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Tribeca 2019: "This is Not Berlin"

Team Experience reporting from Tribeca 2019. Here's Jason...

Most of us never have the benefit of being at the right cool place at the right cool time. Or even if we do we don't really get to realize that while its happening. It's only in hindsight that we can shape that experience into a start and finish; that our lives can be packaged for proper consumption. It's always too messy to start with --the hair's gotta come down and the high's gotta wear off before you can see anything straight.

That whole tale's right there in the title of This Is Not Berlin. Hari Sama's fierce new coming-of-age film does indeed not take place in Berlin, but rather astride the post-punk burgeoning New Wave art-scene of Mexico City in the mid-80s...

It might not be Berlin but everybody there is trying to be Berlin, the idea of Berlin, a cool always-somewhere-else when you're unsure of your own identity. And as the teenaged Carlos (Xabiani Ponce de León) and his best mate Gera (José Antonio Toledano) try finding themselves in this scene, so too this scene begins finding itself and its own voice. Sama brilliantly charts the multiple courses as one, smashing them together perpendicularly like sparks. Somebody's gotta ignite and we're lucky enough to sit back and enjoy the fire.

Gera's sister Rita (Ximena Romo) is the lead singer in a band, and she somewhat reluctantly brings the boys along with her into the local queer club, all things to all people, where drinks and drugs and every in-over-your-head hedonism awaits. She thinks she can keep an eye out but like with most eyes they're easily attracted to the closest shiny thing -- she's got her own shit to stare at. Carlos finds a fast home among the mascara weirdos, his mountain of hair growing bolder by the moment, while Gera, feeling a little slighted, starts making his own friends in the club's free-for-all bathroom.

The film's perfectly aware of the downfalls nipping at the edges (AIDS is on everybody's minds and thick in everybody's art) but it thankfully never really allows itself to be a stern moral lecture about behavior. It is first and foremost laser-focused on Carlos & Gera's parallel paths through artful self-discovery and that hormone-drunk delirium of finding yourself before your "self" is even an actual thing.

"This is Not Berlin" screens tonight and Thursday 5/2 at the festival

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Reader Comments (1)

Please tell me you’ll cover “You Don’t Nomi”

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

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