Berlin & Beyond, an annual production of the Goethe-Institut in San Francisco, consistently presents films that broaden perceptions of life in the German-speaking world. The 23rd season of the festival runs March 8-14.
In addition to three days of film at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre (March 8-10) and a night of encores at Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley (March 11), three films of particular Jewish interest will be presented March 12 and 13 at the Goethe-Institut.
“Exit: Leaving Extremism Behind,” is a piercingly relevant documentary that examines why people join violent hate groups — and what makes some of these extremists change their minds about causes that they would have killed for.
Norwegian filmmaker Karen Winther comes to the topic with personal insight: As a teenager, she joined both leftist and right-wing groups. She managed to break out of the extremist mindset and build a life as an artist; her 2011 debut film, “The Betrayal,” was an account of that youthful involvement. In “Exit,” Winther compares the experiences of a former left-wing extremist in Denmark, far-right extremists from both Germany and the U.S., and a French former jihadist.
In examining the process by which such people come to disavow and leave their respective movements, she hopes to respond to global concerns about the allure of extremist groups, especially to young people.
As she stated in an interview on the website Women and Hollywood, “Hopefully the film will make the audience look beyond the labels and get a deeper understanding of the long, hard process of leaving an extremist movement. I want former extremists to know they are not alone and that it is possible to start a new life and there are great organizations — like Life After Hate and exit programs around the world — who are ready to help.”
“Exit” will have its San Francisco premiere at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 12.
It will be followed at 8 p.m. by the German-Israeli feature film “Cakemaker,” Israel’s official entry to the 2019 Academy Awards. With a plot that entangles two men and one woman, confronting both sexual and cultural taboos, the romantic drama won seven 2018 awards from the Israeli Academy of Film and Television, including best film, best director and best actress. It has been screened at several Bay Area Jewish film festivals over the past year.
On Wednesday, March 13, “The Waldheim Waltz” screens at 8 p.m. Director Ruth Beckermann’s documentary about the uncovering of the Nazi past of former U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim was Austria’s official entry to the 2019 Academy Awards.
Tickets are $11 each. For the complete festival schedule and information, visit goethe.de. The Goethe-Institut is at 530 Bush St. in San Francisco.