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Movie Titles

Absolute Giganten, 2001
Bella Marta (Mostly Martha), 2001
Kirschblüten - Hanami  (Cherry Blossoms), 2008
Special Jury Awards at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival
Das weisse Band (The White Ribbon), 2008
Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives Of Others), 2007
Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven), 2007
Moloch - 1999
Das Experiment - 2001
Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) - 1987
Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run), 1998
Berlin is in Germany - 2001
Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) -2001
Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives) - 2001
Das Boot: The Director’s Cut - 1997
Bella Marta (Mostly Martha) - 2001
Erbsen auf halb sechs (Peas for half past five) - 2004
Gegen die Wand (Against the wall ) - 2004
Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken (What good is love if only in thought?) - 2004
Der Untergang - 2004
Rosenstrasse (Rose Street) - 2003
Sophie Scholl - 2004
Good Bye, Lenin - 2003

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Movie Reviews

Absolute Giganten, 2001 
Director: Sebastian Schipper 
Language: German 
Country: Germany
Run Time: 82 minutes
Actors: Frank Giering as Floyd, Florian Lukas as Rico, Antoine Monot as Walter 

giantenWhile not exactly fresh out of the oven, having been made in 2001, the German film "Absolute Giganten" is so great for teen learners of German that I cannot recommend it highly enough.  So here's a quick synopsis: 

In the film "Absolute Giganten," Rico, Floyd and Walter consider themselves "die besten Freunde der Welt" (the best friends in the world), but Floyd unravels their bond of friendship by announcing he's leaving Hamburg for the sailor's life--tomorrow morning.  Working class guys with nothing but dreams, hearts of gold and each other, the three decide to spend one last day and all-nighter together in the Hamburg they know best.  In the process of having fun, they make one dumb mistake after another, 
proving Floyd's decision to strike out on his own was the right one. 

Appropriateness for high school:  with the exception of one sexually suggestive scene in a bar bathroom, the film is otherwise devoid of sex, drugs or gratuitous violence, but does portray a young teen  girl ODing on alcohol and ending up in the hospital.  

Appropriateness for college: A-OK.  
General themes:  guy stuff--shyness with girls, soccer, cars, foosball, betting, junk food, discos and bars.  Particularly for boys heading off for college -- or already in college --I think the film has a great message about the importance of friendship vs. the need to take control of one's own adult life and make better choices. 
- Recommended by J. Douglas Guy, Beverly Public Schools, Beverly, MA 

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Bella Marta (Mostly Martha)

BellaDirector: Sandra Nettelbeck
Year: 2001
Run time:  109 minutes
Language: German
Country: Germany

Availability: netflix.com, amazon.com

Martha is a well-known chef in Hamburg who is obsessed with perfection to the point that her boss orders her to start therapy. When her sister suddenly dies, Martha’s life becomes even more stressful as she must care for Lina, her moody teenage niece, who is obsessed with finding the Italian father she has never known. The final blow is when her boss hires Mario, a very laid-back Italian chef to work with her. This film is a delightful romantic comedy.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Kirschblüten - Hanami  (Cherry Blossoms), 2008

cherryDirector: Doris Dörrie
Run Time: 127 minutes
Language: German with English subtitles
Available from amazon.com and netflix 

This very moving film recounts the story of a man and woman who realize that their three children are not very interested in them anymore and actually go out of their way to avoid spending time with them. The husband also becomes painfully aware that his wife’s lifelong dream of visiting Japan has not yet been fulfilled and that she is still hanging on to it. After a series of dramatic events in his life, he decides that he must do something about her dream. This film is sad and depressing but it has several important messages. The primary message is: Don’t postpone your dreams too long. And don’t depend too much on others for your personal happiness, especially your adult children or even your spouse.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor 

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Le Père de mes Enfants (The Father of My Children); No One Knows about Persian Cats

Two German co-productions were awarded Special Jury Awards at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival in the Certain Regard category: Le Père de mes Enfants (The Father of My Children) by Mia Hansen-Løve, a French-German coproduction (more info here), and No One Knows about Persian Cats by Bahman Ghobad, a German-Iranian coproduction (more info here).

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Das weisse Band (The White Ribbon), 2008
Run time: 144 minutes
Rating: NR
Writer and Director: Michael Haneke (Austrian)
Countries: Austria and Germany
Language: German
Awards: Haneke won two awards for Best Director: the Palme d’Or for Best Director at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and the 2009 Cinema Prize of the French National Education System
Reviewer: Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

This film focuses on a rural school in a village in northern Germany in 1913. Haneke analyzes both the adults and the children who all behave in disturbing ways. What is going on at the school? Is there ritual punishment? Does the situation in the school reflect what will happen in Germany shortly thereafter?

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Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives Of Others), 2007
Director : Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Run Time : 2 hours 17 minutes
Language : German
Actors: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch

In East Berlin in 1984, the secret police organization, Stasi, conducts extensive surveillance operations against any East German citizen suspected of opposing the Communist regime. When Captain Gerd Weisler begins monitoring the daily life of the playwright Georg Dreyman, he finds himself increasingly unwilling to betray his subject's private moments to his superiors. This outstanding film was awarded the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007.

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Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven), 2007
Director: Fatih Akin
Run Time: 122 minutes
Languages: German, Turkish, English

In this film Akin follows the lives of six individuals as they move back and forth between Germany and Turkey. He is a master at scrutinizing the complex relationships between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and friends and lovers. Nejat, a university professor in Germany, doesn’t approve when his father Ali takes the Turkish prostitute Yeter as his live-in girl friend. Yeter is working in Germany to send money back to her daughter Ayten in Turkey for her university studies. When Yeter dies, Nejat travels to Turkey to look for Ayten. Ayten is a political activist and is already in Germany, fleeing from the Turkish police. She is given a place to hide by a young German woman Lotte whose mother Susanne is not pleased with this arrangement. When Ayten is arrested and deported, Lotte travels to Turkey in an attempt to free her. This film was awarded Best Screenplay at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and the European Film Awards. It also received the 2007 European Parliament Lux Prize. It is the second part of Akin’s trilogy which began with Gegen die Wand in 2003 which was awarded the Berlinale Golden Bear and Best Film at the German and European Film Awards.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Moloch
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov 1999
Run Time: 108 minutes
Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, France

In Aleksandr Sokurov’s 1999 film Moloch, we are allowed a peek into a hauntingly realistic, human characterization of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich elite. The opening sequence, which drags on and on for lack of dialogue and any musical score, shows us Eva Braun wandering around some kind of fortress perched high above the Bavarian countryside. She is alone and child-like, dancing around, turning cartwheels and showing off for the camera/sniper. When Hitler arrives with his entourage, we are treated to caricature-like figures representing major Third Reich figures. Hitler is overly ingratiating to the house staff, Goebbels is a tiny man, constantly trying to show off for Der Führer, and Martin Bormann is an oafish fool, smelling of mustard gas, parroting the Führer and at one point even tumbling over in his dinner chair to the amusement of all around him.

The bizarre behavior of the characters in the film is a not so subtle symbolic representation of their being drunk on power. Characters falling over, Hitler falling asleep in the middle of a lunch and the excitement with which characters make pronouncements for plans of action (when the idea of a walk around the grounds is presented, everyone becomes excited and excitable, and then Hitler announces, in a military-like pronouncement, "We will go walking"). On their walk, which is an aimless wandering full of physical humor and mocking of various characters, we see Hitler squat out in the woods. Two soldiers who are securing the area spot him in their gun sights, and they snicker at der Führer. Near the end of the movie, preceding the bizarre "love scene" between Hitler and Braun, the two chase each other around their bedrooms, with Eva stepping up onto a table and kicking down at Hitler.

The other strange feature of the behavior of the Third Reich figures is how child-like they all act. The characters play tricks on Martin and mock Goebbels behind his back. Most striking is Hitler’s behavior. He falls into bouts of pouting and is sick when he arrives and has to be mothered by Eva. When he tries to resist, Eva tells him "No!" which greatly arouses him. He loves hearing ‘No’ from the only person who will say it to him. Everyone else in the film (and presumably in the Reich) caters to his every whim and agrees with his most outrageous statement, but Eva Braun is not afraid to disagree with him.

The entire movie seems to show the Third Reich leaders blowing off steam and coming to the Munich retreat to relax. Being able to regress allows them to release their tensions. As they are preparing to leave with the storm thundering outside, foretelling their eventual downfall, Hitler, who has been wild and unpredictable for the entire movie, once again becomes serious and stoic. When Eva Braun is saying goodbye, he practically refuses to acknowledge her.
- Recommended by Joel Seeger, German Language Film Review Editor

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Das Experiment
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel 2001
Run Time: 119 minutes
Germany

Das Experiment is a reimagining of the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 wherein researchers divided a group of ordinary people taking part in the study into prisoners and guards, having them live in their assigned roles for two weeks. The study was cut short after only six days due to concerns of prisoner abuse by the "guards."

In Das Experiment the study is not halted. The story begins with Tarek Fahd, played by Moritz Bleibtreu (Lola Rennt, Im Juli), discovering an advertisement for a paid psychological experiment. He volunteers and is randomly selected as a prisoner. The study quickly spirals out of control, with the guards mistreating and abusing prisoners. Although the results parallel those of the Stanford experiment, often extremely closely, the fact that the story takes place in Germany is significant. The guards’ behavior is hauntingly reminiscent of Nazi era guards and the implications question not only humanity’s capacity for inhumanity, but also German Kollektivschuld.
- Recommended by Joel Seeger, German Language Film Review Editor

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Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) - 1987
Run time: 128 mins.
Starring Bruno Ganz, Peter Falk, and others
This classic German film, directed by Wim Wenders, follows two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, as they travel the streets of Berlin. The angels record the actions and innermost thoughts of the people they observe on the streets of the city. When Damiel falls in love with a lonely trapeze artist, he must decide if he wants to continue recording other people’s lives or experience life for himself. I love this movie because of the moving scenes, both beautiful and disturbing, that are shown through the eyes of the angels. The choice Damiel must make speaks to all of us - do we go on merely observing life as it passes us by, or do we begin to take great risks in order to experience life for ourselves?
-Recommended by Erin Webreck

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Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run), 1998
Run time: 81 mins.
This movie, featuring award-winning German actress Franka Potente, is great fun for anyone who enjoys artsy films. When Lola’s boyfriend calls her from a public phone telling her that someone to whom he owes 100,000 marks is coming after him in 15 minutes, she has to find a way to save him. Suddenly the tiniest choices become life-changing decisions, and the fine line between fate and fortune begins to blur. I would especially recommend this film to anyone who liked the movie Momento.
-Recommended by Eva Keatley

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Berlin is in Germany - 2001
Run time: 93 mins.
Cleverly scripted and directed, this is a quirky drama about an East German prisoner who is released into the new unified Germany. After eleven years of imprisonment, he returns home full of hope, only to find that his wife has a new man and his son doesn’t recognize him. The story follows Martin as he tries to adapt to life in Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. An all-around good movie.
- Recommended by Erin Webreck

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Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) - 2001
Run time: 140 mins.
To escape the Nazi terror, a German-Jewish couple flee Germany for Kenya, Africa, and begin a new life with their 5 year old daughter. Their new life, working on a small, isolated farm is a far cry from their former existence in Germany and their dire economic situation places a terrible strain on their marriage. At the end of World War II, Walter (who has never forgotten Germany), is anxious to return and take up the judgeship he has been offered. His wife and daughter, however, are very reluctant to exchange the place they have grown to love and called home for many years, for the uncertainty of their native Germany. This is a heart-wrenching movie that will have you reaching for a box of tissues.
- Recommended by Erin Webreck

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Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives)-2001
Run time: 111 mins.
Thi is a good light-hearted summer movie directed by Franziska Buch. It’s based on the short children’s novel of the same name (published in 1928) by Erich Kaestner, but the film is set in Germany (mostly Berlin) today. The film follows the adventures of young Emil (about 10-12 years old?), who attempts to nab the crook that stole his life's savings meant to help his struggling single father. Emil enlists the help of an eclectic group of street-wise kids commandeered by a girl named Pony who knows Berlin inside and out. It’s definitely made for kids but can appeal to anyone who’s still young at heart - and anyone who wants a good close-up view of ever-changing Berlin.
-Recommended by Margaret Gonglewski

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Das Boot: The Director’s Cut - 1997
Run time: 209 mins.
The original "Das Boot" came out in 1982 and it immediately became a classic. Since then it has maintained its position on many lists of the top films of all time. Not satisfied, however, Director Wolfgang Petersen decided to remake it and the result is "Das Boot: The Director's Cut" which adds footage (the movie is one hour longer) and increases the power of the original.  Set in 1941 during World War II, this film chronicles the dramatic story of a crew aboard the U-boat submarine in the Atlantic as they search for Allied ships to destroy and in turn are pursued and attacked by the Allies. American viewers will find themselves getting deeply involved in the crew’s desperate struggle for survival. The Germans are no longer the Enemy but ordinary men who have family and friends and have a desire to live and return to a normal existence. Das Boot humanizes and deplores war.
-Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Bella Marta (Mostly Martha) - 2001
Martha is a single woman who has one passion: cooking. Being the chef in a fancy restaurant, she does not care about anything-or anyone- else. But her life changes abruptly when her 8 year old niece moves in with her. While Martha struggles with her new challenge, the restaurant hires a charming Italian chef named Mario- terrible news for egocentric Martha. But after a while she finds out that he has a wonderful recipe for life-one that will touch her heart. Definitely one of Germany’s most romantic movies, it is unfortunately filled with a lot of stereotypes about German and Italian lifestyles.
- Recommended by Barbara Haas

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Erbsen auf halb sechs (Peas for half past five) - 2004
Hilmir Snaer Gudnason plays Jakob Magnuson, a successful theater director who loses his eyesight in a traffic accident.  It seems he has also lost all perspective on his life until he meets Lilly Walter (wonderfully portrayed by Fritzi Haberlandt), a young woman who was born blind. Together they go on a journey through Europe. When they fall in love with each other, we realize that love does not need sight to exert its power over people.  In this movie love does not cause blindness, rather, it shows that it gives sight to the blind. This is a romantic fairytale with wonderful sensual pictures that make you forget the small inconsistencies in the movie.

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Gegen die Wand (Against the wall) - 2004
By Fatih Akin
Run time 121 min.

In order to escape the pressure of her tradition- conscious family, the young Turkish woman Sibel persuades the disillusioned alcoholic Cahit to marry her. The marriage is based on the agreement that he will act like the lovely husband in front of Sibel’s family and she will cook and clean for him. The agreement seems to work well for everybody including Sibel’s lover. But then Cahit feels more and more drawn to Sibel and kills her lover before he and his wife had a chance to develop a potentially strong relationship.
The director Fatih Akin won an award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004 for his powerful movie, “Goldener Bär.”
- Recommended by Barbara Haas

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Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken (What good is love if only in thought?)-2004
Run Time: 89 mins
This is a wonderful movie by Achim von Borries, one of Germany's most famous young filmmakers who co-wrote "Good Bye, Lenin." It is based on a true story about two boys who decide to end their lives when they discover that they can no longer love. They also decide to kill the persons responsible for the loss of that feeling. It is a melancholic movie about love, rejection, despair and the necessity of being loved in return that leads up to the final, fatal consequences.
- Recommended by Barbara Haas

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Der Untergang - 2004
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Run time: 156 minutes

Der Untergang is one of the most successful films of the year in Germany. It stars Swiss actor Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler, Juliane Koehler as Hitler's wife Eva Braun, and Maria Lara as his secretary Traudl Junge. Corinna Harfouch and Ulrich Matthes play Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda. The film begins with the failed attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, 1944. It then moves ahead nine months and follows Hitler to his bunker in Berlin where he takes his life after marrying Eva Braun on April 30, 1945. Literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki finds the film important in particular for young people. He says, "The attraction of this film is to be able to look Hitler in the eyes. It comes from an understandable interest among the audience to understand."
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Good Bye, Lenin - 2003
Director: Wolfgang Becker
Run Time: 102 mins
When a young protester is arrested in 1989 East Germany, his mother suffers a heart attack. After she awakens from a coma, East Germany no longer exists, but her son tries to recreate it in their apartment to avoid shocking her. That quest, though, leads to all kinds of confusions and odd situations. This movie approaches the subject of the German reunification in a fairy-tale-like way, but despite its fictional character it is probably the most realistic and balanced movie about the subject that anyone has ever made. A great film, which also shows that some things were lost when the two parts of the country became one.
- Recommended by Barbara Haas

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Rosenstrasse (Rose Street) - 2003
Director: Margarethe von Trotta
Run time: 136 min
This film is based on the little-known Rosenstrasse Women's Protest staged by Aryan women in Berlin during World War II to secure the release of their Jewish husbands from the Nazis.Von Trotta became one of the new German Film's most illustrious personalities through her roles in German director Reiner Werner Fassbinder's films in the late 60's and early 70's. She has been directing her own films since 1975 and is one of the most important women directors in Germany today.
- Recommended by Barbara Haas

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Sophie Scholl - 2004
Director: Marc Rothemund
Run Time: 117 min

As Hitler wages a devastating war in Europe , a group of young students resorts to passive resistance as the only effective way to fight the Nazis. The “White Rose” is formed, a resistance movement dedicated to the downfall of the Third Reich. Sophie Scholl is the only female member. Harmless and innocent at first, she doesn't know that she will be the one to leave a mark in history. On 18 February 1943, Sophie and her brother Hans are caught distributing leaflets at the university and arrested. Over the next few days, Sophie's interrogation by the Gestapo officer Mohr turns into an intense psychological duel. She lies and denies, schemes and challenges, lays down her arms and picks them up again, with greater force, nearly disarming her opponent. Then, the crushing evidence, the confession, and Sophie's last, desperate attempt to protect her brother and the other members of the “White Rose”. Moved by Sophie's uncommon bravery, Mohr even offers her a way out – but at the price of betraying her ideals. She refuses the offer, sealing her fate. Based on a true story, this movie won many prizes at this year's “Berlinale”, Germany's biggest film festival.
- Recommended by Barbara Haas

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