Berlin Film Festival Features Wide Range of Documentaries

Christian Watjen
By Christian Watjen
February 28, 2020Entertainment

BERLIN—From a Russian man digging three stories below his garage to segments of the Berlin Wall found in unexpected places in America, documentaries at the 70th Berlin Film Festival show the world in new ways. More than 100 documentaries screen at the festival this year.

The U.S. production “The American Sector” is one of 21 films nominated for best documentary.

It chronicles a quest across the United States in search of segments of the Berlin Wall. Directors Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez spent three years traveling the country, capturing impressions of more than 60 pieces in their new homes.

Those pieces were collected over the course of 30 years by institutions as well as individuals.

The directors used the segments of the wall as a means to allow people to open up about big topics.

“The wall was this really wonderful way of being able to talk to people about liberty, about borders, about immigration, without doing it directly,” Velez said. “So that hopefully people were more at ease to say what they were really thinking.

A world premiere in Berlin, the film explores how a symbol of communist tyranny gives new meaning to its American hosts.

Another documentary, “Garage People” is the first feature-length film by director Natalija Yefimkina and shot in Russia’s inhospitable far-north. It explores the Russian phenomenon of garage settlements.

For many Russian men, garages have become sanctuaries. The garages are homes away from home, where they can follow their passions and carve out some freedom.

One man spent half of his life digging three stories below his garage, mostly by hand, for no particular reason, except for “following his heart.” Another man uses his carpentry at his garage workshop to deal with his Parkinson’s.

The German production also had its world premiere this week in Berlin.

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