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Prost! This year’s programme is a feast of German culture, politics and social satire fit for a Kaiser

Imagine Christoph Waltz (à la Django Unchained) being given his own film festival – and you’ll get a sense of the enthusiasm, irreverence and occasional maniacal laugh with which Dr Arpad Sölter talks about the Audi Festival of German Films. The self-described ‘philosopher’ came to film late, but he’s making up for lost time by programming the gamut of German cinema, from retrospectives, arthouse and documentary films to crowd-pleasers (“I call them kraut-pleasers,” he chuckles) and family-friendly fare.

In this year’s festival line-up, box office-busting cross-cultural comedy Turkish For Beginners jostles up against rarefied sci-fi psychodrama The Wall, and critically acclaimed thrillers like Two Lives and the Dreileben Trilogy rub elbows with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.

Sölter fell into film almost by accident. “When I was young I was totally heading for the wild West – I liked Apocalypse Now, I liked Stanley Kubrick; those kinds of movies impressed me very much. Only when I got older I discovered the big names of German cinema in the 1970s, like Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta…

“This year’s festival is really about the next generation of filmmakers,” he says, pointing to new works by Doris Dörrie (whose Cherry Blossoms penetrated international arthouse cinema in 2009) and Georg Maas, whose Two Lives opens the festival, accompanied retrospective screenings of two of his films.

Sölter started working for the Goethe Institute (the Germany government’s body for cultural exchange) over two decades ago, and landed in the Toronto office in 2002 – slap bang in the middle of a banner decade for German cinema, with international hits like Downfall, Goodbye Lenin!, The Lives Of Others and Head On. With offices across the street from Toronto International Film Festival’s gala venue, suddenly Sölter found himself at the epicentre of a thriving film culture.

“I had my own movie theatre at the Goethe Institute and a whole gallery and a large library – Dolby Surround – and I could run my own cinema programme all year long. And so we did – we had all kinds of stuff, experimental stuff, feature films, documentaries… Wild things went on. It was divine.”

Kino Cinemas, 45 Collins St, Melbourne. Palace Cinema Como, Cnr Toorak Rd & Chapel St, South Yarra. May 1-15.

Eins, Zwei, Drei… Time Out’s top five picks of the festival

This Ain’t California

An award-winning documentary-fiction hybrid about the hidden skateboarding culture of what was formerly East Germany.

Camp 14: Total Control Zone

This timely documentary looks at North Korean re-education camps through the experience of a man who was born to two political prisoners and raised on the inside.

Two Lives

Swedish screen icon Liv Ullmann stars in this thriller inspired by children of the Nazi ‘Lebensborn’ programme who were subsequently enlisted by the German Democratic Republic as spies.

Dreileben Trilogy

In this cult TV series, three of Germany’s most talented writer-directors come together to tell three different tales connected by one incident.


Doris Dörrie delivers a bracing cocktail of sex, social politics and sadness in this tale of an illegal immigrant selling her body on the streets of Berlin.


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By Dee Jefferson   |  

Festival of German Films 2013 video

Festival of German Films 2013 details

Around Melbourne, Melbourne 3000

Price $12.00 to $19.50

Date 01 May 2013-15 May 2013

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