Berlin: 'Canoa,' 'Black Gravel,' 'Avanti Popolo' in Berlinale Classics

'Black Gravel'
Deutsche Kinemathek, Gabriele du Vinage

Digitally restored versions of the Mexican, German and Israeli dramas will screen in Berlin's sidebar dedicated to cinema classics and rediscovered films.

The Berlin Film Festival on Monday announced the first three features that will screen in its 2017 Berlinale Classics lineup, a sidebar dedicated to classics and newly discovered films.

A digitally restored version of Mexican director Felipe Cazals' Canoa, which won a Silver Bear at the 1976 Berlin festival, will get a special screening at the Berlinale Classics, alongside the drama Avanti Popolo (1986), the debut feature from Israeli director Rafi Bukai, and Black Gravel (1961), a German B-movie from helmer Helmut Kautner.

The Criterion Collection, with the participation of the Mexican Film Institute, restored Canoa in honor of its 40th anniversary. The film, based on true events, follows a group of young university employees who, while in the remote village of San Miguel Canoa for a weekend outing, are suspected of being communist students and set upon by the local villagers. Mexico is the partner country of Berlin's European Film Market, and the screening of Canoa will be part of a broader focus on Mexican cinema at the upcoming Berlin fest.

Avanti Popolo is set just after the Six-Day War waged by Egypt, Jordan and Syria against Israel in 1967. The film follows two Egyptian soldiers wandering through the Sinai desert and plays with the stereotypical images of Israelis and Arabs. It has a place in Israeli cinematic history as it was the first Israeli film in which Arab protagonists were portrayed by Arab actors. The Jerusalem Cinematheque – Israel Film Archive carried out the digital restoration.

Black Gravel is a warts-and-all portrayal of Germany after WWII. The plot follows a man looking to strike it rich by securing the contract to supply the gravel for the construction of a U.S. air force base near a small German town. Kautner re-edited the movie following criticism that its depiction of the society was too bleak (there also were accusations of anti-Semitism) but the original version survived in the archives of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Foundation, which has now restored it.

The full Berlinale Classics program will be announced in January. The Berlin Film Festival is set to run Feb. 9-19.