A man walking towards the camera © Beta Cinema

Wed, 23.02.2022 -
Wed, 02.03.2022

7:00 PM GMT


Goethe-Kino (Online - Only Available in the UK)

We are pleased to present the screening in collaboration with the Migration Film Festival. Please also note our programme addition: On Tuesday, 1  March at 7pm (GMT) we are presenting an online conversation between Burhan Qurbani, director of Berlin Alexanderplatz, und Myria Giorgiou, Professor of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics (LSE). More information here.

This film does not begin in Berlin, not at Alexanderplatz, but in the water. Francis, a refugee from Guinea-Bissau bound for Europe, struggles for his life in the waves. Then we see him on a construction site in Berlin. He did it, he survived. From here the film goes on to tell if he will continue to make it, if he will have a good life, money, love and recognition, and if he will be a good person as he swore he would be in the face of death. A lot stands in his way, especially Reinhold, a manipulative drug dealer who takes advantage of the situation of the illegal workers and promises them quick money. Reinhold sees a lot of potential in Francis, and Francis sees Reinhold's offer as an opportunity to make something of himself. A fatal error, because an independent Francis is of no use to Reinhold, and so the love between Francis and the call girl Mieze is a thorn in his side……

Burhan Qurbani is not the first to base a film on Alfred Döblin's modern classic from 1929. As early as 1931, Phil Jutzi adapted the Berlin novel with Heinrich George in the lead role. Better known is the TV version in 14 parts by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, which was broadcast in West Germany in 1980. That set the bar high for Qurbani and his adaptation, in which he sets the story in modern-day Berlin and turns Döblin's main character, Berlin worker and petty criminal Franz Biberkopf, into an illegal African refugee named Francis. This immediately made Qurbani's film a contribution to the migration debate, which has intensified even more since 2015, the year of the so-called "refugee crisis". However, according to Qurbani, he was not only concerned with a story about refugees, but also with showing structures of racism, unequal power relations and subliminal oppression. By confronting his black protagonist with a white antagonist, his version of Berlin Alexanderplatz would become a postcolonial allegory.

With Berlin Alexanderplatz, Qurbani was represented in the competition at the Berlinale for the second time. The film subesquently won four German film awards, including for best supporting male role. The prize went to the actor playing the white antagonist, Albrecht Schuch. Although Welket Bungué was nominated for his portrayal of Francis, the award for best male lead also went to Albrecht Schuch (for the film System Crasher). Bungué, who, like his character Francis, is originally from Guinea-Bissau, then moved to Portugal with his family, where he began his acting career, but also spends regular time in Brazil and is also resident in Berlin, was a new discovery for German cinema. In addition to acting in theatre and film, he is also a screenwriter, director and film producer and works more internationally. One of his more recent roles has been in David Cronenberg's next film, Crimes of the Future (in post-production).

Germany 2020, colour, 183mins. With English subtitles.
Directed by Burhan Qurbani. With Welket Bungué, Jella Haase, Albrecht Schuch, Joachim Krol, Annabelle Mandeng.

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Burhan Qurbani was born in Erkelenz in 1980 as the son of Afghan emigrants. He gained his first experience in the media sector after graduating from high school. He worked as an editorial assistant at the women's magazine "Elle" in Stuttgart, as an assistant director at the Stuttgart State Theatre and as a camera assistant at the Stuttgart film production company teamWerk. 
From 2002 he studied directing at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. His full-length graduation film Shahada about three young Muslims living in Berlin celebrated its premiere in 2010 in the Berlinale competition and subsequently won several awards. Burhan Qurbani's second long feature film We Are Young. We Are Strong (Wir sind jung. Wir sind stark, 2014), which chronicles the arson attacks on a home for asylum seekers in Rostock-Lichtenhagen in 1992, received much attention In 2018, Qurbani began shooting Berlin Alexanderplatz, which received several German Film Awards including one in Silver for Best Film. (based on

Alfred Döblin (1878–1957) was born in German Stettin (now the Polish city of Szczecin) to Jewish parents. When he was ten his father eloped with a seamstress and the mother relocated the rest of the family to Berlin. Döblin studied medicine at Friedrich Wilhelm University, specializing in neurology and psychiatry. His novel The Three Leaps of Wang Lun was published in 1915 while Döblin was serving as a military doctor. In 1920 he published Wallenstein, a novel set during the Thirty Years’ War, which was an oblique comment on the First World War. He became president of the Association of German Writers in 1924, and published his best-known novel, Berlin Alexanderplatz, in 1929, achieving modest mainstream fame while solidifying his position at the centre of an intellectual group that included Bertolt Brecht, Robert Musil, and Joseph Roth, among others. He fled Germany with his family soon after Hitler’s rise, moving first to Zurich, then to Paris, and, after the Nazi invasion of France, to Los Angeles, where he converted to Catholicism and briefly worked as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After the war he returned to Germany and worked as an editor with the aim of rehabilitating literature that had been banned under Hitler, but he found himself at odds with conservative postwar cultural trends. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease in later years and died in Emmendingen in 1957. (based on a short biography in the New York Review of Books)

On 5 and 6 February BBC4 broadcasts a radio play based on Döblin’s novel. You can find more information under the links on the side of this page.