By Mónica Delgado

Vincent Dieutre writes an urban symphony through melancholy, nostalgia and hope, from the gaze of a group of migrant European artists in Berlin. Shots of streets, neighborhoods, landscapes, slowly build this vision of the foreigner in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, stricken by the ghosts of WWII and the famous wall. Berlin based is the affirmation of this German city as a cultural and resistance core.

Keeping some elements of his previous work of intimate personal touch (Rome désolée or Fragments sur la grâce), Dieutre leads the voice-over of this city portrait, which -from the convention of the talking head– recovers testimonies of a group of artists (performers, activists, filmmakers, etc.) who abandoned their countries of origin (from Estonia to France) for considering them to be unattractive for artistic freedom. Thus, Dieutre poses a new physiognomy of the migrant: European people who see Berlin as a place of creative salvation, breaking this prejudice of seeing Europe in general as a potent cultural attraction. The testimonies show that living in this time in parts of Europe can prove to be frustrating. Also, because of that, it’s remarkable that Dieutre has chosen only dissident European voices, and not the typical stereotypical migrant: Latinos or Asians, as many of the festival films about migration usually show. Because of that, this choice by Dieutre is striking but also subtlety selective.

In Berlin based, as other films about cities, the matrial is focused in the quotidian of city life, which is divided by travelling through different districts: Mitte, Kreuzberg or Neukölin, a zone with the highest rate of migrants, especially Turkish. From these episodes, the filmmaker shows the peculiarity of this Berlin of many faces and languages, which, from the metro, or streets and big avenues, reminds us of certain ways of seeing, like Chantal Akerman’s News from Home, where her New York looks like a city of routine, empty streets and walks among attentive or indifferent citizens. In Berlin Based, the spaces and faces in testimony abound.

I keep for myself the comment of a French-Libanese artist, who indicates that she couldn’t live in a country where the people is always aware of what one does, and that in Berlin found the ideal place where the respect to diversity, to being oneself, exists. The paradoxes of the first world.

French Selection
Director: Vincent Dieutre
Producers: Stéphane Jourdain (La Huit), Stéphane Jourdain
France, Germany
90 mins.