25 April 2010
I am about to fly to Berlin to give a Masterclass for students at the Berlin Film Academy, called something like this in German – Deutsche Film – und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB) .
I have been invited by my old friend Stefan, he was formally head of the ‘Shadow Festival’ in Amsterdam where I’d shown all my early work before being (finally) “acknowledged” by the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) where all my films play regularly now.
This is the first time I’ve been to Berlin since 1989 when I visited shortly after the wall came down, and I’m keen to see the place again. Stefan wants to show my early films ‘Working For The Enemy’ (his favourite) and ‘The Minders’ (his second favourite).
In a fun kind of way he refuses to acknowledge any of my recent films – I always get the feeling he thinks I’ve sold out by showing them at the IDFA – the mighty festival he competed against for so many years.
But I have brought them along just in case the young students want to see something more recent than films from 1996 and 1998. I will also catch up with doc film maker friend Petr Lom who has recently moved to Berlin and isn’t enjoying it that much, I shall try and cheer him up and hopefully combine a bit of work and play while I am there.
28 April 2010
I know I’ve taken the wrong train but I didn’t want to insult the nutter who told me to take this line – so I climbed on-board. It’s a tightly packed Berlin train, It has a slight feel of the East, and the grim old communist days. Why don’t Germans smile I wonder? I make a point of smiling at everyone. I enjoy being the nutty tourist with my map.
The clanky noisy doors slam open even before the train has stopped, they have a military clank to them, they look and sound like Japanese subway doors opening and closing to a military tune. Are the Germans the Japanese of Europe I wonder?
A blond girl opposite takes my attention, an older woman gets on and sits close to her, she makes a point of pulling her coat clear of the blond woman, the blond girl is offended by this and gives the older woman a very hard angry stare.
We move on to the next station. A scraggy looking woman climbs on wiping a tear from her eye, her boyfriend stands over her with a tattoo on his hand, they bicker and argue oblivious to the onlookers.
I get off at the wrong stop and wander up the road. Berlin isn’t so glitzy here, the streets are filled with immigrants and drunks, it feels dirty and poor, but so much more real and alive than the clean, posh end of town where I will be staying courtesy of the Berlin Film Academy.
I was last here in 89 after the wall had just come down. My romantic memories of Berlin are being slowly eroded the longer I remain here. It doesn’t feel like the same place somehow, maybe I’m at the wrong end of town. Or in the wrong mindset.
I make my way back to the hotel passing an amazing holocaust monument – a huge collection of graves of varying heights with narrow lanes between them. Strangely this sacred site is guarded by two security men. It is bizarre that we must guard a monument to 6 million killed. Who do they fear here?
I stop for a 5 star shit at the Ritz Carlton hotel. It’s the highlight of my day, I watch the rich eat quaint dainty cakes as I pass back through the bar from the luxury toilets. Then I bump into a man dressed in a red ‘Beefeater’ costume. His name is Robert, he is English, he has lived in Berlin for 40 years and laments the falling of the wall. “Berlin was safer when we had the wall, and cleaner, now they let in anyone”, said the foreigner dressed in a red costume and wearing a big hat.