Australia

Berlin Hosts 6th Down Under Film Festival

Films Sharing Stories from Australia and New Zealand Offered Berlin Audiences a Unique Opportunity for Cultural Exchange

September 23rd, 2016
Nila Wiesmann, Berlin Global
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Between the 14th and 18th of September, the Australian and New Zealand ‘Down Under Berlin’ Film Festival took place in the Moviemento Kino in Berlin’s Kreuzberg. A diverse selection of films were shown from around Australia and New Zealand, sharing stories of coming-of-age, loss, love and the choices that define our lives, as part of the festival’s theme, ‘Life Happens’.

The festival, now in its 6th year, was opened with a sold-out session of ‘Spear’, Australia’s first Indigenous contemporary dance film about the acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre, by Australian choreographer Stephen Page. The festival was closed with the German premiere of the universally renowned comedy ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ by New Zealand director Taika Waititi, which was the most successful screening in Down Under Berlin’s history.

During the five-day festival, Berliners were treated to a selection of Australian and New Zealand documentaries, a selection of curated short films and independent feature films, as well as this year’s classic selection, the New Zealand thriller ‘Sleeping Dogs’, an example of New Zealand’s New Wave cinema.

Among the documentaries shown at this year’s festival was the European premiere of ‘The Drowned Dreams’ by Iranian director Farshid Akhlaghi. The film tells the stories of 6,400 Iranian asylum seekers who made the journey to Australia on Indonesian fishing boats in 2013, highlighting the physical and psychological effects of this trauma. The film’s screening offered an important perspective on the current asylum seeker debate in Australia, in a city that has itself experienced an influx of refugees as part of the European migrant crisis, which has seen millions of asylum seekers make the dangerous journey to Germany to flee their war-ravaged homelands. The film’s screening was followed by a discussion with Dr. Phil. Babette Gekeler from the Institute of Medical Psychology at Berlin’s Charité.

The festival was a fantastic opportunity for cultural exchange, offering Berliners various insights into cultural, political and social issues in Australia and New Zealand through the stories told on film. One of the special components of the festival’s program was the chance to attend question and answer sessions with some prominent members of the Australian and New Zealand film industry, which gave attendees further opportunities to engage in intercultural dialogue.

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