Wednesday, 6/20/2018

Two extraordinary filmmakers

Lucrecia Martel and Philip Gröning

Philip Gröning and Lucrecia Martel

FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is honoring two extraordinary filmmakers this year. A retrospective is dedicated to Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel, who has influenced a new generation of filmmakers in Latin America. The festival's tribute to German director Philip Gröning includes his early works as well as his latest film, MY BROTHER'S NAME IS ROBERT AND HE IS AN IDIOT.

Lucrecia Martel shook up traditional Argentinian cinema with her debut film in 2000. THE SWAMP is considered a founding classic of New Argentinian Cinema. This film about two families who spend their summer vacation together at a country estate in northern Argentina turns its back on all existing narrative conventions. The heat beats down on the remote cottage; we see lethargic bodies, sunburned, and scruffy children who go hunting. Boredom, desolation, and lack of control are the ominous clouds that foreshadow a maelstrom of accidents. Martel masterfully increases the tension as she tells this story of Argentinian middle-class life gone awry and reveals the racism smoldering beneath it.


Martel's works are enigmatic, sensual, and brutal. They demand the viewer's attention and are sometimes disorienting. Her style of directing is often compared to that of Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, or David Lynch. She has written the screenplays to all of her films herself. Her first three films are, tellingly, set in her home town of Salta, a conservative provincial town in northeastern Argentina, where she was born in 1966. THE HOLY GIRL (2004), for example, is set in an old spa hotel in Martel's home town in which the 15-year-old protagonist, Amalia, lives with her divorced mother. There, the teenager unintentionally makes the acquaintance of Dr. Jano, a married man, and turns him into the object of her questionable mission. THE HEADLESS WOMAN (2007), also set in a rural area, tells of an automobile accident that throws Verónica's life off the rails.

In Martel's current film, ZAMA, the eponymous protagonist, a representative of the Spanish crown, longs for just this place, Salta. He is stationed in Paraguay and awaiting a return to Argentina that will never happen. FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is showing all four of Martel's feature films as well as selected short films and the documentary LIGHT YEARS, which accompanies Martel during the making of her most recent film, ZAMA. This documentary offers a wonderful impression of a sensitive director who concentrates thoroughly on her work. We see the filmmaker as she carefully selects props, assesses make-up, and works intensely with the actors on set to convey nuances.


Filmmaker Philip Gröning's idea of a setting is at least as precise. His latest film, MY BROTHER'S NAME IS ROBERT AND HE IS AN IDIOT, takes place mainly at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Gröning wanted a winding country road, no houses in the frame, and mountains in the background. Only in the long shot of the gas station and its mountain vista would the utopian nature of the region the characters grew up in be expressed, the director said in an interview. It's at this gas station that a twin brother and sister spend an entire weekend. They make themselves comfortable in a field next to it, keep themselves supplied with beer, and philosophize about the nature of time. Elena is about to take her oral final exam in philosophy, which will enable her to graduate from high school, and her brother is there to help her study for it. It is summer, and they can taste the freedom that awaits them when school is over. This will mean going their separate ways, however, and both of them know this. The interplay of the symbiotic twins, who never stop teasing, arguing, and touching each other while quoting St. Augustine and catching insects, mounts to a thriller in which all limits are crossed and blood is eventually spilled.

Born in Düsseldorf in 1959, Philip Gröning studied psychology and medicine before studying film directing at HFF München. This tribute by FILMFEST MÜNCHEN creates an opportunity to connect his latest film to his early works. Certain themes, such as the interplay between the idyllic observation of nature and the analytical observation of human relationships, can also be found in his debut film, SUMMER, in which a father attempts to build a bridge to his autistic son during a vacation at an Alpine hotel. The effects of violence, which in a whirlwind of events can turn innocent people into victims, are brought up in the grotesque THE TERRORISTS!, in which three young, self-appointed terrorists plan to assassinate Helmut Kohl. In addition, the festival is showing two short films, STACHOVIAK! and VICTIMS. WITNESSES. What is time? With experimental furor, Gröning goes in search of an answer and returns to give his audiences extraordinary experiences in a medium that captures time.

The tribute to Lucrecia Martel will take place on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at 6:00 pm at the Gloria Palast. Afterward, the film ZAMA will be shown. A Q&A with the director will follow. Prior to this, Martel will participate in FILMMAKERS LIVE! at 3:00 pm at the Black Box in the Gasteig. On July 4 th, 10:30 am at HFF Kino 2 she will host a masterclass which is open to the public. Please make sure to register via

Philip Gröning will participate in FILMMAKERS LIVE! on Thursday, July 5, 2018 at 2:00 pm in the Black Box at the Gasteig.