German Filmmakers on Germany.

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Published April 21, 2009

 

Organized by Tom Tykwer, Deutschland ’09: 13 Short Films About the State of the Nation puts works by some of Germany’s most enthusiastic young (or young-ish) filmmakers side by side. The portrait that emerges is of a country uneasy about its economy and its history, a bit starved for love, and often on the brink of insanity. (Uncowed by the Tribeca Film Festival blitzkrieg, it screens on April 22 and April 30 as part of MoMA’s “Kino! At Thirty: New Cinema from Germany” film series.)

Two of the strongest shorts are pulled from the headlines: Hans Weingarten’s (best known for The Edukators) short takes the harrowing case of a professor pre-emptively arrested by German anti-terror authorities; Hans Steinbichler’s (Winter Journey) contribution is a darkly comic tale about an industrialist outraged by changes to the layout of his favorite newspaper. Conservatives really did protest when the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung abandoned the Fraktur Gothic typeface, which Steinbichler’s anti-hero calls “the most brutal attack possible on German culture!” before executing the editorial staff.

Fatih Akin’s (Head-On) offering, in which a journalist interviews a former Guantanamo detainee, is typically assured, albeit more a scene than a short film. And Tykwer shows us the world through the eyes of a German fashion executive, a whiplash-inducing tour of identical hotels, storefronts, and bottled-water brands. It’s a perfect subject for the 43-year-old director, who broke out in 1998 with Run Lola Run and has since gone global with projects like Perfume and The International. “Making a film about Germany [that] doesn’t actually take place there” makes perfect sense, he said, in a world in which “there’s always an aesthetic environment at hand that makes you feel as if you didn’t really travel far.” Deutschland ’09‘s thumbnails of Germany do the opposite.