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Berliners review: Is Berlin still the promised land for expats?

Still from Berliners: What do young people from all over the world seek and find in Berlin? (Photo: Alba Fortuny Julià).

A new documentary film explores the lives of young people who move to Berlin in pursuit of its fabled freedoms.

Is Berlin still the El Dorado for subcultures? The utopia for alternative lifestyles? New documentary film Berliners, which focuses on expats and their motives behind moving to Berlin, asks precisely these questions. But doesn’t really answer them. Maybe because this low-budget film, by Spanish director Alba Fortuny Julià, was limited to just a few locations. Or because she wants her subjects to be seen as exemplary of Berlin, a city that’s a haven of liberty for young people from all over the world.

Teepee villages and artist studios

There’s the small teepee village by the banks of the Spree, where a small community of survivalists fly under the radar. They’re creating their own, more authentic, alternative version of the Holzmarkt project. And there’s the Greenhouse, hidden in the no-man’s land of Tempelhof. Here, a number of young artists have found a home for their work and their lives. Interestingly, they enjoy unusually secure conditions considering the lack of artist studios in the city.

Julià rushes through a number of protagonists, and we don’t learn a lot about them. She’s much more focused on atmospheres, which the film captures well. But a political angle providing some context to the history and the relevance of urban free spaces is sadly missing. This would have been important, particularly in relation to the teepee village and its connections to similar spaces that were cleared. But where Julià’s film is powerful is in its personal view of a city that gives more and more people the freedom to survive only on its streets. With all its limitations, an honest snapshot of life in Berlin right now.

Spain/Germany 2019, 78 minutes, direction: Alba Fortuny Julià

Opening night: Thursday, August 15th, at Brotfabrik-Kino, more screenings on August 16th and 17th, 7.30pm. Q&A with the director after every screening!

Translated by Aida Baghernejad


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