Pass the Remote: Berlin & Beyond, SF Urban Film Fest take the spotlight 

Director Markus Goller's drama about one man's addiction, "One for the Road," opens the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival at the Roxie in San Francisco on April 18. Goller is slated to receive the fest's 2024 Film Maker Award in person. (Courtesy Berlin & Beyond Film Festival)

This week, we look at selections from the 28th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, running April 18-22 in San Francisco and Berkeley, and the 10th SF Urban Film Fest, running April 15-21.  

Dramas depicting a character’s lengthy battle with alcohol addiction can follow a familiar path: The in-denial abuser spins out of control until he or she hits rock bottom and then, through an intensive recovery program, begins to pick up the pieces and tentatively assemble a new life.  

“One for the Road,” the opening night feature for this year’s Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, doesn’t futz around with that formula. Where it differs from “28 Days” with Sandra Bullock and “When a Man Loves a Woman” with Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia is in its execution. Director Markus Gollar’s funny, inspiring and sad drama goes to extensive lengths to show how deeply a Berlin construction manager believes he doesn’t have a problem, and how he carries on upending his life, his job and his relationships. 

Gollar and screenwriter Oliver Ziegenbalg don’t let life-of-the-party Mark off the hook easily, and the film does not soft pedal how hard it is for him to let go of his grip on the bottle as it illustrates his relapse as he journeys toward sobriety.  

“One for the Road” gets its West Coast premiere at 6 p.m. April 18 at the Roxie in San Francisco, and screens again at 5:30 p.m. April 22 at the Elmwood in Berkeley. It’s reflective of the varied stories being told in this year’s program. 

In addition to screenings April 18-20 at San Francisco’s Roxie and April 21-22 at Berkeley’s Elmwood, Berlin & Beyond offers a virtual program April 23-25 at

“One for the Road” wins the audience over thanks to the vulnerable lead performance from Frederick Lau, who has a captivating screen presence, and Gollar, who handles the film’s tonal shifts with ease and sensitivity. Gollar, slated to attend opening night, will be presented with the festival’s Film Maker Award given to celebrate the “dynamic and visionary art, craft, impact, innovation and career of a film industry talent from the German-speaking countries.” 

More irreverent soul searching happens in director Charly Hübner’s hilarious and unexpectedly moving “Sophia, Death and Me.” It screens at 9 p.m. April 20 at the Roxie. 

The spirited comedy “Sophia, Death and Me” involves Death paying a visit to an aimless fellow. (Courtesy Berlin & Beyond Film Festival)

It opens with a Neil Young quote-lyric (“Long may you run!”) and ends with a groundswell of emotion. The wry dramedy finds a pale-faced Death — aka Morten de Sarg (an ingenious Marc Hosemann) — ringing the doorbell at the apartment of Reiner (Dimitrij Schaad), a disheveled sort who’s failed to take ownership of his aimless life. Reiner’s death gets disrupted and delayed by the arrival of his frustrated ex Sophia (Anna Maria Mühe), reminding him he has a train to catch. The threesome bicker and do hop on the train but arrive late to surprise Reiner’s mom (Johanna Gastdorf) for her 63rd birthday. Mom’s happier to see Sophia than her son, but as she learns his time on the planet is coming to an end, their relationship turns tender, as Reiner reflects and misses the son he hasn’t seen in years. Based on a best-selling novel, “Sophia, Death and Me” takes a particularly entertaining turn when a business-like operative is assigned to take over for the more humane, perhaps less effective, Morten. While “Sophia, Death and Me” initially seems like an empty-headed goofball of a comedy, its beautiful little message is revealed in a moving final act. The fest’s closing night film is a national premiere.  

“Sun & Concrete” is based on Felix Lobrecht’s memoir about growing up in Berlin. (Courtesy Berlin & Beyond Film Festival)

Every hard-edged scene of director David Wnendt’s drama “Sun & Concrete,” screening at 9:15 p.m. April 18 at the Roxie, feels as if someone lived it. Guess what? Someone did. Based on Felix Lobrecht’s autobiography, the eye opener is about male teens from Neukölln, a borough in Berlin, getting into trouble involving drugs, bad home lives and brawls. It never flinches from the hard stuff, including mental illness and neglect. This tough little film is unforgettable as are its talented young actors, Levy Rico Arcos, Riad Chemali, Rafael Luis Klein-Heßling, who should be commended for their rubbed raw performances; they all but bleed on the screen.  

For a complete lineup, and ticket information, visit 

Opening just before Berlin & Beyond Film is the SF Urban Film Fest, running April 15-21 and featuring an eclectic mix of films, panels and conversations addressing “San Francisco’s resurgence with an emphasis on community and equity.” 

Among the programs tapping into the “Rooted Resurgence” theme are:  

“The Future is Fluid: Reawakening Urban Landscapes to Nature’s Wisdom”:   At 6 p.m. p.m. April 17 in the Bayside Conference Room in Port of San Francisco offices on The Embarcadero at Pier 1 is a program of shorts including Jimmy Ramirez’s “Above Ground,” about what happens to rainwater in Oakland’s Fruitvale District; and San Rafael-raised Emily Packer’s creative look at the various life cycles of New York oysters, “Holding Back the Tide: Reconsider the Oyster.”   

Emily Packer’s “Holding Back the Tide,” screening in the SF Urban Film Fest, takes a creative approach to oysters in New York. (Courtesy SF Urban Film Fest)

“Trans-World Building”: At 6 p.m. April 18 at the Tenderloin Museum the lineup of shorts includes Cedoy’s “The Neighbour,” Jill Hill’s “Kill Your Landlord,” Leonardo Martinelli’s “A Bird Called Memory,” J. Mitchel Reed and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee’s “Passing: Profiling the Lives of Young Transmen of Color.”  

“Chinatown Rebels”: At 6 p.m., April 19 at the Edge on the Square, the sold-out program includes “three defiant gestures in film and television that challenge Chinatown’s tourist gaze and stereotypes.  

“Creating a Future for a Home”: At 6 p.m. April 20 at CounterPulse, the illuminating documentary “Home Is a Hotel” is an award-winning immersive feature from Todd Sills, Kar Yin Tham, and Kevin Duncan Wong about Bay Area residents living in single-room occupancy hotel rooms.  

“Queer Third Spaces: Resurgence and Resilience”: At 5:30 p.m. April 21 at the Stud, the shorts lineup includes Augie Robles and Tina Valentin Aguirre’s “¡Viva 16!,” Corey Leavitt’s “Harvey Milk Plaza: The Power of Place,” Brandon Yadegari Moreno, and Meg Shutzer’s “Mother (documentary trailer),” and Jim Hubbard’s “Stop the Movie (Cruising).”  

For tickets and additional information, visit 

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