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Welcome to Film|Neu 2021

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 29th edition of Film|Neu, Washington’s annual festival of great new films from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. After presenting a fully virtual program in November 2020, we have decided to carry some virtual elements over into this year’s festival and present a hybrid program in 2021. With six films screening online and six films screening at our long-time host venue, Landmark’s E Street Cinema, we have arrived at a "new normal" for our festival – one that will likely continue as we approach thirty years of Film|Neu in 2022.

"Extraordinary times" call for extraordinary films – at least, extraordinary times are what we’re told we’ve been living in for the past eighteen months. Of course, in order to define extraordinary, we would need some grasp on what qualifies as ordinary. In many ways, times are different now from the way they used to be, but when were they ever ordinary? Will we ever get back to those ordinary times? Do we want to?

The decadent, orgiastic 1970s were certainly not ordinary. Filmmaker Oskar Roehler takes us back to this era in our opening film Enfant Terrible, a biopic about the reckless and brilliant life of German New Wave director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The events of Oliver Rihs‘s Caged Birds, meanwhile, run almost concurrently to Fassbinder’s final years in the early 1980s – exploring another side of Germany and Switzerland in an age of neoliberalism, far-left militancy, and radical reform. Closing our festival is Franziska Stünkel’s The Last Execution, set in East Berlin in 1981 and inspired by the true story of Werner Teske – the last person to be executed in Germany.

Health scares and revelations about the precarity of life are sobering experiences, things we all go through. Does that make them ordinary? If your spouse were in need of a kidney, it might seem like a no-brainer to donate yours if you were a perfect match. But what if you had reservations? In Michael Kreihsl's Risks & Side Effects, a married couple must reckon with their understanding of love when they realize this no-brainer isn’t so simple. In Hermine Huntgeburth's Bye Bye Kellermann, a misanthrope who shares his life only with his dog must re-evaluate his existence when a terminal cancer diagnosis turns out to be wrong. In Pierre Monnard‘s Needle Park Baby, a mother and daughter living on the fringe of society struggle to scrape by as drug addiction constantly threatens to pull them apart.

Family drama is par for the course for many of us. In Bettina Oberli’s My Wonderful Wanda, a wealthy Swiss family is thrown into chaos when their elderly patriarch becomes a father-to-be. A young German soldier with Kurdish-Iraqi roots may have to choose between her own life and that of her freedom-fighting sister in Daphne Charizani‘s Sisters Apart. Byambasuren Davaa’s Veins of the World features a young boy of the Mongolian steppe navigating life after the loss of his dad, while Janna Ji Wonders’s documentary Walchensee Forever uncovers secrets across four generations of women. The dynamics of found family are not to be overlooked either – an instructor in the juvenile wing of a prison forms unlikely bonds in Arman T. Riahi’s Fox in a Hole. The namesake and protagonist of Detlev Buck’s Confessions of Felix Krull, a young and handsome con man in early-twentieth-century Paris, finds himself in a love triangle that could be his undoing.

We look forward to welcoming you both virtually and in-person to this year's Film|Neu, and wish you all an "extraordinary time" at our festival!

All the best,

Raleigh Joyner
Film|Neu Curator 
Program Coordinator, Goethe-Institut Washington