Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2024 7:59 pm 
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DAVID WNENDT: SONNE UND BETON/SUN AND CONCRETE (2023 berlin & beyond 2024)

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VINCENT WIEMER, LEVY RICO ARCOS, RAFAEL LUIS KLEIN-HESSLING, AARON MALDONADO MORALES IN SONNE UND BETON

Boys in the hood, Berliner style

Four teenage buds, (Lukas (Levy Rico Arkos), Julius (Vincent Wiemer), Gino (Luis Klein-Hessling), and Sanchez (Aaron Maldonado Morales) - the young actors all vivid first-timers, are trying to survive in the Neukölln, Berlin (Gropius) projects, amid drugs, gangs, violence, rap, poverty, and and boredom. The film finds them at a turning point, when they get into a bigger mess than usual and have big choices to make. From the Letterboxd testimonials, though a simple enough banlieue tale, this is much appreciated, because it is a subject rarely if ever seen treated in German cinema. And it has an appropriate breathless intensity and a smooth mix of coming of age and action-crime genres. The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Felix Lobrecht, who collaborated on the adaptation with the director.

These Berlin projects are as bad as the Paris banlieue, but the complex was designed by none other than Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, and is accordingly called Gropiusstadt, Gropius for short. On the ground, there are warring drug dealers who are Arab, Turkish and Black, and dominate the courtyard the boys must pass through.

It is the hot summer of 2003. First off, we see Lukas get badly beaten in the face when he and his two best pals Julius and Gino try to get past the drug dealers, and he wimps out. His cool older brother Marco (Luvre47) tells him when attacked, to fight back. HIs father says the opposite. What is clear is that Lukas is not a tough, but a smart kid: his teacher compliments his essay and says he has linguistic talent. The three pals gain a new memeber when a new student coomes to class, Sanchez (Aaron Maldonado Morales), who is half Cuban and identifies as not Black but Caribbean. They're soon enough nearly inseparable. Only, the infectious biolence of the place invades their relationships aming themselves, and while Lukas is smart and a schemer, though cowardly, Julius has a dangerous violent and heedless quality.

Debts and a longing not to be so poor lead Lukas to suggest their big project, in what could be seen as an updated version of Antoine Doinel's pinched typewriter in The 400 Blows, to steal a collection of valuable new computers at their school waiting to be used in classes. And they do this, getting via stolen keys and coming away with a lot of the computers in gtheir boxes loaded on a big grocery cart. Unleading them proves less easy. The theft is high profile. Things do not go well.

What does go well is this film. It does not reinvent the wheel, but it is colorful, handsomely photographed by DoP Jieun Yi, maintains energy and excitement throughout, and reportedly adds scenes not in the book, providing background on each of the boys' home situations. The young actors are well cast. The locations are filled with local Gropiusstadt people, highlighted by other rappers, and the sound track is rich in German rap music. This is a creditable effort, and for the German audience is already spoken of as destined to be a cult classic. Its future for an international audience is vague.

Sun and Concrete/Sonne und Beton, 119 mins., debuted at the Barlinale Feb. 18, 2023;Singapore Oct. 19. Screened for this review as part of the 28th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, presented by the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, will run April 18-20, 2024 at the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco's Mission District, and April 21-22, 2024 at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley. It was the Opening Night film and its North American premiere with Markus Goller as a special guest. It opened theatrically in Germany October 26, 2023. Berlin &. Beyond Showtimes: To be announced.

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