Staff Picks 2015

In the exciting lead up to the announcement of Down Under Berlin’s 2016 program, we thought it would be a nice idea to have a look back at the highlights from last year’s festival.

We invited some of DUB staff to talk about the films that were the most well received, and why they made such an impression on our audiences. Did you see one, or all, of these beauties? Which one was your favourite? Revisiting these films gets us even more excited about the line-up of the 2016 program, and we can’t wait to share it with you very soon. Watch this space!

You are never too old for a dance called life!

HIP HOP-ERATION (by Bryn Evans – New Zealand)

I remember when I first saw the rough cut of the documentary Hip Hop-Eration at a test screening of the NZ Film Commission in Wellington (in) 2014. The audience was a mix of young and old people sitting next to each other waiting for the 70 plus ladies from Waiheke Island to take them on their journey, and they did. What a trip! You laugh, cry and instantly fall in love with Kara, Maynie, Terri and their coach Billie Jordan on their way to the World Hip Hop Championship in Las Vegas.

Director Bryn Evans creates a unique bond with his characters who thank him with a naturalness in front of the camera revealing NZ history and personal life stories. It’s Evans’ first feature-length theatrical documentary and it is not hard to predict that he will come up with more intense point of view documentaries made for the big screen. But back to our beloved old ladies: Young at heart and open minded, they proove that age is just a number. That, I believe is one of the reasons this film was and still is a big festival hit. Everyone has a family and everyone has their s own struggle with age and life.

The film premiered at Europe’s largest documentary festival IDFA in Amsterdam in 2014, got worldwide cinema releases and had a sold-out closing night screening at Down Under Berlin in 2015. It’s an ode to life and a wonderful reminder what really matters. When was the last time that you called your granny?

– Diana Kluge

Science versus culture – why should there be only one winner?

MESSAGE FROM MUNGO (by Andrew Pike & Ann McGrath – Australia)

Message from Mungo tells a story from two different perspectives, one based on facts, the other on tradition. But that doesn’t mean the traditions aren’t facts too. Mungo Lady was an amazing discovery for archaeologists, a person who had lived 40 000 years ago in Australia.

For the local indigenous people from the Lake Mungo area, it was the recognition that Aboriginal Australians have inhabited this country pretty much forever. 

The scientists, however, wanted to find out more about the human remains they had discovered, so they took Mungo Lady back to their labs. This academic decision didn’t involve any consultation with the local indigenous community, Mungo Lady was, for science, an artefact to be studied. For the descendants of Mungo Lady, she is a direct connection to the traditions and history of Aboriginal culture in this area, she is like a grandmother, an aunt, a part of the past and the present.

Filmmaker Andrew Pike and historian Ann McGrath give both sides the chance to tell their story, giving the audience a complete picture of what Mungo Lady means as a scientific discovery as well as her cultural connection to this place and the people of Lake Mungo. The struggle of ownership and respect for the remains of this person is solved in a wonderful moment of clarity – why not take Mungo Lady back? The joy and relief is palpable, the descendants of Mungo Lady have brought her home to rest: she is at peace.

– Frances Hill

An emotional and wonderful piece of work

ONCE MY MOTHER (by Sophia Turkiewic – Australia)

When I saw Sophia Turkiewicz’s Once My Mother for the first time, I was instantly captured by her voice narrating the story about the difficult relationship with her mother Helen, who had abandoned Sophia in an orphanage when she was a child. Now an adult, Sophia seeks out to discover the truth about her mother’s past that led Helen from her Polish homeland to a Siberian Gulag, the Far East, Africa and finally to Australia. It is an unbelievable journey of suffering, survival and betrayal, and a part of 20th century‘s history that is probably unknown to most Germans. Even more affecting than this odyssey is Sophia’s journey to forgive her already demented mother for her past betrayal and to see both women approaching each other again. 

After watching the entire film, I knew it had to be in the festival, to give people over here the opportunity to watch this wonderful work.

It was a very emotional screening with a captivated audience and a very interesting Q&A with Rod Freedman, the producer of the film, who had come to our festival. The huge impression the film had made on the audience was underlined by winning the Down Under Berlin Audience Award – a well-deserved honour. For me, it was both an honour and a pleasure to meet Rod and his wife Lesley Seebold at DUB 2015. In the name of Down Under Berlin, we hope that Once My Mother will find its way to an even wider audience here in Europe and all around the world.

– Sabrina Wittmann

A taxidermist turns out to be the perfect date

STUFFED (by Warwick Young – Australia)

Voted best short film in 2015 at Down Under Berlin, Stuffed is a sweet tale of a taxidermist and his beloved mum. Warwick Young captures the small town feeling, and the awkwardness between the main characters ,Peter and Ellen, perfectly. Despite his weird hobby of stuffing animals, Peter seems like a nice enough guy, so when Ellen asks him out you want him to go for it. Leaving mum at home alone, even just for one night, is probably the hardest thing he’s ever done. Stuffed proves that even a grown man who stuffs dead animals for fun, and still lives with his mother, can be the perfect date. You can watch Stuffed at Down Under Berlin’s short film segment at Lange Nacht der Film Festivals on Sat Aug 20. We’ll be screening 5 short films from the 2015 Down Under Berlin line up. Come join us!

– Frances Hill

Sign up to the Down Under Berlin newsletter to receive all the info you’ll need on the 2016 festival, like the DUB Facebook page to see the exciting week in action, and we’ll see you at the movies! Thank you – Your DUB team.

Sabrina Wittman – Co-Director, Film Aquisition. Sabrina Wittmann works as a project manager at a local media institution in Potsdam. Her work experiences include planning, organizing, and conducting conferences, festivals and art exhibitions.

Frances Hill – Co-Director, Festival Founder of Down Under Berlin, Frances grew up in Sydney and moved to Berlin in 2006. Her experience of working at a cinema in Berlin inspired her to start her own film festival, and in 2011, Down Under Berlin was born.

Diana Kluge – New Zealand Program Advisor for Down Under Berlin