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When the Whole World is Against You – ‘Flocken’ at the #Berlinale

I have to confess. I believe now that Generation is my favorite section of the Berlinale film festival. Those are the movies about youth, often with child actors and/or young directors, but I am not going to write about that in this post. I haven’t found the words for that post yet…

Inside the Haus der Kulturen waiting for the premiere
Inside the Haus der Kulturen waiting for the premiere

Instead, I’m going to share some of my ideas about the movie I enjoyed last night at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. First, I love the building and it’s one of the best venues for watching movies during the Berlinale. Just so you know! Second, the film of the night wasn’t even in my original plan, which was clearly a big mistake. But that’s how the Berlinale works…too much too see and sometimes a synopsis of just four lines doesn’t look promising and can trick you.

Flocken (Flocking in English) is the story about a girl who was raped, but the community calls it into question. The movie is directed by Beata Gårdeler, and the main actress was a shy teenage girl Fatime Azemi, who was also wearing high heels for the first time during the post-premiere Q&A.

The story is about Jennifer and her abuser, Alexander. The boy’s mom denies everything and believes Jennifer is lying. Jennifer’s family is supportive for a while, but after some events (that I won’t tell you here), she is alone in the world. My thoughts were that this girl is so strong and so powerful, fighting against everything and everyone. She was abused at school, she was segregated, she was the victim of bullying. I was sad, but I was also happy seeing her fight and holding on. Holding on hard.

After the movie, I had many questions in my mind. First, the film shows how adults behave like children, especially when drunk. They hurt other people and they do stupid things.

This main protagonist, the girl so tenderly played by Azemi, was a victim of terrible events. As the film was nearing the end, I was scared. I was worried. I wanted things to end up positively, but the conflict and the tension was always increasing and increasing…To a point that was almost unbearable.

I honestly hope this movie will be distributed everywhere because I believe it is important that people see it. I liked it a lot—easily one of the top films I’ve seen at any Berlinale I’ve been to. It was cold and dark in the movie and I was feeling that same coldness and darkness in my seat. (I’m honestly not sure if that coldness in the theater was real, or if it was just a symptom of the movie.)

During the film, I was mad at “the community,” the village. I’m a positive guy and it was hard seeing how everyone was attacking the girl, repeatedly. It was even painful to watch. One girl during the post-film Q&A even said she almost vomited because of the intense emotions of the film (though that seemed a bit strange to me).

The movie poster for the film ‘Flocking’

Most of the film dealt with the topic of community. Throughout the film, this young girl’s community wasn’t just bad, it was toxic. The film’s ending (I won’t share it here) was strong, but not necessarily sad.

Though, to be honest, I don’t know how you were supposed to walk away from this film. It’s my belief that community can change. People can change. That we, as humanity, can learn to treat others better. It’s happened before, and it’s happening now in real life. Not everyone and not all the time, but it can and it does happen. But with this film, I’m honestly not sure.

This is a movie you need to talk about. Maybe that’s why after the movie we went to a nearby Irish pub and sat there for almost an hour only talking about the different theories and interpretations we each had about the film. We were discussing if the police did everything right, the role of the church and even the construction of the characters.

I love this about the Berlinale: your movie follows you after the cinema. You need to talk about it; you need to share what you have just seen. And all I saw was a powerful, young girl fighting with all her strength—and that was inspiring.

I think this movie’s message wasn’t just about the power of community. It was also about strength. Ultimately, this film shows a young girl overcoming some truly depressing, sad questions. When her whole world seems to be against her, she has to decide.

And her decision proves her strength. This character, this young woman—she chooses to be stronger than the community. Without knowing what might happen afterward, it’s hard to say how she might pay. But in one scene where even her own mother seems to be against her, this girl remains strong. But not just strong; she is stronger. That’s what I came away with. That youth is important and powerful, too. That adults don’t always act as we think they should. That young people can be a positive force.

after berlinale
Having a Guinness after the Berlinale so we could talk philosophy, community, strength and rape

If you are in Berlin now for the Berlinale, you should run and try to get tickets for the next screenings of Flocken. Yesterday, it was the world-premiere, so you still have two more opportunities to watch it. If you’re not in Berlin, keep the film on your to-do-list and find it when and wherever it is released.

As I said above, I believe that community can be good and can change, and now, after the Berlinale, I want to see more movies about strong communities that act in a positive way. Do you have any recommendations?

  1. Kozue says:

    In my opinion, a community can become toxic anytime – not always, but easily get to be a prison for a particular person. I’m a bit more negative than you about this.
    I am an art lover and I really think that it is an important mission for arts to accuse bad aspects of the society, and show hope to people at last.
    Great to hear that you took your chance to explore a Film Festival!

    • Adam says:

      Thanks for the reply Kozue… After the movie, when talking with my friends who also saw the film, I realized I definitely was the most positive of the bunch. Bad habit, I suppose ;-)

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