the son of a former senior SS officer.

The film charts the course of their relationship over twenty years through two countries and numerous political upheavals. Produced in Spanish and German, it arrives with five recent Argentinean film award nominations.  “My German Friend” has some flaws:  shot on a limited budget, the young actors who play the main characters in early scenes are not strong and some of the director’s pacing is slow.  The necessity to include such a long span of years burdens the film with a great deal of narrative and incident.  But something happens mid-way through “My German Friend”:  as Sulamit and Friedrich grow older and mature, their characters’ responses to the historical events start to live, giving a deep insight into the German-Jewish South American émigré experience that I cannot recall shown so well on film.  A scene towards the end – when Sulamit visits Friedrich in remote prison – is an understated but powerful experience.

Meerapfel has written articulately about her childhood. German Jews and the former Nazis “emigrated to Argentina within a few years of each other [and] came from the same German cultural circles …. It is an irony of history that the German Jews and the German Nazis in Argentina favoured similar places to live, had similar tastes in architecture, and chose similar places to holiday.”

The Australian-German documentary co-production “German Sons” tells a similar story, although without the same level of danger for its characters.  Philippe Mora was born in Paris and emigrated to Australia with his artistic parents (Leipzig-born Georges who fled the Nazis in 1930, and Lithuanian Mirka, who barely escaped deportation to Auschwitz) while very young.  He started making films at an early age, with his second film (“Swastika”, 1973) one of the earliest films to examine the popularity of Hitler.  After many years of successful film-making in Australia and the USA, Mora met Harald Grosskopf, the German son of a Nazi party official, and the two of them decided to make a documentary together, exploring and comparing their family histories and the legacy of the Nazi period.  The result is “German Sons”, a very personal account that will hold special interest for the many fans of the Mora family, who have made such a profound contribution to Australian art, film, acting and restaurants.

Also playing in this year’s Festival are two other films of special interest.  “Cinema Jenin” is a documentary about how German film-maker Marcus Vetter helped to restore and re-open a cinema in Jenin, on the West Bank, working closely with Israeli actor and political activist Juliano Mer-Khamis (who was later assassinated).  “Hotel Lux” is a delightful but biting political satire set in Russia and Germany in the 1930s; it has previously screened in Sydney and Melbourne and this year travels to Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Byron Bay and Newcastle.  The “Audi Festival of German Films” starts in Sydney on 30 April, Melbourne on 1 May, followed by the other locations.