Berlinale 2021 - Day 5: NACAB, Hippie Teachers 'mkay?, and Fin
The first scenes of Alonso Ruizpalacios' Una película de policías ("A Cop Movie") feel very conventional, as the camera takes us on a tour looking through the windscreen of a patrol car, listening to coded talk on the radio: "'123a at 357b, xyz!' - 'Copy! ...Got coffee and donuts covered?'", or something like that. Seems as if this "cop movie" were indeed only that: a movie. But wasn't it supposed to be a "documentation" - trying to remember the press release here? This first part actually reminds of the second cop movie in competition, Xavier Beauvois' Albatross, and yet, even with our limited knowledge of the Spanish language (limited to "doth thervethas por favoorrrr", and "non hablo ethpanol") we can easily translate the production credits: "produccion de nonficcion".
A policewoman sitting in front of a professional movie camera tells about her life, her work routine and upbringings. Daddy was a cop too, and he didn't want her to follow in his steps, preferred gender diversity to homogeneity, and so on. Next her husband appears, a cop himself, and we get his story as well - it almost feels like an ad to join the forces, which is certainly a honourable endeavour, and not only in a failed state like Mexico: that's where our story is set. The sensitive topics, however, are carefully avoided, trifles like the Mexican Mafia(s) created and upheld by global prohibition, the Mexican government, and how both are basically the same, sharing manpower and ressources. Watching scenes from police operations, we cannot help but admire, how fast overweight people can run, if only they wear a uniform (oh, those donuts, and tacos!).
But suddenly, about halfway through the movie, an interview gets interrupted by a (supposed) blackout, and all of a sudden, this is a documentary, we witness the actors rehearsing a scene, and some production assistant being ordered to walk the dog. Next, the same actors we've hitherto seen "in character", appear in home video diaries, telling us how they've prepared for the role. They joined the police academy (NO, Steve Guttenberg is not in this movie!), and eventually revised their image of the law enforcement system. We learn, regular Mexican cadets either issue from police dynasties, or are people with not many other options left in life: in it for the money. In both cases, the compact training course (the forces are short of new recruits) demanding as it is, won't prepare them for duty - for instance, they only obtain rudimentary knowledge of the law. Furthermore, there's few rewards, the equipment bad, and no human rights organisation will ever care about their getting shot. Our actors have overcome certain prejudices of their own, and particularly Raúl Briones, the male lead, we easily imagine to have stood on "the other side" of a protest quite often - his change of outer apparence as it is obligatory for the training (# haircut) thus mirrors an inner change (supposedly - these are still professional actors, and this is still a film).
In the following, reality and fiction mingle ever more, those cops known as the "Love Patrol", who eventually got in the way of some government official leading to their "voluntary" retirement, exist in real life, too, and we even meet them in person, i.e. in front of a camera! At one point, somebody says: "We pretend in reality, not in fantasy", refering to acting as a person in power, but obviously also to the film itself. Quite smart.
WArts Verdict: Nobody's read the bear its rights. It didn't get a phone call. Every jury would aquit the poor critter... What do I mean by this? Hey, I don't make the laws, I only enforce them!
More realist than Machete.
And ultimately, the thirteenth, and last, entry in Berlinale's competition, feeling like a programme filler. A German production, "Herr Bachmann und seine Klasse ("Mr Bachmann and his class") by Maria Speth documents in well above three hours a leftover hippie teacher and his junior high school class of mostly immigrants, somewhere in Germany. These kids don't seem to know much, and they won't learn a lot of hard facts either, but hey, Rudolf Steiner Schools have been around for some time, and civilisation hasn't gone down the drain... oh, wait: it is. Initial suspicions, this were some kind of special needs school, or even rehab/parole programme with inmates/pupils cooking their meals together, are wrong, it's only the reality of (German) education. You will pardon my cultural pessimism here.
WArts Verdict: That bear won't be able to spell his name properly, or build a grammatically correct sentence of more than ten words, but that's largely sufficent to become a journalist, or politician, in this brave new world of ours (we can always change the grammar!). And neither be Russian, Turkish, Bulgarian or whatever, but only one uniform demographics of consumers, all equal, exchangeable, and harmless.
Having just said, there were thirteen films in the festival's competition, that is not exactly true. There have been two more, but well - certain video streams have been geoblocked for political reasons, Iranian Ballad of a White Cow was not accessible from Israel, and neither could North Korean professionals watch South Korean Introduction (I actually doubt, there are a lot of Berlinale fans hailing from Pyongyang), not without a working VPN. Two more German productions, Daniel Brühl's Nebenan ("Next Door") and Dominik Graf's Fabian oder der Gang vor die Hunde ("Fabian, Going to the Dogs") have been geoblocked globally, but only for greed and copyright politics. They have not been made accessible to the press on the Berlinale servers. I guess, it would've been possible to humbly apply for a private viewing at the respective production companies, but sometimes you need to stick to your principles. Let's ignore them. ...Just one thing: On Berlinale's closing Saturday, a second streaming of the winning movie has been scheduled. What would they have done, had it been one of those? Best would have been a black screen for two hours.
But thankfully, the jury decided to ignore them, too (the jury could watch them, right?). Instead - you might have heard it by now - they've awarded the Golden Bear to Radu Jude's porn comedy Babardeală cu bucluc sau porno balamuc ("Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn"). Here's the complete list:
Golden Bear for Best Film
(awarded to the film’s producers)
Babardeală cu bucluc sau porno balamuc (Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn)
by Radu Jude (Romania / Luxembourg / Croatia / Czech Republic)
produced by Ada Solomon
Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize
Guzen to sozo (Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy) by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Japan)
Silver Bear for Best Director
Dénes Nagy for Természetes fény (Natural Light) – debut film
(Hungary / Latvia / France / Germany)
Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance
Maren Eggert in Ich bin dein Mensch (I'm Your Man) by Maria Schrader (Germany)
Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance
Lilla Kizlinger in Rengeteg - mindenhol látlak (Forest - I See You Everywhere) by Bence Fliegauf (Hungary)
Silver Bear for Best Screenplay
Hong Sangsoo for Inteurodeoksyeon (Introduction) by Hong Sangsoo (Republic of Korea)
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution
Yibrán Asuad for the editing of Una película de policías (A Cop Movie)
by Alonso Ruizpalacios (Mexico) - documentary form
I'll just leave this here, without further comment.
Only this: As you might have noticed, the acting bears are now neutered, or "gender neutral" (-ized). This is not the age of humanity, software doesn't have a sex - sorry, forgetting Marketing/Newspeak again: "gender". Because progress. It was probably a fifty-fifty decision between this, and using "Film*ess" in every instance. That's basically the same.