VIFF 2023

Lonely Oaks

Lonely Oaks, © Fabiana Fragale, Kilian Kuhlendahl, Jens Mühlhoff


It’s that time again! The 42nd Vancouver International Film Festival kicked off on September 28 and runs until October 8. And they have many captivating and award-winning German films in their program!

Anselm. Das rauschen der zeit

Director: Wim Wenders
In German and English with English subtitles
In this stunning documentary, acclaimed director Wim Wenders presents the work of contemporary German artist Anselm Kiefer, who for decades has rattled European history and shown a mirror to post Second World War complacency and forgetfulness. Anselm navigates complexities of the artist’s long career, and features works including photographs, monumental installations, large-scale paintings, and ragged, blackened oversized books.

The camera follows Kiefer as he bikes through his hangar of an art studio, sets huge canvases on fire, and sits amongst headless mannequins dressed in white Victorian gowns. As an artist, Kiefer interrogates narratives and addresses his country’s Nazi past and fascism’s philosophical underpinnings, and confronts the aftermath of war on the landscape. Gorgeous cinematography captures the inner and outer landscape of the artist, while past and present narratives blur the boundaries between cinema and visual art. An absorbing, tremendously cinematic experience.
Presented in 3D

Measures of Men. Der vermessene Mensch

Director: Lars Kraume
In German and Otjiherero with English subtitles
Lars Kraume reaches into Germany’s past in this compelling historical drama. Long before Naziism, racist pseudoscience held sway in the nation: Kraume uses the fictional story of Alexander Hoffmann (Leonard Scheicher) to shine a light on German bigotry against Africans, and the way it served to legitimize mass slaughter.

The film begins in Berlin, near the turn of the century; Hoffmann is an idealistic young ethnologist who questions the racism of his discipline. When members of the Herero and Nama peoples are brought to his city for study, Hoffmann bonds with Kezia (Girley Charlene Jazama), a proud woman whose intelligence puts the lie to the racist orthodoxies of the time. Soon, Hoffmann will have his courage tested when he travels to Africa and is witness to what has been called the 20th century’s first genocide: the German violence against the Herero and Nama. Throughout the film, Kraume’s focus remains unwavering, and his portrayal of racial oppression is piercing and all too convincing.

Lonely Oaks. Vergiss Meyn Nicht

In English and German with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In 2018, police unlawfully evicted treehouse-dwelling environmental activists protesting deforestation in Hambach Forest. Embedded among the activists was film student and journalist Steffen Meyn, who had been documenting the resistance movement for two years. He tragically fell to his death during the police raid. Three of his friends and fellow students compiled the footage he shot over two years to create a documentary chronicling the overlap of the personal and political.

Lonely Oaks blends immersive, observational documentary at its finest (Meyn’s footage was filmed with a head-mounted 360° camera), with a meta-commentary of interviews with activists from Hambach Forest. It explores a wide range of perspectives, often contradictory, as it refuses to fall into reductive binaries or sloganeering, instead offering a remarkably nuanced approach to knotty, complex political issues, questioning and probing the effectiveness and necessity of direct activism, anarchism, democracy, violence, ultimately asking whether a cause is ever worth dying for. A powerful, provocative documentary that forces you to reckon with your own personal and political commitments.

The Teachers' Lounge. Lehrerzimmer

In German with English subtitles
One of the buzziest titles at Berlin this year, İlker Çatak’s gripping high school drama shows an idealistic young math teacher (the extraordinary Leonie Benesch) seeking to rectify what she reads as a miscarriage of justice, only to make matters unfathomably worse. New to her school, Ms Nowak is reluctantly drawn into the interrogation of two grade 6 class representatives after a series of thefts. They cast suspicion on a Turkish classmate, Ali, despite his proclamation of innocence even after a search turns up a surprisingly fat wallet. Convinced racism is at play, the teacher decides to set up a sting operation to uncover the true culprit. An ethics master class, the film vividly returns us to the everyday anguish of normal school life, when even seemingly the most straightforward problem can open up a minefield of mistrust and humiliation.

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