A Lonely City by Nicola Graef

The Mover film © Lona Media

Tue, 05/18/2021 -
Thu, 05/20/2021


Presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto

with POV Magazine, Hot Docs Film Festival & Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival

Buy Tickets International premiere!

Should I stay or should I go? How to live our lives very much centres around whether to live in or out of our (imagined) urban spaces. Cities can mean connectivity and community or boredom and loneliness, they are projections of dreams and disappointment, places of becoming or despair.

Across three new films —poetic, rough, melancholic, hopeful, curious and longingly— GOETHE FILMS enters worlds of urban absence and aspiration: around social struggles and gentrification (“The Mover”), around provincial and urban (queer) lives (“Neubau”), and of the yearning for participation and human contact in Berlin, across gender, generations, and backgrounds (“A Lonely City”).

18-20 May 2021 6pm-6pm EST streaming window

"A Lonely City” (Germany 2020, 90 min.), documentary directed by Nicola Graef.

Bonus material: commentary by urbanism Prof. Ahmed Allahwala

Loneliness has many faces in Berlin. Young and old are afflicted by it, men, women, single and married people. We have all been there, wherever we find ourselves in big global cities. Still, there’s a stigma to acknowledging loneliness. Director Graef lets the lonely urban inhabitants speak, and listens. Berlin is a city for extroverts, Tessa thinks. The young woman, however, is not one of them. The consequence is loneliness and that “is quite draining,” she says. 85-year-old Efraim, a photographer and flaneur, has found a confident way to deal with those nagging feelings: He’s “not the type for marriage,” anyway. Artist Thomas suffers from the end of a long-term love affair and wonders whether “the icing sugar has come off by the age of 50,” while hoping that “there is a market for everything, even broken cars.” Poised and affectionate, we move through the expanses of the city, where stories sprout like weeds between the cobblestones. From the corner pub to the artist’s studio, from parks to sports clubs and, time and again, into silent apartments – the filmmaker encounters witnesses to emptiness everywhere. Their reports are moving, but they never make us feel hopeless.

“You usually don't see loneliness in people, at least not at first glance. Graef dedicates 90 minutes to the stories of people who otherwise often get lost in the hustle and bustle of the big city.” – Radio Berlin-Brandenburg

“Based on interviews with a dozen protagonists, Graef explores what loneliness means in a metropolis. A mosaic of sensations, on a very personal level.” – Kinozeit

Festivals & Awards:

DOK Leipzig (2020)
Nominated for Goethe-Institut Documentary Film Prize (2020)


Born in 1970, Nicola Graef studied German literature and philosophy in Munich and Paris, followed by an MA in Dramatic Arts in London. In 2008, Graef finished "Ich. Immendorff,” her first documentary for the big screen. 2017’s ”Neo Rauch – Comrades and Companions" was lauded as a well-informed close-up portrait of one of the most important living artists.

Ahmed Allahwala is a German-born and Toronto-based professor of human geography at the University of Toronto. He received his MA at the Free University Berlin followed by his PhD from York University Toronto. His research and teaching focuses on community development and urban social change, city politics and urban planning, as well as migration and multiculturalism.

Tailored to fit the moment GOETHE FILMS resume at the digital TIFF Bell Lightbox with exclusive online access for Canadian viewers. All tickets will be on sale 10 days prior to screening. Once purchased, viewers will have a 48h watch window to hit play. After hitting play, you have 24h to watch the film once. For further questions feel free to visit digital TIFF FAQs, contact TIFF customer support at customerrelations@tiff.net, or the support chat at tiff.net/help daily from 2- 8 pm (incl. weekends and holidays).

Part of the Goethe-Institut focus on German film