Kohlhasse preps for Golden moment

Screenwriter-director receiving honorary Golden Bear

BERLIN -- "Under communism we had censorship. Under capitalism, we've got sponsorship. I don't know which is worse."

More than 50 years in the business and Wolfgang Kohlhaase still knows how to deliver the lines. The 78-year-old screenwriter and director, who will receive an honorary Golden Bear in Berlin on Wednesday, is one of the few filmmakers who grew up in the East German DEFA studio system to have successfully made the transition after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The creator of such classic East German cinema as "Berlin -- Schoenhauser Corner" (1957) and "Solo Sunny" (1980), Kohlhaase has revived his career through working with younger German directors, particularly Andreas Dresen, with whom he has collaborated on two films: "Summer in Berlin" (2005) and "Whisky with Vodka" (2009). He is virtually alone among German screenwriters in being as famous as the directors who adapt his work.

More Berlin coverage  

Whether working East or West of the Wall, Kohlhaase has stayed true to his core themes: the individual's fight against injustice. It was there in "Solo Sunny," in which an East Berlin lounge singer tries to live an emancipated life within the constricting socialist state. And it is there in "Summer in Berlin," with two woman fighting to find work and happiness in a coldly capitalist West.

In honor of Kohlhaase, the Berlinale is screening a retrospective of his work. A highlight is "The Turning Point," a drama about a German soldier held in a Polish POW camp after WWII. Set to premiere in Berlin in 1983, it was pulled after a complaint by the Polish government. Now, finally, Berlin audiences can see the movie, which features the debut performance of Sylvester Groth, better known to international audience as Joseph Goebbels in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds."