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Andrea Arnold



MILK (SHORT, 1998)
DOG (SHORT, 2001)
WASP (SHORT, 2003)
RED ROAD (2006)
FISH TANK (2009)


When has there been such violent, non-stop swearing in cinema as in Fish Tank (2009)? In Mike Leigh’s Naked in 1993? »The party’s over,« Johnny, the limping main character, says there. For 15-year-old Mia in Andrea Arnold’s second feature film Fish Tank, the party hasn’t even started yet. Aimless and angry, clad in grey sweatpants, she wanders through the corridors of the run-down social housing estate she lives in and the rusty wastelands around it. She hurls abuse at her single mother and her little sister – and gets a rough deal herself. A teenage girl, quivering with disappointment and longing, ready to explode at any moment. But when she does her hip-hop moves, her tense, gaunt body becomes soft and vulnerable. It’s like in most of Andrea Arnold’s films: brutality and beauty are close together.


Fish Tank is the 60-year-old director’s most autobiographical film. She herself is »working class«, having grown up in a satellite estate in Dartford in the outskirts of London. Her mother was 16 when she had Arnold, her father was 17 and quickly moved on. For Andrea Arnold, too, dancing was a way out of the negative social spiral. At 17, she won a place at London’s Laban Dance Centre, one of the leading schools in England. Later, she did children’s television, went to Los Angeles in her late 20s and studied directing at the American Film Institute. She scored a major triumph with Wasp (2003), one of her first short films, shot in Dartford. It won her an Oscar and catapulted overnight to become the new, exciting voice of British social realism.


With Andrea Arnold, an explicitly female perspective found its way into the cinema of the marginalised. There is nothing gawky or embellished about Arnold’s gaze. The aesthetics of her films are as rough as the life setting of the people they are about. Hand-held cameras instead of balanced framing, hard cuts, hardly any artificial light. Her actresses are no-names or amateurs – like Katie Jarvis, the actress of Mia in Fish Tank. Arnold discovered her on a railway platform when she was arguing with her boyfriend.

Andrea Arnold is a regular guest at all the renowned festivals with her films. At Cannes, she received the Jury Prize for her feature debut Red Road (2006), a sexually charged psychological thriller, as well as for Fish Tank and American Honey (2016), her first production in the USA. After the last screening of Wuthering Heights (2011) at Sundance, Arnold decided to skip her flight home and instead drive across America in a rental car. Like her own road trip, American Honey – the story told by a group of young people who tour Oklahoma on a bus selling magazine subscriptions – is guided by chance and instinct. A meandering narrative, shot chronologically. »A film,« the director once said, »is a journey for me to embark on. It starts with myself and moves outwards.«


Arnold’s latest film Cow (2021) is also a kind of road movie, a journey through the life of a cow. And as is so often the case with Arnold, it is linked to her biography. »Next to our house in Dartford,« she said in an interview, »was a field where cows grazed. As an adult I had lost touch with it. Through Cow, I wanted to find my way back there.«


The film talk with Andrea Arnold will take place after the premiere of COW on 1 October.



01.10. 19:00 CinemaxX 3



03.10. 14:00 Metropolis



03.10. 16:45 Metropolis



07.10. 21:45 Passage



Sean Baker



TAKE OUT (2004)

STARLET (2012)

The fascination that American culture exerts on people not only in the USA but all over the world – in Europe, Asia or even South America – is astonishing. Here, as there, the misery and unhappiness that determine the lives of the silent majority in the USA are hidden. In the formula of the »American Dream« there is a teleological principle and the assertion that every person is the architect of his or her ascent and wants to be the protagonist of this myth in the first place. In a large number of productions of Hollywood cinema, the American Dream has to this day found an imaginary accomplice who justifies, corrects, protects and renews it. Many »American Independents« take a different approach and focus their attention on those who refuse the chimera. Particularly notable examples from recent years are the Safdie brothers, Kelly Reichardt – and undoubtedly Sean Baker.


The characters in Baker’s films are society’s outcasts. A hustler in New York (Prince of Broadway, 2015), a young woman who occasionally works as a porn actress (Starlet, 2012), two transgender women prostituting themselves on the streets of Los Angeles (Tangerine, 2015), a single mother surviving with her daughter in a motel near Disneyland in Orlando (The Florida Project, 2017) – or, as in his most recent film, a former porn star making a living as an entrepreneur in Texas (Red Rocket, 2021). Baker’s respect for his protagonists is the result of a keen social sensibility. He does not indulge in misery, but neither does he diminish their suffering. He shows moments of happiness and allows his characters their dignity.

A scene in Tangerine is representative of this. It shows a blowjob in a car wash. Here, in this short sequence, the entire poetics of the 50-year-old director unfold: the sympathy for his characters, the great sensitivity in the depiction of eroticism, a significant feeling for the interplay of forms and colours and a latent comedy that is far from tasteless. It is in scenes like these that Baker’s cinema shines, for where others might aim for scandal and provocation, he always focuses on dramatic balance and aesthetic precision. There is also a certain sociological clairvoyance shining through in this moment of Tangerine that can be found in almost all of Baker’s films: sexuality and capitalism are not alien to each other, perhaps because desire and possession run along similar lines. In Starlet as well as in Tangerine and Red Rocket, pornography and prostitution determine the material lives of the protagonists in the short or long term.


Sean Baker’s films have a startling vitality without turning away from the abysses of the world. What is their key? Thanks to the integrity of his characters, Baker creates a discreet utopia of bonds and feelings in the gaps of a society drifting apart, which has nothing to do with the American Dream.


The digital bar talk with Sean Baker is available here from 3 October.



03.10. 21:00 CinemaxX 1



04.10. 21:15 Studio



06.10. 21:15 Passage



07.10. 21:30 Studio


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