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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.24.09] Germany movie review documentary

Year: 2009
Directors: Janek Romero
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 8 out of 10

Beginning with a colourful montage of news clips and hand-held footage, Janek Romero's documentary follows a group of German activists who dress as superheroes and rob expensive markets and delicatessens, only to redistribute their bounty to more deserving people on the streets of Hamburg. While the film follows the rapidly growing army of masked and anonymous crusaders as they organise a protest at the G8 in Heiligendamm, it also tells the story of a young student called Kathy, who works three jobs, has two young children, is studying for a PhD. and lives on around 150 Euros a month from the state.

As Kathy struggles to pay the bills and is forced to deny her children ticket price for the latest Harry Potter, we get interviews with the various activists (in costume of course) as they explain their views on modern politics, capitalism and materialism. Kathy rakes in a health food store dumpster with a group of hippies, and find a wealth of fresh vegetables that were to go to waste. She then cooks a healthy meal and puts the kids to bed. The next day she wanders a modern art gallery in which the exhibition theme is Che Guevara; "Che is the symbol that has been sucked dry, he has become meaningless." She laments the increasing number of middle-class students who rebel against their parent's conformity and turn into coffee-house liberals and bourgeoisie protesters, recounting her own upbringing in Bolivia, and her work in South America before moving to Germany to study and find a better life for her son and daughter.

The heroes meanwhile, attend Heiligendamm, giving out free costumes and big speech-bubbles in place of placards, on which people write slogans: "Everything to everyone at no cost", "It just isn't good enough", "G8 is no cup size", "I'm no victim of the system", "Coca-Cola is Barf". Along with the Rebel Clown Army and other activists, the Superhelden face-off against water canons and armed police in a brutal riot. "Get your water canons to Africa!"

I'm not going to get political here, that's a surefire way to alienate half of ones audience, but Superhelden is a terrific documentary. It's amusing, insightful, fast moving and entertaining. It works as a snap-shot of a movement that I'd never even heard of, as well as a touching look at the life of a genuine person, someone who cares about their world and the future of their children. The heroes are funny and mockingly self-aware of how absurd the whole idea is, as they literally dance into shops, snatch what they can and then dance right back out. One of them who's caught by police photographers is arrested and faces trial, in which all the heroes come and attend in full costume. After a verdict the guilty party shrugs and says, "At least I can now say a court has found me guilty of being a superhero..."

The first half hour or so had me scratching my head to whether this was a mock-u-mentary or real-life, and a little Internet research shows that, indeed, it's all real. However, scenes towards the end of the film during which Kathy has an argument with her boyfriend as they watch the news reports on the heroes latest escapades, felt very staged. Kathy is praising them for standing-up for something and not accepting government policy, while he dismisses the whole thing as pointless and childish. This scene left a weird taste in the mouth, as I began to wonder is Kathy was as real as the eccentric superheroes she admired.

Nonetheless, at 65 minutes, Superhelden was one of the most interesting films I saw at LIFF 09, and when you're covering a festival and seeing 3-4 films a day, an entertaining little documentary about crazy activists is just the ticket. Look out for this.

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