Dinner in America
Dinner in America

For this hybrid Covid-19 edition, the 33rd edition of exground filmfest, which runs from November 13 to 22, will present a total of 121 independent short and feature-length films from 45 countries in various Wiesbaden, Germany venues. The festival will share large portions of the film program via on-demand streaming, and for the first time, the festival opening and awards ceremony will be broadcast live, and panels and film talks will be recorded for presentation on the festival’s YouTube channel.

“We are very happy that we managed to master the many challenges this year has presented so far and have put together a high-quality festival program in the scope we’ve grown accustomed to,” Andrea Wink from the festival team explained at the press conference. “We hope that guests will come out to our Wiesbaden venues and can only encourage everyone to take advantage of our on-demand offer as well.”

Trailer: TRANSGRESS BORDERS (Germany 2020) by Martin Gessner

The short and feature films of the competition programs are characterized by a balanced gender ratio behind the camera: around half of the productions here are from female directors, as is the case for instance for seven of the 13 feature-length films in the “Made in Germany” and “International Youth Film Competition” sections.

From a thematic point of view, diverse films in the program deal with strong female characters and family bonds. In the French-Canadian western homage Savage State (L’État Sauvage) by David Perrault, for once women are not merely decorative objects, but instead have Colt 45s firmly in hand.

In Adam Carter Rehmeier’s Dinner in America (USA, 2020), weirdo loner Patty (Emily Skeggs) dutifully ignores supposed beauty norms. Together with restless punk rocker Simon (Kyle Gallner), she heads out on a wild road trip through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest.

Strong family bonds figure heavily in Lena Knauss’ debut film Tagundnachtgleiche (Germany, 2020). Alexander seems to have finally encountered the love of his life in the form of variety artist Paula. When he meets her family after Paula’s sudden accidental death, Alexander also feels attracted to her sister Marlene, as he increasingly loses himself, torn between the two women and deep connections.

No less than two documentary films offer a look at family histories: while in Walchensee Forever (Germany, 2020) Janna Ji Wonders impressively relates the story of her family over the course of an entire century, in Displaced (Germany, 2020) Sharon Ryba-Kahn takes a deep dive into her father’s past. A descendant of Shoah survivors, Ryba-Kahn attempts to speak to her father about his own father’s life during the Holocaust, which proves difficult.

Criticism of reigning social and political conditions makes up a further thematic focus in this year’s exground programme. In The Evening Hour (USA, 2020), director Braden King adapts Carter Sickels’ novella of the same name. Here, 30-year-old eldercare giver Cole Freeman earns a little money on the side as a drug dealer in a post-industrial Appalachian small town, in what is an indictment of the devastating consequences mining companies have wrought on society and nature.

Arun Karthick’s Nasir (India/Netherlands, 2020) delivers an exposé on the lives of second-class citizens in an intolerant society. In spite of grueling labour and constricting circumstances, the film’s eponymous protagonist manages not to lose his positive mood and faith in goodness, though, as a Muslim in Southern India, he is vulnerable to increasingly brutal Hindu nationalism.

Mazel Tov Cocktail (Germany, 2020) by Arkadij Khaet and Mickey Paatzsch deals with the current status quo of German-Jewish identity. Dimitrij Liebermann (19), who is Jewish, is supposed to apologize to Tobi for hitting him in the face. On his way to Tobi’s place, Dimitrij is faced again and again with a struggle he must overcome, a struggle with his German-Jewish identity. The multi-award-winning 30-minute film is being shown at exground filmfest in the MiG 3-pack along with two other medium-length films..

In honour of Klaus Lemke, who just recently celebrated his 80th birthday, exground filmfest is screening two of his newest productions. The very definition of the independent filmmaker, Klaus Lemke shuns the German film funding system and shoots what really captivates him on shoestring budgets.

In A Callgirl for Ghosts (Germany, 2020), a deadly blonde driving a white Ford Gran Torino disposes of her admirers in the canals of Venice. This black comedy, shot in carefree pre-Covid Munich in 2019, is the final instalment in Lemke’s Maxvorstadt-Balladen trilogy.

Finally, with Bad Boy Lemke, the German DIY master has created a platform for his unfinished projects. Even the works he has condemned to the rubbish bin over the years are radical and powerful!

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