Berlin Film Festival: Day 6 - Switching between worlds

Posted 7 March 2018

Maki’la

Today I tried to watch films that are aimed at younger audiences/stories about young people. I began the day with a sweet 60 minuter called ‘Cléo & Paul’, that takes to the streets of Paris through the eyes of two young siblings who become separated from their nanny – and then each other – during a game of hide-and-seek at a crowded park. I really enjoyed this one. We spend a lot of the time with the camera at Cléo and Paul’s height as they are engrossed in their game, surrounded but ignored by an older generation of teens who are lost in another game (there are hundreds of them glued to their phones trying to chase Pokemon), and adults who are just…lost. When the siblings lose one another, we follow Cléo as she befriends a young female stranger who reluctantly decides to help the little girl find her home. Despite the short runtime, there’s enough slow-burning character development to make this a really intriguing and poetic observation of relationships, switching between the child and adult worlds – and the world they share.

Next up was a Congolese debut, 'Maki'la', from young director Machérie Ekwa Bahango, which told the story of young women and men on the streets of Kinshasa. Here we had a cast of incredibly strong female characters who were fighting every day to survive the brutal realities of street life – drugs, murder, prostitution and rape - as the lead Maki takes in a newcomer to the streets who’s run away to escape an abusive home. A Q&A with the 24-year-old director followed, which was revealing and emotional. Bahango had learned how to make films from the internet while studying Law, getting involved with any film projects she could (most recently, 2017s ‘Felicité’) and then she worked closely with street children to make a film about them, for them, that would reflect their lives. The reality of their situation was devastatingly hammered home when Bahango spoke of a group of children they were working with one day who disappeared the next. ‘Maki’la’ is an impressive debut, that will hopefully inspire more Congolese women to get behind the camera.

With no time for a breather I jumped straight into a Brazilian film called ‘Unicórnio’ that didn’t half drive my patience. I could feel the woman beside me itching to leave, looking longingly at the many others who’d also given up. The themes I was clutching at to give me a reason to stay (motherhood, family, coming-of-age sexuality) were placed in a world so far removed that you had to really hang on in there and work hard, with scene after scene of really long, slow-moving takes where nothing happens. The images had a beautiful fairy tale feel and everything about it should have appealed to me but clocking in at just over 2 hours I just did not get on with it at all.

Deciding to finish for the day after watching only 4 films, I went for ‘Adam’, from German director Maria Solrun, about a teenager with a hearing impairment whose mother has drank herself close to death. As far as I’m aware, the lead actor doesn’t actually have a hearing impairment, so the use of this in the plot was a bit iffy and mainly seemed to serve as a way of reinforcing his sense of alienation. The various relationships in the film didn’t click with me and events happened with little explanation, which made it a frustrating watch that I struggled to connect to. Despite being a fairly happy ending it provided little pay-off for the amount of distressing moments along the way.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to be watching ‘Unsane’ and I really don’t know how I feel about this…

Linnea Pettersson

Linnea Pettersson

Programming Assistant Read more posts by Linnea Pettersson

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