Berlin & Beyond Film Festival Opening Night


Berlin & Beyond Film Festival in San Francisco has entered its 17th year. They kicked off the festivities at the brilliant Castro Theatre, still my favorite place to watch a film.

The live organ performance, a staple of the film going experience at The Castro, always makes my heart melt a wee bit.

The opening night featured the film, “Barbara.” It was the West Coast premiere of Christian Petzold’s film and there’s speculation it will be Germany’s entry to the Academy Awards this year as it has been a hit in Germany.

Set in East Germany in the 1980s, it’s a story of a woman struggling to escape to the West to get out from under the persecution of the stasi. It’s not a typical East meets West film as it’s set in a beautiful small town and life does move on around Barbara who is hell bent on getting out.

“Barbara” does a great job of asking all the questions, especially, at what price is freedom?

As with every film festival I attend, there’s always those people, and you know who you are, who fake laugh at something that’s not funny. Why do you do that? There’s no crazy subtle reference when the actress does a double take. Please stop pretending there’s more to it than there is.


The film ended and we hauled ass upstairs to the mezzanine to party. I love after parties because it’s a bunch of film fans eating and drinking. Every night should be as grand.

On the menu: Meat! frankfurters and sauerkraut.

I talked to a girl who was vegetarian and wasn’t eating. Then I found out her definition of vegetarian is that she doesn’t eat red meat, but she eats fish and chicken. What? It was probably one of those “laughing hyenas” in the audience who just really gets the nuances of a foreign film.

I’m mainly a veggie, fruits and fish dude, but if I’m at the after party for a German themed film festival, then doggone it, I’m eating the shit out of Frankfurters. And they were amazing. Best doggies I have ever tasted.

On my fourth glass of spectacular Syrah, I started to wonder, maybe there was something funny in “Barbara” that I missed and those people did get subtle references that I couldn’t pick up.

I don’t know what it is about free food and drinks, but a light goes on in my head and I turn into Caligula, so I gorged, and danced and chatted with friends and chatted up potential ladies to join me in my after gluttony orgy.

No one took me up on my orgy offer, so I spilled myself into a cab, leaving the wonderful Castro Theatre to my studio apartment in the Tenderloin, drunk, food stoned and wishing I spoke German.

Berlin & Beyond, thank you, you are one of the reasons living in San Francisco is so cool.

Tony DuShane is the author of Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk. His writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Penthouse, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer. And, if you’re a Nick Cave fan, check out Nick Cave Monday. More from this author →