Berlinale 2016, Part One: Culinary Cinema

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It’s a wrap!

This year I watched slightly more movies than usual.

  • 2 Culinary Cinemas: Ants on a Shrimp and Wanton Mee,
  • 3 Panoramas: War on Everyone, Goat, Junction 48
  • 3 Berlinale Special Gala: Creepy, A Quiet Passion, Where to Invade Next
  • 3 Competition: Midnight Special, Alone in Berlin, Genius
  • 5 Generation: Ted Sieger’s Molly Monster, ENTE GUT! Maedchen allein zu Haus, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank, Royahaye Dame Sobh, Born to Dance
  • 1 Generation Short Films.

16 movies, and 6 short films. Phew! It’s going to be too long to write in a single post, so I’m going to divide it into:

  • Part One (This one!): Culinary Cinemas: Ants on a Shrimp & Wanton Mee
  • Part Two: The Suppression Theme
  • Part Three: Generation and other non-depressing movies

Alrighty, let’s get to it!

Culinary Cinema: Ants on a Shrimp

Perhaps we all have a perversion to know how others lead their life. My interest in food is not as a chef.  I’m always curious in the thought process of an artist. Not necessarily for copying or following what they do, but just to candidly see them doing what they do best.

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Talk with the director of Ants on a Shrimp, Maurice Dekkers.

Ants on a Shrimp follows the story of the Noma team in their journey to open a Noma pop-up at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. Anyone who thinks that opening a restaurant or being a chef is an easy job should watch one of these movies about a chef’s life. It’s very much of a lifelong dedication, long hours to achieve food perfection.

The movie opens with the opening day scene at Noma Tokyo. There seemed to be some chaotic things going on and you could see the nervousness going on, even with René Redzepi, the chef of Noma. “But nervousness is good”, he said, “it showed that you cared.”.

The journey goes into a flashback of the crew being sent to Tokyo three months prior to coming up with the 14-course menu. The work is by no means easy. It’s anything but. You see the crew working long hours in a kitchen space three stories underground, pushing themselves to achieve the best dish possible. Yet, despite all that, you could see that they are those crazy people who love their job so much there’s nothing else they would rather do.

You get to understand their thought process and sympathize with their agony to achieve perfection. On how they tried to come up with not just Noma’s signature dishes, but also dishes representing their food journey in the Japanese landscape.

I love the scene where the crew went for a walk through the forest and (carelessly) tried out different bits and pieces of the forest. Even ants :D.

Should you see this movie? Definitely, if you’re interested in Noma. Yes, if you’re interested in an artist / chef thought process.

WARNING: some scenes might not be suitable for vegetarians ;).

Culinary Cinema: Wanton Mee

“Wanton Mee” is a look into the Singaporean hawker food culture. Told from the perspective of a middle-aged food critic, Chun Feng Koh, Wanton Mee walked you through the different food stalls in Singapore, on the (most times) grueling process of how the food is produced.

The movie brings you the ultimate Singaporean food porn, where you see all of those to-die-for mouth-watering street foods, with nowhere to get them in Berlin. (PS: I’ve never been so hungry and so sad after a movie before.)

Evolving around the clash of generations, which seemed to be one of the issues in Singapore, a city of rapid change. You could see the conflict between Chun Feng Koh with his father, about how things were moving slower with his father’s generation. You also have the conflict with the younger generation, who seemed to want things in an even speedier pace.

These thoughts are then brought into how we see the hawker food places. Not the trendiest place to go anymore, yet they produce one of the best food experience you can get in Singapore. The movie pointed out that hawkers seemed to be of a dying breed, due to rising costs of operational costs, and lack of interest of doing such grueling job.

Chun’s journey takes you to the multiple hawker places across Singapore. From a very distinctive way to serve food (Hainanese rice in form of a ball to put the chicken on!), successful story of expansion of the kitchen, fathers who doesn’t really want their children to continue doing the business, fathers who insisted the children does, children who wanted to continue despite, and the business that stayed as sisterhood.

It might not be the best form of docu-feature I’ve seen, but it’s enough to make you want to book a flight to Singapore right away. Once I get my hands on the list of food mentioned in the movie!

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Talk with the director of Wanton Mee, Eric Khoo (the one with the mic) and the main actor, Boon Pin Koh

Should you see this movie? Yes, if you want to see a different food culture in Singapore, where clashes between generations are more prominent. No, if you don’t have some sort of immediate access to those foods mentioned in the movie (kidding!).

Afterthoughts on Culinary Cinema

While I don’t think it’s completely fair to compare both of them, (Wanton Mee is docu-feature rather than a true documentary, but assuming that the food hawker owner/chef work is an actual documentary), I would like to write down my afterthoughts, especially since I saw the movie back to back.

  • Being a chef requires many hours of work. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Michelin star chef or a hawker chef. Perhaps the only difference is how much people are willing to pay you for your time.
  • There are different skills on being a chef, and it’s not just making plates look pretty. You tend to take for granted the amount of skills needed to make a “simple” dish like cooking with a charcoal stove.
  • With the hawker culture, it always seemed like they just wanted the secret to stay in the family, and so you basically work until you die or your children take over.
  • With Noma’s concept (and perhaps most restaurant like this), the head chef tends to find the best team and talent. There are a few scenes in Ants on a Shrimp where you could see the nurturing culture of the team. One where they mentioned a recurring staff competition to create the best dish, and, more importantly, having the whole Noma team tasted it and giving them constructive feedback. Another when Rene gave praise to his whole main team, highlighting each one’s capability, that made them special and crucial to the team.  

If you’re curious about the reviews of the other Culinary Cinemas this year and a look into the dinner, go check out my dear friend Yasmina’s blog on the Berlinale Culinary Cinema, here.

 

Berlinale 2013 Impressions – Part One

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This year tickets collection 😉

This year, I went to 11 movies and a lecture. Seven different venues, lots of running around (late and denied entry to one screening), and even more fun in the process. If you’re wondering how I get tickets and how I chose the movies, check my post about 5 Myths of Berlinale here.

I’m not sure I’ve said this before. What’s always great about watching a movie in Berlinale is when you get to be in the same room with the director / actors / crews. Not (just) because of bragging rights, but most importantly when you applaud in the end, you really feel like you’re showing them your appreciation. How much you love their work and really thankful for them producing such amazing movies! So, thank you!!

My impressions of the movies weren’t meant to be a critique, it was just thoughts I have after the movie and how I remembered them.

Competition Section

Yi dai zong shi (The Grandmaster) – D: Wong Kai Wai, C: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen

It’s a very beautiful piece of art, which makes up for the so so storyline. It’s a delight to see on a big screen and there are a couple of scenes that really stood out in my mind. During the fights, when instead of zooming in on the fight, the movie would zoom in on the effect of the fight on the surroundings. Like how it affects a certain water drop, etc. Very beautiful. Also I love Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. Great choice to start the Berlinale.

Before Midnight – D: Richard Linklater, C: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

I love this series. Every 9 years they came out with a new movie following the life of the two main character, Jesse and Céline. The first one, Before Sunrise (1995), was the innocent, magical love story. Before Sunset (2004) was more of the realist, sort of sick of romance, and now comes Before Midnight. I don’t have kids, so sometimes I don’t get the jokes, but my friend who does, thinks it’s really spot on. It’s really a funny and honest movie about love and relationship and everything else going on in the world. So rare to see a good movie like this one. No action, just talking. I’m totally recommending this, even if it’s not your usual cup of tea… because it’s best of its kind.

Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza (An Episode in the life of an Iron Picker) – D: Danis Tanovic, C: Senada Almanovic, Nazif Mujic

If you read my experience with pickpockets and angels in Paris, you know why I’m skeptical with Roma families. I knew I was being unfair and I wanted to have another perspective on them, and I thought the theme of this film would be good for that. I am really glad I went to see it! It such a sweet simple movie about this family who can’t afford the wife’s surgery. (spoiler: I said sweet because it has a happy ending). It’s very honest and real with all its problems and the love between all of them. Somehow it felt like you were invited into their house and experience their day to day life. You can’t help but love them too. Just because people didn’t show their love like you do, doesn’t mean they don’t love you!

This movie happens to win two Berlinale awards, the Silver Bear, as well! Nazif Mujic won best actor (Silver Bear) and the movie won Jury Grand Prix award. Recommended!

Panorama Section

TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard – D: Simon Klose

It’s a documentary about the Pirate Bay founders, how they hold themselves against the court proceedings. It gives me a different perspective on their way of thinking and what was actually going on. The founders were not bad people. All they wanted to do was to make a platform where it’s easy for people to share files. This is my point of view: I don’t like to steal either, but isn’t there something wrong when those people convicted as the thief was living a modest life and the people they steal from rides in Mercedes and live in Millions of euros mansions? Does anyone really realize that the artist only get a tiny fraction of money compared to the middle man?

This documentary is also available on YouTube for free. Here it is:

If you would like to support the film makers and applaud them for their great work, please go to www.tpbafk.tv.

Something in the Way – D: Teddy Soeriaatmadja, C: Reza Rahadian, Ratu Felisha, Verdi Solaiman

I went to see this without expectations. I just wanted to support Indonesian filmmakers. I was really pleasantly surprised. The story itself isn’t that unique, it’s basically follows a guy-falls-in-love-with-a-girl-and-do-everything-to-get-her plot. The interesting thing about it is the contrasting view of the guy’s porn addiction and his daytime moral values, which happens to be a very religious one. What I like most is how it’s portraying the problem. I could feel that in Indonesia, people tends to lead a dual life somehow (at least I did). On the surface they are maintaining “good” moral values, and behind it, who knows. And it’s a constant battle between them.

The movie tends to be very candid with all the sex scenes, which is pretty cool for an Indonesian film. Also, I get to shake hands with the director and the casts. Hee… job well done guys!

(To be continued…)

5 Myths of Berlinale

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Tickets queue at Potsdamer Arkaden

Another year of Berlinale, another great time with the festival. Intense two weeks as usual. Organizing which movies I wanted to see, getting the tickets, running around town to get to the venues. It’s one of the reasons why I love living in Berlin!

This is my 5th time doing the Berlinale. (Yeah, I didn’t realize it’s been that long either… I just keep track from the bags.) I realized this year, there are some myths going around about this festival, which is kind of too bad because I think it’s a festival for all the movie goers in Berlin. So if you’ve been putting off it because of these myths, I hope you’ll rethink it next year!

1. It’s impossible to get tickets to Berlinale.

It could be hard, but it’s not impossible. Just like any other great events that needs tickets. Online tickets are almost impossible to get, that’s true (unless you’re used to this process of knowing exactly when to click buy). But luckily in Berlinale there are allocations of amounts for tickets sold on each venues. So, when one sold out, the others might still be available. Here’s how you can get them:

  • Online through www.berlinale.de. Toughest one to get, most convenient because you can just be in your pyjamas/office/warmth of a building. Extra 1.5 € charge per ticket.
  • Queuing at the pre-sale booth. Most chance to get one, depending on the day, you could queue up to 3-4 hours. It’s also a fun chance to bond with other movie goers (usually pensioners). If you really wanted a certain ticket, be there at least 1-2 hours before the booth opens (10am). There’s no extra charge per ticket, might be worth thinking if you’re getting more than 10 tickets.
  • Go to an eventim booth, usually called Konzertkasse and the likes. They have a limited allocation of tickets too. No lines, and usually still available after the other two options are sold out. They charge 2 € per ticket, and an extra 1-1.5 € for going at a person in a booth. Which is why I always avoid this option when possible.
  • At the cinema on the day of showing. If it’s a sold out movie, make sure you get there as early as possible. They do seem to have another different allocation for this, so there’s still hope.
  • Especially nearing the end of Berlinale, you could also find people selling their tickets. Most of them are actually selling it at a normal price. Usually they just realized they had conflicting time schedule or a friend of theirs cancelled out.

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Berlinale 2012 | Kebun Binatang (Postcards from the Zoo)

Last weekend was our Berlinale time. The whole film festival took place on 9-19 February 2012, but the ones we would like to see just happens to be on that last weekend. Ten films (five of them are shorts) in three days, spanning eight countries and six languages. It’s quite a lot to digest, which was why I’m only able to write down my thoughts today.

The one movie I was really looking forward to see is “Kebun Binatang” (Postcards from the Zoo). It’s the first Indonesian movie to compete for the Berlinale award, and it made me feel somewhat proud of being Indonesian (even though I had nothing to do with the movie :D).

Postcards from the Zoo

Postcards from the Zoo

Postcards from the Zoo tells a story about Lana (Ladya Cheryl), a young woman who spent almost all of her life in the zoo. Her father left her there when she was four, and then she was adopted by it*. The story fast forwards to the adult Lana, who becomes one with the zoo and dreams of touching the giraffe’s belly someday. She is so in tune with the animals, being friends with all the workers there, and just sort of everything doer. One day, Lana starts seeing this young cowboy (Nicolas Saputra) in the zoo.  She wonders if he was even real at all. But as her zoo life starts falling apart, she decides to go out of the zoo and follow him instead. Where would she end up? Would she be able to fulfill her dream?

*** Warning! The review may contain SPOILERS ***

This film is all about metaphors and it’s one of those that gave me a “The Emperor’s New Clothes” effect. I don’t think I get all of the metaphors, but I kept thinking whether it was just my limited imaginations, should I try harder? Or maybe I could just pretend I understand everything?

Well, I’m going to be honest, and I will tell you my thoughts about it. Whether I might or might not truly get the movie.

The good points are I appreciate its breaking out of the common norm in Indonesian movies. It’s quite bizarre in its storytelling and honest in some other parts (not trying to teach you some moral grounds or being politically correct or anything like that).

I also quite like the use of metaphors in Lana’s life as the stages of animals in the zoo: captivity, reintroducing to the natural habitat, and so on. It gives you the whole general view about what the story is all about. Lana was just like an animal there, being in captivity all of her life, she might just lose her ability to be a free person.

What I’m confused about is the many shots of the zoo. When things are told in metaphors, shouldn’t everything have a meaning? Or would it be okay for some to not make sense? I could only understand the connection with the giraffe. The tiger and hippos kind of confused me… there is some connection but it felt forced, not as well thought as the others. The rollercoaster and other attractions just seemed too random… and even though it does give some sense of ambience, I found that it felt like it’s weighing the story down.

Lana’s character is also come across as very detached. I couldn’t feel any emotional connection with her, not sympathizing with her. She seemed to be narrating her own story from the outside. Not that it’s a bad thing, it just feels weird. I’m actually hoping this is intentional, because I found Ladya Cheryl portrayed this part very well.

I felt rather disappointed with the ending, because even though it does answer some questions, it doesn’t resolve things. Although to the film’s defense, it’s a festival film, which means this kind of alternative ending is quite common.

All in all, the film gave me a strange feeling of curious confusion. Did Luna really experience all this? Were she just living a sad life and trying to escape in her imagination?

Verdict: Is it worth watching? YES. But keep an open mind. If you have a different point of view after watching this, or if you think I’m missing something, please feel free to leave a comment or contradict me.

* Yes, I meant the zoo. Everything in it, including the people, animals, and attractions.

 

My Movie List for the 61st Berlinale Film Festival 2011

I can’t believe it’s almost that time of the year again, where I will be queuing half a day long to get a couple of tickets for the movie I want to see. Rest assured, it’s worth it!

Alright, a little introduction: Berlinale Film Festival is a yearly event held in Berlin on February. In 2011, the date would from February 10 to February 20. The Berlinale website claimed there are around 400 films shown every year during this festival. Almost all the major theater and cinemas in Berlin are participating and in these two weeks, the city is buzzing with film industry people, some famous actors/actresses, and movie goers (me!). It was really fun to be a part of it and it was also a good distraction from all this winter greyness.

Since a person couldn’t possibly be in so many places at the same, and I suspect watching 400 movies in two weeks would actually kill the brain, the hardest first task is to choose which movie I would like to see. Every year, I noticed the Berlinale website is making improvements, making it slightly easier for navigating through the movie list. Now I just hope next year there’ll be one search based on genre… comedy, happy endings, non suicidals? Because to be honest, depressing movies are the last thing I wanted to watch during this time of year. Well, mostly on any time of the year, actually. Last year I watched a short film starring a guy who is preparing for his suicide in the woods. *shivers*.

Well, moving on, I usually try to see movies that I wouldn’t have the chance on seeing in a normal, every day cinema. In this category are short movies, foreign movies, or classical movies that are just not in theater anymore. I would go through the competition list, and see if any of it interest me.

This year, my list consist of:

  • Une vie de chat (A Cat in Paris), an animated French mystery movie for children about cat and Paris. “During the day, Dino the cat brings lizards into little Zoé’s room. At night the predator has another hobby – accompanying the elegant burglar Nico. There is a lot of traffic on the rooftops of Paris. As long as one does not lose one’s balance.”
  • Gianni e le donne (The Salt of Life), an Italian comedy movie. “A henpecked pensioner decides to rejuvenate his love life by finding himself a girlfriend – a move made apparently by all Italian men of his age. Except that his peers seem to have more success …”
  • Les contes de la nuit (Tales of the Night), an animated French movie competing for the Berlinale award. “Every night a boy, a girl and a woman meet in a magical cinema where they enter the land of their dreams. A combination of traditional silhouette animation and 3D technology.”
  • Knerten gifter seg (Twigson Ties the Knot), a Norwegian children movie, sequel to the Knerten movie I saw last year. So excited about this! “Lillebror is back. This time in a mysterious detective story. Helping him are Twigson, the liveliest tree branch in all of Norway, and the adorable birch girl.”
  • Mein Bester Feind (My Best Enemy), a Austrian/Luxemburg movie sets in the 30s. “Vienna in the 1930s. Victor is the son of a Jewish gallery owner. After the annexation of Austria by the Nazis his friend Rudi climbs the ranks and betrays Victor. Fate brings the two friends together again during the war.”
  • Jag är rund (I am round), a short animated Swedish film for children. “In a square world you have to have corners if you want to fit in.”
  • Kuchao (A Gum Boy), a short animated Japanese film for children. “Chew gum, blow bubbles and take off.”
  • Aterfödelsen (The Unliving), a short Swedish film. “Life on earth, thirty years after a zombie outbreak.”
  • Sju dagar i skogen (Seven Days in the Woods), a short Swedish film. “Trees alongside the road, everything was blurry.”

Note: Description was taken from the Berlinale website.

So, there it is! If you’re in Berlin and you intend to see one of the movies, do share which one(s) your interested in.