By Jonathan Jackson Artistic Director, Milwaukee Film Published Feb 10, 2009 at 2:44 PM

BERLIN, Germany -- "There is, overall, an unbelievable arrogance on display in this competition: a sense of filmmakers feeling entitled, by their self -- appointed status as intellectuals, to offer up their pronouncements on the great Issues of the day. Which would be forgivable-even commendable -- were their conclusions not so banal. Unfortunately, you don't exactly sense great minds at work here; nor are their insights exactly profound. Rape is bad? Wow, really? Globalization will have terrible consequences for poorer countries? You don't say. At once self-congratulatory and condescending, this is FUBU cinema: for us, by us. A choir, singing smugly and solely to itself."

That tirade comes courtesy of former Edinburgh Film Festival Artistic Director Shane Danielsen, in an article for on the Berlinale Competition entitled "Eagerly Expressing the Obvious."

I do agree with the bulk of his statement, as it rings true for several of the competition titles. It is easy for critics (and programmers, myself included) at festivals to fall into a pattern of group think, relying on snap judgments, views of peers and patterns of programming rather than measured study of particular films.

However, Danielsen makes a glaring misstep when he attacks "Storm" by Hans-Christian Schmid:

"Not to mention undermining the film's true purpose, which was neither to illuminate either the atrocities committed in Bosnia, nor critique the workings of EU justice, but to provide an unquestioning endorsement of our own liberal sympathies, a balm to right-thinking viewers everywhere."

To state that the film is "nor a critique of the workings of EU justice" is akin to admitting not having seen the film. The entirety of the film showcases just that.

In "Storm" we follow a prosecutor trying a war time commander of the Yugoslavian National Army at The International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague. The story revolves around Hannah's attempt to secure eyewitness testimony implicating the commander. Throughout the tense proceedings, back room power plays and manipulations of justice occur at every turn.

Hardly a "balm," the film looks hard and judgmentally at the roles of key players in a criminal tribunal, while showing that justice is not simply a matter of right or wrong and that political expediency is possibly the best solution. The fact that the main character made the choice she did is not an endorsement of her action by the director.

To codify this film as self-congratulatory and condescending is lazy. Schmid, like in "Distant Lights" and "Requiem" before this, has an uncanny ability to put you inside the skin and mind of characters. By combining his bracing artistic vision with an urgent and controversial subject matter, I believe Schmid deserves a place among the best directors in contemporary international cinema.

There seems to be a bit of critical group think around here right now and it is unfairly maligning one of the Berlinale's best films. This is very dangerous as it increases the chances that, like with criminally underappreciated "Requiem," few will have a chance to see "Storm" and decide for themselves.

Read Shane Danielson's article in its entirety here.

Jonathan Jackson Artistic Director, Milwaukee Film
Jackson oversees the content and programming of Milwaukee Film. Jackson previously served as the artistic director for the Milwaukee International Film Festival, directing film programming there from 2003 to 2008. He is currently an instructor for the UWM Film Department and on the board of the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network. He previously worked as the program manager of the UWM Union Theatre, as a freelance writer for the Shepherd Express and has curated film programs for the Milwaukee Art Museum. is a promotional partner with Milwaukee Film. Milwaukee Film, founded in 2008, is an independent organization dedicated to hosting Milwaukee's premier film festival. Sign-up for the Milwaukee Film email list at