The opening night selection, A Thousand Lines, follows two German journalists, one of whom becomes suspicious of his colleague’s flair for success and starts digging. The contemporary drama is based on the 2018 Der Spiegel scandal in which journalist Claas Relotius fabricated stories on a grand scale, including one about an elderly woman who travelled around America by bus to watch death-row executions.

Relotius made numerous reporting trips to the US and his stories dominated the German journalism awards.

Bettina Kinski, operations manager for Palace Cinemas, said the film, directed by Michael Herbig – whose previous film, Balloon, about an Eastern European couple trying to escape in a hot air balloon, opened the 2019 festival – was particularly topical because it dealt with truth.

“It is very entertaining and, I think, important and topical because it tells us a lot about media and reality,” Kinski says.

The festival centrepiece is the psychological drama The Teacher’s Lounge, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and focuses on a young and inexperienced teacher, played by Leonie Benesch from the Netflix series Babylon Berlin, navigating a spate of stealing at her school.

“She plays this very dedicated teacher in her first job trying to get to the bottom of it but she is more and more confronted with problems,” Kinski says. “It shows what a tough job teaching is because you constantly have to balance all these different fronts and subjects outside the curriculum.”

Sisi and I takes a fresh look at the life of Sisi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Female directors from Germany, Switzerland and Austria are celebrated in a sidebar of 11 films, among them Sisi and I, another look at the life of the wayward Sisi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, this time told through the eyes of her lady-in-waiting, Countess Irma Irma Sztáray (Sandra Hüller).

“It is a completely wild and unconventional interpretation, and it concentrates on her last years, where she was spending most of her time on the Greek island of Corfu, in a commune,” Kinski says. “Irma is fascinated by Sisi and her ideas, and falls for her.”

Hollywood star Vicky Krieps – who played Sisi in the 2022 film Corsage – returns in the role of a revered and troubled 20th-century German writer in Ingeborg Bachmann – Journey into the Desert. The quietly magnificent film, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, who was a leading light in the German new wave movement, also premiered at Berlin and focuses on the personal life of Bachmann and her love affair with playwright Max Frisch (Ronald Zehrfeld).

“She is at the peak of her career and where she starts struggling a little bit with her private life,” Kinski says. “It is a fascinating tribute, very beautiful.”

In a Land that No Longer Exists arose from the personal story of the director Aelrun Goette, who was discovered as a model in the GDR in 1989, just as the wall was coming down. Kinski says the film stars up-and-coming German actress Marlene Burow as model Suzie, a factory worker photographed on her way to work who is catapulted to fame on the cover of a fashion magazine.

“It’s a story about beauty, about fashion but also about freedom, and about the price you are willing to pay.”

Burow also stars in Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything, a love story about a young woman drawn into a passionate relationship with a farmer twice her age. Directed by Emily Atef and based on a novel, it is set in East Germany in the same period of transition after the end of communist control.

Austrian and Swiss films are included under the German banner, among them And Tomorrow We Will Be Dead, the gripping story of a Swiss couple – initially mistaken for Americans – who are travelling along the Silk Road. They attract attention by buying a tray of mangoes at a market in Pakistan and are kidnapped by a criminal gang and sold to the Taliban, who use them to bargain for prisoner release.

“It’s an intense drama, very thrilling and terrifying,” Kinski says. “And it is based on their own written account.”

Kinski also singles out for attention a low-key Austrian World War II drama, The Fox, about a soldier working as a motorcycle courier who bonds with a young, wounded fox cub he finds in the forest.

“We have so many big titles but I am hoping people will find their way to The Fox because I found it such a touching drama. It is one of the best anti-war films I have seen, also based on a true story.”

A music-themed retrospective series in the festival includes Music, Art and Chaos, a journey into the West Berlin music scene; Christiane F, based on the true story of a young girl who falls into the West Berlin drug scene, and featuring David Bowie as himself; and B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin 1979-1989, a documentary with footage of early Joy Division and a young Nick Cave.

The German Film Festival runs from May 3-24 in Adelaide, with screenings at Palace Nova Eastend and Palace Nova Prospect. The full program is online.

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