Francis, a young refugee from West Africa with a criminal past and no passport, arrives in a neon Berlin that seethes with wretches and hooligans. He falls under the entrapment of the enigmatic Reinhold, is rechristened as Francis, the one-armed drug dealer, begins speaking German, and falls in love with the fallen Blue Angel, thereby both bringing to life and destroying the modern German dream within five chapters. In the end, Francis is now the new German with a Shakespearean fate. Just like Othello, arriving in Alexanderplatz as a dance floor, he will meet Iago and wish to be good in a world that is not good.
The film was a magnet for attention in the main competitive programme at this year’s Berlinale – a cinematic finger on the pulse emitted by migration, good intentions, and the contradictions of postcolonialism. Based on the novel by the German modernist Alfred Döblin on the decadence of the Weimar Republic, and the most emblematic screen adaptation of this novel was made by Rainer Werner Fassbinder putting it into a 15-hour miniseries appropriate for the era. This interpretation of the literary opus by Afghan-German director Burhan Qurbani has taken on the shape and form of a modernized Germany – Berlin’s multicultural facial muscles may tragically quiver, but it’s masculine scowl relaxes under a base-heavy and clattering melodramatic accompaniment.
Foreword by the programme curator: The rhythms of life and nightlife in Berlin's U-Bahn stations and parks, and the reality of European migration.