Lights, camera, action! Germany lit the screen at the European Union Film Festival on Nov. 28 with the acclaimed film Shuld sin dimmer die Anderen (Shifting the Blame).
The screening was highlighted by the guest appearance of the film’s producer, Matthias Drescher.
Shifting the Blame depicts a violent young criminal named Ben Graf, played by rising German actor Edin Hasanovic, who is forced to confront his demons in an open prison for youth. In prison, Graf finds that the warden, or house mother named Eva, is one of his past victims who he hurt severely in an armed robbery.
The audience is faced with the task of grappling with Graf’s moral character because he feels little to no remorse about his violent actions. What’s worse, Ben is now in prison for breaking the jaw of a female bartender when she refused to serve him any further.
As the pieces of Ben’s identity begin to unravel and he begins to confront the nature of his crimes, Graf makes an astonishing transformation from a remorseless, violent “blame shifter,” to feeling increasingly tormented by the pain he had caused.
In the final leap of taking responsibility for his actions, Ben admits his crimes aloud to the rest of the house. The film ends with Ben being taken back to a closed prison by his house father who cries out in anguish.
The film was brilliantly scripted to illustrate “a story of guilt and forgiveness,” said Drescher.
According to the producer, the film was sought out by social workers and youth prisons to which it was well received, especially by inmates.
“They wrote handwritten letters to us and said ‘It was great to watch,’ and ‘It was unexpected that he admits,’” said Drescher.
Shifting the Blame was part of the EUFF presented by the Canadian Film Institute (CFI), the Delegation of the European Union to Canada and the Member States of the European Union.
The festival took place from Nov. 14 to Dec. 1 and showcased 27 films from many European Union Member States.
Jerrett Zarofski, programmer from CFI and Tom McSorley, executive director at CFI, travelled to various film festivals, such as the Cannes Film Festival, to scout for hidden gems to bring to Ottawa.
After viewing hundreds of films, Zarofski and McSorley chose their top four from each country and presented them to their respective embassy to obtain the films.
“For us, our goal is to educate through cinema and Ottawa specifically, to bring them films they have never seen before and may never see again,” said Zarofski.
“There are so many films internationally and even in Canada that never make it to the screen.”
The capital is the perfect setting to bring international film to Canadians as it is the home of many embassies.
“The EUFF being in Ottawa, we can work with the embassies closely because they are all here for the most part. We have a mutually beneficial goal in that they want to highlight their artistic outlook of their country and we want to bring that outlook to Ottawa and Canadian audiences.”
One of this year’s highest acclaimed films, Shifting the Blame, has won film festival awards throughout Germany and in Montreal.
“I saw it in Montreal last year. I really liked it. We had it at the top of the list for the German embassy,” said Zarofski.
“To me it’s probably the best in the festival this year and we promoted it the most because it’s hard to get people to come out when they read the synopsis and think it’s heavy or depressing. We really wanted to emphasize that it’s a very good drama and with this particular film it was really easy to do that.”
In the works for the CFI is “The Bright Nights Film Festival featuring eight films in four or five days from the Baltic and Nordic countries,” said Zarofski. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Did you miss a film that you really wanted to see? Here are some suggestions:
• Search for the film on Google or IMDB.com for more info.
• Email the film’s distributor about future theatrical or DVD releases.
• Contact the cultural office or film institute from the film’s region.
For Shifting the Blame specifically, try contacting the production company to find out when it will be available in Canada.