In addition to the German production Schwarzer Kies (Black Gravel) directed by Helmut Käutner, Rafi Bukaee’s Avanti Popolo from Israel and the Mexican film Canoa by Felipe Cazals will be shown in digitally restored versions as part of the Berlinale Classics section. Since 2013, that segment of the Retrospective has attracted enthusiastic audiences with its newly-digitised versions of classic and newly-discovered films.
Canoa by Mexican director Felipe Cazals won a Silver Bear (Special Jury Prize) at the 1976 Berlinale and has now been digitally restored by The Criterion Collection with the participation of the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE) in honour of its 40th anniversary. The film is based on true events that took place in 1968 in the remote village of San Miguel Canoa. A group of young university employees from Puebla is stranded in Canoa during a weekend outing; suspected of being communist students, the villagers mount an attack on them. The digital restoration was approved by director Felipe Cazals. The screening of Canoa is part of a focus on Mexican cinema; Mexico is the partner country of the 2017 European Film Market (EFM).
Director Rafi Bukaee’s debut film Avanti Popolo (1986), a tragicomedy about the absurdity of war, is one of Israeli cinema’s most significant auteur films and was selected to represent the country at the Academy Awards in 1987. Telling the story of two Egyptian soldiers wandering through the Sinai desert after the Six-Day War, Bukaee played with the stereotypical images of Israelis and Arabs, and turned conventional clichés upside down. The film’s dialogue is largely Arabic; it was the first time in the history of Israeli film that Arab protagonists were portrayed by Arab actors. The restoration by the Jerusalem Cinematheque – Israel Film Archive of the film was done on the basis of the original 16-mm negative.
Schwarzer Kies (Black Gravel), made in 1961, was directed in American B movie style. After its premiere, the press was critical of the film, which took a pessimistic view of society in post-war Germany. One scene in the film also exposed Käutner to accusations of anti-Semitism. Käutner re-edited the film for the German market, giving it a somewhat less gloomy ending. The original version, as well as the theatrical version, survived in the archives of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Foundation. The foundation has now undertaken to digitise the original, premiere version, to safeguard it for the future.
“Käutner’s film is an outstanding example of an unvarnished view of the depths of Western Germany’s post-war reality. The use of the direct and high-contrast language of a B movie makes it a rarity that can now be re-discovered”, comments Rainer Rother, head of the Berlinale Retrospective section and artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek.
The full Berlinale Classics programme will be announced in January 2017.