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FAVORITEN

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by Ruth Beckermann

grade: 8.5

Cheerful, touching, colourful, extraordinarily alive and pulsating. Favoriten is all this and much more. And in three years of filming Ruth Beckermann has managed to capture every single aspect of the children’s lives, giving us moments of pure beauty. At the Berlinale 2024, Encounters section.

Our present, our future

Whenever we happen to watch a Ruth Beckermann film, we are simply delighted about it. Yes, because, in fact, the renowned Viennese filmmaker has always distinguished herself not only for the marked lyricism of each of her works, but also for her witty and intelligent gaze and her innovative approach to filmmaking itself, be it a feature film or a documentary. So while Beckermann had won at the Berlinale 2022 in the Encounters section with her Mutzenbacher, at the Berlinale 2024, in the same section, with Favoriten, her newest documentary (which will also open the Diagonale 2024), she immediately won over audiences and critics with a story that is both simple and complex at the same time. An extremely topical story, which concerns us all, our present and our future.

Thus, in Austria, 60% of the children studying in schools are not native speakers of German. Similarly, given the scarcity of public funding, it is increasingly difficult to find an adequate number of teachers. Favoriten, therefore, recounts three years in the lives of twenty-five children from different nations. Twenty-five children who have been living in Vienna with their families for some time now and who – by attending a school in the Favoriten district – have to relate for the first time to a new world, a new culture, a new language. This, then, is the story of Melissa, of Manessa, of Ibrahim, of Hafsa, but also of Ilkay, their young teacher of Turkish origin, who with love and patience accompanied them on their path until she had to go on maternity leave.

In Favoriten, therefore, Ruth Beckermann’s camera observes each one of them with fondness, giving us tender and amusing, but also particularly delicate moments, such as the petty quarrels between classmates or the desperate crying after receiving a bad grade. Each of the young protagonists tells their own story, about their family, their parents, their dreams about the future. Through a simple and linear staging, each of them reveals his or her personality. And we cannot help but smile as we realise how certain quarrels actually hide their first crushes.

Then, out of the blue, the magic happens: Ruth Beckermann’s voice interacts with the children. The director gives them a mobile phone, so that they too can make films and film one another. Shots taken with the said mobile phone alternate with shots taken with the camera. And as we see the children looking at the phone’s display in order to find the right shot, we can only be delighted by this precious and unexpected encounter between cinema and meta-cinema.

Cheerful, touching, colourful, extraordinarily alive and pulsating. Favoriten is all this and much more. And in three years of filming Ruth Beckermann has managed to capture every single aspect of the children’s lives, without forgetting to deal with sensitive topics such as the freedom of women within individual cultures, the current war in Ukraine and even religion (memorable is the moment when the entire school group goes with the teacher on a visit to St. Stephen’s Cathedral). What will be the future of the new generations? Will our young protagonists manage to get another good teacher who, like Ilkay, will be able to take care of them so well? A moving final embrace could mean the end of a happy time, or perhaps even an exciting new beginning. And in Favoriten we see first of all how every single and seemingly most insignificant moment can actually turn out to be incredibly precious.

Original title: Favoriten
Directed by: Ruth Beckermann
Country/year: Austria / 2024
Running time: 118’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Ruth Beckermann, Elisabeth Menasse
Cinematography: Johannes Hammel
Produced by: Ruth Beckermann Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Favoriten on iMDb; the page of Favoriten on the website of the Berlinale; the page of Favoriten on the website of the Ruth Beckermann Filmproduktion