'Down Under Berlin' Showcases New Australian Cinema

Sep 25, 2013

A little competition was part of the film festival "Down Under Berlin” in Kreuzberg.

Visitors at the festival used Australian biscuits like straws to drink coffee and tried to eat them as fast as possible before the biscuits fell apart. This contest partly describes the intimate atmosphere of the cinematic event at Moviemento.

"There is some kind of warmth I guess coming from Aussies and Kiwis because we get so much sun," Sydney native and festival director, Frances Hill, says.

"We can't keep it for ourselves. We have to bring it out into the world."

Hill moved to Berlin in 2006.

“Berlin seems to be very popular at the moment for Aussies and for New Zealanders, but it’s popular for anyone creative. Like my idea to make a film festival to show cinematic art from the other side of the world. It’s the right place. People want that,” says Hill.

Hill’s first apartment in Berlin was above Moviemento, Germany’s oldest cinema. Eventually, she started working there, doing everything from selling popcorn to projectionist.

Already in its third year, “Down Under Berlin,” collaborates with different film schools in Australia to present a rich selection of documentaries, experimental, short and feature films.

Hill says a re-occurring theme in contemporary Australian cinema is violence.

"I feel a bit funny to talk about it. Maybe you can't avoid it. The country was populated by Westerners, Europeans. At the beginning, they said, ‘There were some people living in the bush, and we are not really sure what to do with them.’ And it was a conflict from the beginning," says Hill.

But it’s not only human violence.

"Violence in nature, I think, are really fascinating because it's a wonderful huge thing out there, the Australian bush, and desert, rainforests and ocean," says Hill.

There was also love on the big screen. This year’s spotlight on New Zealand showcased Love Story, a film by Florian Habicht, who was born in Berlin and grew up in New Zealand.

Florian Habicht and Russian actress Masha Yakovenko play the lead roles in his New York-based love story, which blurs the lines between fiction and documentary.

"Basically, I ask people with my camera for love advice and for ideas for what should happen next, and then Masha and I act it out. So it's the people of the streets of New York dictating our love story," says Florian Habicht.

The 38-year-old filmmaker believes it's easier to talk to strangers than write a script. The New Yorkers he interviewed were more than happy to share their opinion on camera and sign a release form. He also included his dad via Skype from New Zealand.

Habicht said his dad was "offering Blockbuster movie advice and love advice and how to make the movie a commercial success advice."

Love Story has been shown at 20 festivals worldwide and has led to Habicht’s next project; one of his favorite bands discovered his movie at the London film festival, and they've decided to start working together.

“Pulp played their last U.K. concert in Sheffield last December, and we are making a film that is set over the day of the concert. It sort of spends a day with the band and the locals of Sheffield, celebrating the common people."