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From the Feuilletons


18/05/2006 

Die Zeit, 18.05.2006

While in Beijing next week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet the critical journalists Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao. Reason enough for Georg Blume to visit some well-known bloggers and protagonists of virtual freedom of opinion in China. "In a dimly lit night market in the town of Fuyang in the farming province of Anhui in central China, the taxi comes to a halt in a throng of people. The door is pushed open in the half-light and a man shouts: 'Get out! We'll go on by foot.' This is Li Xinde at work. 46 years old, in his youth a navy diver and opera singer, Li is widely regarded as China's foremost investigative journalist. He is a loner. All media in China are subject to Party censorship. But everything Li writes can be read uncensored in his blogs (for example here). Now in Fuyang he is tracing down the owner of a chocolate factory who is hiding from the authorities." Read a portrait of Li in the New York Times here.


Die Welt, 18.05.2006


Johnny Erling calls attention to the ongoing silence of official China on the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution. "The Communist Party has done a considerable amount of work to erase the once epochal event from the nation's collective memory. Just to make sure, the propaganda authorities have also expressly forbidden China's media from engaging in any debate of the subject. They should even avoid mentioning the term 'Wenhua Dageming', as Mao Zedong called his 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,' which started exactly 40 years ago in May."

Matthias Heine is impressed by Michael Glawogger's most recent documentary film "Workingman's Death" which takes a look at heavy labour in today's supposedly post-industrial age. "Glawogger and his camera man Wolfgang Thaler got unbelievable footage. Together with the Ukraine's hungry successors to the Soviet model worker Stakhanov, they crawled on their stomachs through galleys half a meter high, deep in the coal bed. With Indonesian sulphur-carriers, they met western and Japanese volcano tourists who were photographing these relics of times past with great curiosity. In a 'butcher yard' in Nigeria, they see how within a day, the throats of hundreds of goats and bulls are slit – and they trudge through the thick black sludge of blood and earth with these men. You can only be grateful that the olfactory film has yet to be invented."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 18.05.2006


According to Verena Lueken, the much anticipated film version of "The Da Vinci Code," which opened the Cannes Festival last night, is a flop. "Director Ron Howard had no original ideas. He plays the story from the page, he has the characters talk, explain, lecture, think aloud non-stop, as they do in the book. Once in a while, he sends them through touristy, stylised landscapes, making sure that no dust lands on their shoes, no gust of wind messes up their hair, their noses never shine. In the book, the hunt for the holy grail lasts 24 hours, in the film it feels just as long."


Die Tageszeitung, 18.05.2006

Claus Löser marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of DEFA, the East German film production operation located in the Babelsberg Studios near Berlin. "Of all people, it was former resistance fighter Falk Harnack (brother of Arvid Harnack, executed in 1942) who had to see his film 'Das Beil von Wandsbek' ('The Axe of Wandsbek,' with former concentration camp inmate Erwin Geschonneck in the lead role) put on the index, accused of psychologising the Nazi perpetrators. The dogma of 'Socialist Realism' now incriminated all tendencies, in form and content, associated with 'Critical Realism' (another term for the bourgeois camp). The ensuing ice age basically lasted forty years until 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Periodically it was interrupted by moments of thaw, which were just as short as they were illusory. But an innovative film scene comparable with those in Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia (until 1968) and even the Soviet Union could never get off the ground. Filmmakers like Gerhard Klein, Konrad Wolf, Heiner Carow, Frank Beyer, Egon Günther, Jürgen Böttcher, Rainer Simon and Ulrich Weiß made important contributions to German cinema, but their films remained exceptions to the rule, industrial accidents of East German cultural history."

Bert Rebhandll has good things to say about Christoph Hochhäusler's film "Falscher Bekenner" ("Low Profile", literally false confessor) as a study of modern adolescence. "Job interviews are something of a leitmotiv in 'Low Profile'. Armin is constantly expected to present himself as himself and at the same time as the valuable worker that he is to become. He should be authentic and constructive, he should commit himself to himself and to the companies he wants to work for. This is where Hochhäusler engages the little but decisive trick in the film's title. Instead of writing yet another job application, Armin writes a letter to the police, claiming responsibility for a car accident in which a banker was killed. And so he applies for the authorship of an accident which he has incidentally witnessed. Thus he becomes a 'false confessor.'"
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