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Petra Schmidt-Schaller and Jürgen Prochnow in "The Final Journey"
Petra Schmidt-Schaller and Jürgen Prochnow in "The Final Journey" | Syrreal Entertainment/Tobis Film
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Six Must-Sees at New York's Kino!2018 German Film Festival

Picture of Graham Fuller
Film Editor
Updated: 6 April 2018
KINO!2018 Festival (April 6-12)—the fifth edition of the German film bash—will unfurl nine feature-length movies, 11 shorts, and E.A. Dupont’s silent classic Varieté. Here’s a look at the highlights.

Bad Banks

The festival is showing the first two episodes of this propulsive high-finance miniseries, a six-parter destined to land at a top US streamer. It stars Paula Beer (less demure here than she was in Frantz) as ambitious investment banker Jana, who is wrongfully fired from a Luxembourg bank but lands a “perfect” job in Frankfurt. It comes packaged with the need for Jana to be ruthless, cope with machismo, and overcome a Machiavellian enemy. Bad Banks is sheeny, galvanized TV in the Billions mold. (April 7, 12.)

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Paula Beer in Bad Banks | © Letterbox Filmproduktion/Iris Productions

Bar Talks by Schumann

New Yorkers with a palate for thrilling alcoholic drinks will enjoy Marieke Schroeder’s documentary portrait of Charles Schumann, the celebrated German bartender and cocktail connoisseur. The septuagenarian author of The American Bar: The Artistry of American Drinks waxes booze-wise as he visits some of Manhattan’s most sumptuous cocktail hangouts during a whirlwind tour of the world’s fanciest bars. (April 7, 10.)

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Cocktail king Charles Schumann (center) in Bar Talks by Schumann | © NFP Marketing & Distribution

Casting

Nicolas Wackerbath’s mordant behind-the-scenes comedy is a docudrama-style look at the struggle of an indecisive director (Judith Engel) to cast a lead actress for her television remake of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. (Watching Olivier Assayas‘s Clouds of Sils Maria might have given her some clues.) To say that egos clash is an understatement. Look out for Andreas Lust as the supposedly hapless former actor who reads with the candidates for the coveted part of Petra. (April 8, 11.)

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Andreas Lust and Judith Engel in Casting | © Südwestrundfunk

The Final Journey

Newly widowed, stubborn 92-year-old Eduard (Das Boot‘s Jürgen Prochnow), a onetime Wehrmacht officer, travels by train from Germany to Ukraine to find the woman he fell in love with during the war. He is accidentally accompanied by his granddaughter Adele (Petra Schmidt-Schaller), a sullen thirtysomething bartender, whose encounter en route with a cheerful Russian-Ukrainian man (Tambet Tuisk) changes her perspective. Superbly written and directed by Nick Baker-Monteys, The Final Journey unfolds against the backdrop of the 2014 Ukraine crisis and probes family, political, and ethnic loyalties as well as long-held prejudices. (April 8, 10.)

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Artjom Gilz, Petra Schmidt-Schaller, Jürgen Prochnow, and Tambet Tuisk in The Final Journey | © Syrreal Entertainment/Tobis Film

In Times of Fading Light

Like The Final Journey, Matti Geschonneck’s In Times of Fading Light depicts the last hurrah of an old man whose life was shaped by war and political conflict. On the cusp of German reunification in 1989, Stalinist patriarch Wilhelm Powileit (Bruno Ganz), a wily curmudgeon, celebrates his ninetieth birthday surrounded by relatives, neighbors, and fawning party officials.

Wilhelm’s wife Charlotte (Hildegard Schmahl) reveals her bitterness at having lived a thankless life with him. Flamboyant latecomer Irina (Evgenia Dodina), the drunken wife of Wilhelm’s stepson (Sylvester Groth), brings the deflating news that her 32-year-old son has defected to the West. Herself a diehard Soviet, Irina emerges as the film’s unexpected focal point as the family unravels. Ganz and Dodina give great performances in this gripping, melancholy, and frequently funny historical drama. (April 6, 7.)

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Hildegard Schmahl (in white) and Bruno Ganz in In Times of Fading Light | © Constantin Film

When Paul Came Over the Sea

Jakob Preuss’s affecting documentary traces his friendship with Paul René Nkamani, a refugee from Cameroon who suffers a grueling ordeal as he heads to Europe. His journey takes him via the Saharan desert to a Moroccan coastal forest where he meets Preiss. Half of Nkamani’s companions are lost during a 50-hour sea journey on an inflatable rubber boat that brings him to Spain. After being held in a detention center on a prison island, Nkamani meets Preiss again in Granada. He arrives eventually in Berlin and, in time, moves in with Preiss’s parents. Few refugees from Africa or the Middle East can expect such an intervention, which only highlights the plight of the majority. (April 8, 9.)

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Refugee Paul René Nkamani in When Paul Came Over the Sea | © Weydemann Bros.

Varieté will be shown with live musical accompaniment on April 9. All KINO!2018 screenings will be held at The Landmark at 57 West, 657 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019. Tel: (646) 233-1615. For the festival schedule go to: http://www.kinofestivalnyc.com