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"The Ambassador" directed by and starring Mads Brügger
“The Ambassador” directed by and starring Mads Brügger

This year, Munich Film Festival will recognize the work of Danish documentary filmmaker Mads Brügger and world-renowned Cannes 2019 Palme d’Or winner South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho with two separate retrospectives. The two filmmakers will be bringing along their latest work: both Brügger’s true crime documentary “Cold Case Hammarskjöld” and Bong’s celebrated Cannes winner “Parasite” will have their German premiere in the CineMasters competition.

Danish documentarist, scriptwriter, and journalist Mads Brügger is a virtuoso who explores the boundary between documentary and feature films. With loads of black humor, Brügger gets to the bottom of things, whether it’s theater of the absurd in North Korea, raising St. Bernards in China, or diamond-smuggling and conspiracies in Africa. Provocatively and self-referentially, Brügger himself appears in front of the camera and searches for facts in the best and most entertaining sense — using a hidden camera and at times putting himself in mortal danger. The point of departure for this retrospective is Brügger’s latest film, “Cold Case Hammarskjöld” (2019). In this spectacular true crime documentary, Brügger reopens the case of the 1961 death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld. With his usual performance-like methods, Brügger reveals criminal patterns and gets to the bottom of this possible assassination. Directed like a crime thriller, “Cold Case Hammarskjöld” is the result of six years of detailed research full of ambiguities and contradictions. This film has elicited public discussion and revived awareness of the case. Brügger received the World Cinema Directing Award in the documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival. At Munich Film Festival., this highly praised documentary will celebrate its German premiere as part of a retrospective.

With “The Red Chapel” (2009), “The Ambassador” (2011), “The Saint Bernard Syndicate” (2018), and “Cold Case Hammarskjöld”, this retrospective will present Brügger’s four feature-length films, all of which had their German premiere at Munich Film Festival.

Bong Joon-ho at Okja Japan Premiere. Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan
Bong Joon-ho at Okja Japan Premiere. Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho is not only one of the most renowned international filmmakers of the moment but also the winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. In the course of his career, he has been a very successful genre director, dealing with quite varied topics, though solidarity and cohesion are themes that come up time and again in his works. Now the director is represented in this year’s CineMasters competition by his brand-new film “Parasite”, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. A family and its sinister acts are at the center of this mysterious drama with comedic undertones. This film deliberately avoids categorization and holds a number of surprises. This mixture of satire, suspense, and social criticism is typical of Bong Joon-ho and is the ideal starting point for discovering or rediscovering his work.

“Parasite” harks back to Bong’s tragicomic debut, “Barking Dogs Never Bite” (2000), which was shown at Munich Film Festival. 2001 and which started off a remarkable series of films that — how seldom this is — have always been given an extremely positive reception by critics and audiences alike. Bong achieved his breakthrough with the celebrated police thriller “Memories of Murder” (2003), which received numerous awards at festivals around the world. It was only natural for the writer-director to continue this winning streak with his disaster and monster movie “The Host” (2006); this elaborate production became the most successful South Korean film of all time and was also enormously well-received abroad. “Tokyo!” (2008) and “Mother” (German premiere at Munich Film Festival. 2010) were followed by Bong’s first English-language film, “Snowpiercer” (2013). This star-studded science-fiction film dealt critically but also entertainingly with social inequality and the disastrous consequences of global warming. Similarly, Bong’s Cannes entry “Okja” from 2017 is, beneath its spectacular surface, distinctly critical of current phenomena such as factory farming and genetically altered crops.

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