Cinema unifies in 'Germany 09'

13 directors reflect on the state of the nation

More Berlinale coverage

BERLIN -- Efficiency is thought to be one of the core German values, so perhaps it was no surprise that the news conference to omnibus film "Germany 09" was the most efficient of this year's Berlinale.

Where else could journalists cover the width and breath of current Germany cinema, with 13 of the country's top directors, and still be out in time for lunch?

The director's bakers dozen, sitting alphabetically from Fatih Akin and Wolfgang Becker far left to Tom Tykwer and Hans Weingartner on the right, explored their short film compendium, which ranges in style from documentary to drama to experimental film and is alternatively sad, funny and polemic.

The project, produced by Tykwer, Verena Rahmig and Dirk Wilutzky, was originally conceived as a modern-day take on "Germany in Autumn," from 1978 in which German filmmakers including Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlondorff and Alexander Kluge took stock of the current state of their country.

"Germany in Autumn" had a single theme -- homegrown terrorism and the state's reaction to it. But the topics of the films in "Germany 09" range from state surveillance, economic disparity and a disintegrating health care system to outrage at a famous German newspaper changing its layout.

"I don't think there was any 'we' in this project, there were just a lot of 'I's," said Hans Steinbichler, explaining the film's lack of a single, over-arching story.

But many did see a link in that many of the short films were highly political.

Akin said his segment, which documents an online interview with Murat Kurnaz, who was falsely imprisoned in Guantanamo, was made so that "people don't forget" now that the news cycle has moved on. Weingartner, whose short film explores issues of state surveillance, compared Germany to a frog slowly cooking in hot water -- it wasn't aware of the danger it was in.

"We made this film to spark discussion about the current state of our country," producer Verena Rahmig said.

Judging by the reaction of the mainly German journalists at Friday's screening, that discussion has only just begun. "Germany 09" hits theaters here March 26.
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