From Bombay to Berlin: Indian film festival aims to connect cultures

The IndoGerman Film Week, which runs through Tuesday, aims to put India's diverse cultures in the spotlight in Berlin and Germany.

From Bombay to Berlin: Indian film festival aims to connect cultures
The festival is taking place at Berlin's historic Babylon theatre. Photo: DPA

The team behind the event, held at the historic Babylon theatre, were eager to continue plans despite most major film festivals around the world being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It seems like these restrictions are going to be our new normal, so do we keep on going and adapt to them, or do we give up?” said Mathali Rao Vadapalli, Director of The Tagore Centre for Indian culture in Berlin. 

READ ALSO: The five most common challenges Indians face in Germany

“We feel like we have to keep things moving. Culture binds people, it’s one link we shouldn’t give up.”

Those attending the premiere on Thursday evening occupied every second seat and wore compulsory masks during the screening and the premiere’s introduction.

From Bombay to Berlin

Whether hosting the sprawling Indian Fest Frankfurt, or launching the first Hindi radio station in 2018, the Indian community in Germany continues to grow and make itself known.

As a whole, there are more than 100,000 Indians living in Germany, and 175,000 of Indian origin. Mostly they call Munich, Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt home, but can also be found in the smallest of villages throughout Germany.

The festival hopes to create and maintain relationships between Indian and German culture as well as well as between the two film industries.

A woman flips through the official festival programme. Photo courtesy of organisers. 

“Berlinale has become really popular within India, it’s the first film festival that happens at the beginning of the year,” said Vadapalli.

“Last year we had a very big Bollywood presence at the films. We have also had a number of Indo-German co-productions.”

With a programme of more than 20 films, the IndoGerman festival portrays a diverse range of cinema from across India.

The festival's films follow the general theme of men and women in situations of upheaval and change, fitting during the coronavirus period.

READ ALSO: When will Indians be able to travel to Germany again?

Potential highlights include the award-winning Keralan-based director Sajin Baabu’s ‘Briyaani – Falours of Flesh’, the story of a married Muslim woman whose brothers were radicalised to join the Islamic State.

For the first time in its history, the festival will also show films for a younger audience in combinations with the children and youth film festival SIFFCY.

The programme is complemented by documentaries like Breaking Barriers: The Casteless Collection, in which German director Maja Meiners highlights the successful journey of a protest band from Chennai who fight for human rights amid the caste system.

Weekly Live Talks, designed to complement the festivals programme, will be broadcast live on Zoom and Facebook.You can see the full festival programme here, and buy tickets here.

The programme stretches from September 24th through 30th.

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Berlinale to host outdoor festival for film fans in June

Organisers of the Berlin film festival said Monday that pandemic conditions in the German capital had improved enough for them to hold a planned outdoor edition in June.

Berlinale to host outdoor festival for film fans in June
An empty area outside the Berlinale Palast in March 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

The coronavirus outbreak forced the Berlinale, one of Europe’s top cinema showcases, to push back its usual February event and split it into two parts.

It held an all-online edition for critics and industry buyers in March and will now press on with an exclusively outdoor festival for the general public June 9th-20th.

“The Berlinale is pleased to be able to give audiences the enjoyment of an open-air cinema experience at 16 venues in total at the Summer Special,” it said in a statement.

It said Berlin’s falling infection rate “as well as positive signals by government offices” had led to the decision.

“Audiences will be getting a very special, collective festival experience – something we’ve all been missing for such a long time,” organisers said.

The June edition “is geared towards re-igniting the desire to go to the cinema, and to contributing to the revival of cultural activities with an audience”.

READ ALSO: Germany holds virtual Berlinale film fest

The programme will be made up primarily of movies shown online at the March edition, including the winners of its Golden and Silver Bear prizes, which will be awarded at a gala ceremony on June 13th.

Existing open-air cinemas throughout the city as well as a specially created site on Berlin’s historic Museum Island will serve as venues and comply with pandemic hygiene rules.

Ticket sales will begin on May 27th.

The global coronavirus outbreak has dealt a body blow to the cinema industry and created major complications for film distribution and production for over a year.

Cannes, the world’s top film festival, usually held in May, has been postponed to July 6-17 this year due to the pandemic and was cancelled outright last year.

The Berlinale, now in its 71st year, awarded its Golden Bear top prize in March to the biting social satire “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” by Romania’s Radu Jude.

The city of Berlin on Monday reported a seven-day coronavirus incidence just over the 100-mark, meaning cinemas, restaurants and other facilities remain closed.

However, officials are hopeful that an accelerating vaccination campaign and tightened lockdown measures will bring infections down soon, allowing for an at least partial reopening.