What the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) offers this year

Vapid German romcom 'Traumfabrik' premières as 50th IFFI’s mid-festival gala film

Another German film, Oray, is a contemplative take on what it means to be a “good or bad Muslim”

Another German film, Oray, is a contemplative take on what it means to be a “good or bad Muslim”  

'Oray', a contemplative look at the Muslim identity in Germany, has its India première

A couple of weeks after Berlin celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, Martin Schreier’s Traumfabrik, a romcom set against the backdrop of a divided Germany in 1961, premièred at the 50th International Film Festival of India, as the mid-festival gala film. Opening to a full house at Panaji’s Kala Academy, Mr. Schreier, along with the film’s cast and crew, were felicitated before the première.


Recreating the early days of a divided Germany, the film follows the budding romance between an East German set extra, Emil, and a French dancer, Milou, which comes to a grinding halt when the Wall is erected. Emil works in the state-run film studio in Babelsberg, DEFA. He plans to make a movie to bring Milou back into East Germany as a dancer and rekindle their romance. Despite a promising historical backdrop, the film is unable to bring in any political conflict that is at the core of this era. The Berlin Wall ends up as a mere impediment in their romance, and Traumfabrik completely overlooks the historical significance of films emerging out of DEFA, known widely for their anti-fascist and pro-socialist fairy tales. In recent years, the once-popular East German studio, on the outskirts of Berlin, has been used efficiently by films like Inglourious Basterds (2009). But the mise en scène in Traumfabrik is neither a homage to the magical realism of the early films that came out of DEFA, nor a historically detailed recreation of the German Democratic Republic. It instead feels like a shoddy and self-indulgent Hollywood production.

Complexity, relevance

Another German film, Oray, on the other hand, is a contemplative take on what it means to be a “good or bad Muslim” in today’s Germany. Winning the Berlinale’s Best First Feature Award early this year, Oray had its Indian première at the IFFI. Set in Cologne, Turkish-German filmmaker Mehmet Akif Büyükatalay explores the lives of second-generation Muslims, much like himself, dealing with the complexities and relevance of triple talaq and haram. “Islam in Europe is kind of a YouTube Islam, since the new generation Muslims are learning the religion through the Internet,” said Mr. Büyükatalay.

The 32-year-old debut filmmaker said that he was fascinated to see the parallels with Indian Muslims when he read about the issue of triple talaq in the country. For him, the Muslim prejudices manifest themselves while casting for his film. “It was hard to find actors of Turkish origin in Germany as most of the Turkish actors were working in television, and Turkish and Muslim actors always play the roles of terrorists and gangsters. It took me almost a year to find actors,” Mr. Büyükatalay said.

Dual identities

Casting an eye on dual identities, another Berlinale hit, Nadav Lapid’s Golden Bear-winner Synonyms also played at IFFI.

Loosely based on the Israeli filmmaker’s immigration experience in Paris, the film, with its arthouse aesthetics and stream of consciousness narrative, is a meditative take on the global refugee movement, and the tantalising and evasive dream of a better life.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 3:01:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/vapid-german-romcom-traumfabrik-premires-as-50th-iffis-mid-festival-gala-film/article30080123.ece

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