Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
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Days in Berlin
Wafa at a student artwork exhibition on campus (credit: Tamar Maare)

Wafa at a student artwork exhibition on campus (credit: Tamar Maare)

Wafa was arrested in 2011. The protests against the Assad regime had begun to heighten in frequency and intensity, with riots regularly breaking out in different Syrian cities. The Syrian authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on protesting in an effort to quell the rising dissent against the government, arresting many civilians. Amongst these were students who were dragged into prison for their activism, including Wafa Moustafa, now a BA1 student in the HAST program at BCB. “It was hard,” she says to me. “At this point, they didn’t arrest girls very often, so they had no idea how to deal with us appropriately.” After being beaten many times for disobedience, she decided that she would go on a hunger strike. But that, combined with serious asthma and an undiagnosed stomach condition, didn’t end well. “They summoned a doctor who force-fed me with syringes. Doctors here don’t help you, they’re all a part of the regime.”

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► Monday: Gritty Glamour – a Queer Intervention 

This performance not only teleports the audience to Berlin’s nightlife and queer scene, but it also sheds light on the personal stories of queer and drag artists, who constantly negotiate their identity and explore their boundaries. The artists represent a wide range of Berlin’s nightlife figures, from electro queens to punk feminists and drag chanson. They share their perspectives on and understanding of community, sex, love, diaspora, family and their personal as well as stage identity. Moreover, the performance raises the issue of racism in the queer scene against the invisibility of queer post-migrant bodies.

  • When: 20:00
  • Where: Naunynstr. 27, 10997
  • Admission: 8
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► Monday: Fighting the Far-Right Surge – Women’s Rights Now!

Although far-right politicians persistently violate and attack women’s rights, a new wave of feminism that takes an intersectional approach is growing internationally. The fight has been undertaken against female rights violations and conflicts of all types – from autonomy to reproductive rights, the wage gap, freedom of movement, classism and racism. Join The Coalition’s panel talk as feminist activists from Ireland, Poland, Hungary and Germany discuss the struggles currently ongoing in their countries as well as the experience of women of colour in Europe.

  • When: 18:30 – 20:00
  • Where: Köpenicker Str. 30, 10179
  • Admission: free
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► Monday: Populism, Politics & Propaganda 

This debate and panel talk questions the role of media and press in today’s rise of right-wing populism. On the one hand, the trend of “fake news” or alternative facts undermines the reliability of the media, especially in Trump’s America. On the other hand, journalists who want to uncover the truth face public threats and even arrests, like those in Turkey. In the face of all those challenges, who can uncover the truth? Who checks the facts?

  • When: 20:00 – 22:00
  • Where: Bar Jeder Vernunft – Schaperstr. 24, 10719
  • Admission: free
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New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

I left New York City for Berlin on the 24th of January. The days before my departure were saturated with a dissociative pain that stemmed from their proximity to the inauguration of President Trump, which took place on January 20th. Mostly I was aware of a void-like sadness. This void enveloped my singular self, everyone I loved, communities experiencing oppressions that I as a cis white woman will never be subject to, and communities that I belong to as a queer person and survivor of sexual violence. The effect was tangible in the city, between and across neighborhoods, a dull reverberation. The fact that this collective mourning was distributed unequally due to the diverse lived experiences and levels of social privilege of those affected complicated the act of articulation. I found myself and my peers falling into spells of isolation, or, conversely, dispersing articles, posts, and personal rants at a frantic pace via the constantly replenishing outlets of social media. Neither of these tactics left me with any feeling of agency or productivity: The nature of voids is that they swallow and calcify anything dynamic, leaving their subjects in a state of vertigo.

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► Monday: One Year Home

Initially intended as a short-term project, the intensity of the encounters and photographs shot for ‘One Day as a Refugee’ resulted in a long-term collaboration between the photographer Lorenz Kienzle and the Syrian filmmaker Omar Akahare. Using photographs and film representations, the two arists document and explore the daily lives of refugees in Guben and Lietzen.

  • When: 11:00-18:00
  • Where: Käthe Kollwitz Museum  – Fasanenstraße 24, 10719
  • Admission: 4
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Two girls nap on a sleeper train in Railway Sleepers Credit: World Film Festival of Bangkok

Two girls nap on a sleeper train in Railway Sleepers. (Credit: World Film Festival of Bangkok)

I only went to see two films at the Berlinale International film festival, and I only stayed awake for one and a half of them. Despite the negative review my nap seems to suggest, the effort with which I attempted to keep my eyes open tells a different story. Both films, Centaur and Railway Sleepers, were wonderful — beautifully shot with subtle but imaginative narratives. The festival lived up to my expectations twofold, and my expectations were far from low.

Founded in West Berlin in 1951, the Berlinale was originally conceived by an American film officer of the US Army as a propaganda tool during the Cold War.  It was meant to be a showcase of the so-called “free world.” Hitchcock’s Rebecca was the very first film to be shown, and, for the first years, the festival was dominated by American and British works. It wasn’t until 1955 that a German film won the top prize. Originally, East Berliners were also able to see films for lower prices at specific screenings. These screenings ended in 1961, but the propaganda continued as the wall went up, with 500 movie posters hung to be visible to East Berliners. The festival grew from there, eventually shedding the US influence. Now it is one of the most highly attended and well-reputed international film festivals in the world, as well as one of the most influential. After two films watched and 10 euros spent, I understand why.

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