It’s the next to the last day of The Berlin & Beyond Festival and as organizers-coordinators of the week-long film fest like Steve Indig noted. “it’s not over yet.”
With only two more nights to go, it seems the 26th Annual Berlin & Beyond Festival saved the best for last. “Dear Thomas,” is among the festival’s ‘Centerpiece’ selections that won accolades when it debuted last year in 2021. Tonight is it’s West Coast-American premiere.
As conflict is currently brewing in Eastern Europe, perhaps a film like “Dear Thomas” is timely in that it looks at two types of government, through the eyes of a bold and outspoken writer, Thomas Brasch – (who lived from 1945 to 2001). He is portrayed by actor, Albrecht Schuch.
The GDR – the German Democratic Republic is still young, with the creation of it overseen by the Soviets. WWII is over and a new generation is coming of age. Yet, Thomas Brasch doesn’t fit in already. His father Horst (portrayed by Jörg Schüttauf) wants to help build the new German state above all, but Thomas, his eldest son, would rather become a writer. Thomas is a dreamer, obsessive and a rebel.
When the Soviet tanks roll through Prague in 1968, Brasch protests with his girlfriend Sanda (played by Ioana Jacob) and other students in the streets of Berlin.
Unfortunately, his own father betrays him to the Stasi, sending him to prison. Released on parole, Brasch works hard, and writes about love, revolt, and death.
With no prospect of being heard in the GDR, Thomas and the woman he loves (played by Jella Haase) leave the GDR homeland that never was his. Moving to West Germany he is acclaimed and his books become bestsellers. But he does not allow himself to be taken in. Despite success Brasch is far from being at peace.
Artist Alexander Polzin was a close friend and he describes Brasch as multi-faceted. An “unbelievably talented poet and prose writer. But he’s also a playwright. And an incredible translator, too.” He told ExBerliner “if you go to see a production of Shakespeare or Chekhov in German theatres, there’s still a good chance it’s Thomas’ version.”
This admiration and enthusiasm that Polzin has for Brasch, the film’s director Andreas Kleinert has too. As Kleinert, told Cinuropa in interview last year, “Thomas was a wonderful artist on many levels. He was in some ways old style macho. In him we find a person Who is a rebel and a bit of an anarchist soul. We need such a person in our times today we are so into political correctness. We need a fighter and someone full of energy that is what I tried to show to the audience in the film; this very special artist.”
With regards to casting actor Albrecht Schuch as the lead, Kleinert said. Albrecht is an intellectual as well as a physical actor. He doesn’t look or resemble Thomas but we needed the energy of personality that Albrecht has.” While Kleinert said he worked to avoid the “clichés of the gray, boring East,” The reason for making the film in black-and-white, was simply because Brasch as a filmmaker did all of his work in black-and-white.
Kleinert hopes that audiences will see in Thomas the artist, coming of age, “that the desire of young people is essentially the same.” He noted that the time frame of the film is set in the 1960s and that it was a different time. But “it was another type of fight.” “We as a society today have to look to the future.” ScreenDaily had praises for the film saying, “It’s a classic scenario: an idealistic artist at odds with the oppressive state.
Thomas Brasch died at the age of 56 in 2001. He left behind a legacy of work that Kleinert and others hope people will appreciate. “Dear Thomas” is showing at the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley at 8:00 PM. The festival concludes tomorrow, Wednesday, March 16. For tickets/details visit the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival website.