German Film Festival 2024 – what to see at the fest

The German Film Festival is already in full swing – don't miss your chance to see some great flicks from Deutschland.
Foreign Language. Image: German Film Festival/Port au Prince Pictures

This May, the 2024 HSBC German Film Festival, presented by Palace, in association with German Films, showcases the best contemporary cinema from Germany and its fellow German-speaking neighbours – Austria and Switzerland.

Pulling directly from some of Europe’s largest film festivals, the fantastic 27-film lineup features key selections of New German Cinema from the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale). The program pays homage to the excellence of German cinema with a retrospective on the seminal auteur Werner Herzog and a celebration of 70 years of German Films. The returning, and well adored, Kino for Kids sidebar, presented by the Goethe-Institut, features exciting films for today’s children that will shape tomorrow’s Cinephiles.

The German Film Festival is on right now in Canberra, before it moves to Sydney and then Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Byron Bay.

Read on for our picks of the fest.

What to see at the German Film Festival in 2024:

Foreign Language

The shy and withdrawn Fanny is looking for a fresh start when she arrives in Leipzig by train from Strasbourg as part of a foreign exchange program, where she is staying at the home of her pen pal Lena, a political activist in training, and her single mother (Nina Hoss). The teens don’t immediately hit it off; but they soon develop a strong, life-changing bond, encouraging one another’s rebellious streaks in increasingly provocative ways. But when it is time for Lena to return the visit and stay with Fanny and her well-meaning parents in France, things begin to unravel.

Andrea Gets a Divorce

Rural police officer Andrea (Birgit Minichmayr) has decided to end her unhappy marriage and transfer to a new position as a detective inspector in the city police department. As she drives home after a birthday party, Andrea’s soon-to-be ex-husband suddenly appears in front of her car. Caught in a state of shock, Andrea is unable to avert disaster. She was called to duty as the local police officer to the crime scene that same night, but discovers to her surprise and horror that the religious education teacher and recovering alcoholic, Franz (Josef Hader) has confessed to the crime. He is convinced that he is to blame, and so is everyone else in the village.

From Hilde, With Love

Berlin, 1942. When the shy, heavily pregnant Hilde Coppi (Liv Lisa Fries) is suddenly detained by the Gestapo, she pleads ignorance to their accusations that she has aided her lover, Hans (Johannes Hegemann), in transcribing coded radio transmissions to and from Moscow. However, it appears there is more evidence against Hilde than anticipated, given many of the other activists involved in their group – who will become known as Die Rote Kapelle (‘The Red Orchestra’) – have also been arrested.

Aguirre Wrath of God (retrospective)

Werner Herzog’s 1972 feature charts back to the 16th Century during the Spanish conquest of the Americas. The story follows a doomed expedition led by the ruthless Don Lope de Aguirre, portrayed with intense brilliance by Klaus Kinski, as they navigate the perilous Amazon jungle in search of the legendary city of El Dorado. Shot on location in the dense Peruvian rainforest, the film is renowned for its stunning cinematography, capturing both the breathtaking beauty and harsh realities of the environment. Herzog’s direction creates an atmosphere of increasing tension and madness as the expedition faces insurmountable challenges, internal strife, and Aguirre’s descent into megalomania

Jacob the Liar (retrospective)

Based on the novel by Jurek Becker, this 4K restoration of the influential 1974 production is set within a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. There we meet Jacob Heym (portrayed by Vlastimil Brodský), a Jewish man who accidentally overhears a radio broadcast suggesting the approaching Soviet liberation. Fearing retribution, Jacob decides to share the fictional news of the Allies’ progress with his fellow ghetto residents, providing them with a glimmer of hope amid the harsh reality.

Toni Erdmann (retrospective)

Boasting a lead performance by the remarkable Sandra Hüller, this 2016 audience favourite marks the third film from German writer/director Maren Ade. The plot revolves around divorced, middle-aged music teacher Winfried, who seeks to reconnect with his corporate daughter Ines through a series of eccentric practical jokes. Adopting the persona of ‘Toni Erdmann’, inspired by Ade’s admiration for Andy Kaufman’s alter ego, Winfried transforms into a self-styled ‘consultant and coach,’ complete with a fright wig and fake teeth.

  • Canberra: 7 May – 29 May, Palace Electric 
  • Sydney: 8 May – 29 May, Palace Norton Street, Chauvel Cinema, Palace Central, Palace Moore Park (new) 
  • Brisbane: 9 May – 29 May, Palace James St, Palace Barracks 
  • Melbourne: 10 May – 29 May, Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, The Kino, The Astor Theatre, Pentridge Cinema and Palace Penny Lane (new) 
  • Adelaide: 15 May – 5 June, Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas, Palace Nova Prospect Cinemas 
  • Perth: 16 May – 5 June, Luna Leederville, Luna on SX & Palace Raine Square  
  • Byron Bay: 16 May – 5 June, Palace Byron Bay  

The HSBC German Film Festival takes place from 7 May to 5 June 2024. For more information, see the German Film Festival website.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports