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Cause I have the Looks

CAUSE I HAVE THE LOOKS (Weil ich schöner bin) Frieder Schlaich, D 2012, 81 min

CAUSE I HAVE THE LOOKS intertwines a vibrant coming-of-age story about a 13-year-old girl from Columbia with the exceptional situation of illegal immigration.

German theatrical release date: 12/27/2012


13-year-old Charo  seems like a typical Berlin teenager. She's a student surrounded by good friends and has her eye on the coolest guy in school. But no one knows that Charo has been living in Germany illegally for years, not even her best friend Laura. Problems start to arise when Charo's mother is caught by the police and wants to take Charo back to Columbia. Charo now needs to trust Laura with her secret because it's the only way she'll be able to fight for her future in Germany.

Puberty, trust, precarious living conditions and deceit: WEIL ICH SCHÖNER BIN intertwines a vibrant coming-of-age story with the exceptional situation of illegal immigration. This film is based on a true story.

„Bronze Horse for Best Film“ in Stockholm Film Festival Junior 2013.
Children Jury: „A touching, unpredictable and realistic story which makes the audience think. The actors are excellent and the characters are well played which makes the relationship between the characters stand out and the story come together.“
"LAF Adult Jury second prize" Chicago Int. Children Film Festival 2013.
Winner Film in the nomination “I Have Rights” at "International Film Festival For Children and Youth" 2014 in Armenia.

Based on true story
The film CAUSE I HAVE THE LOOKS is based on the true story of Valentina R., who came to Germany from Colombia at the age of 11. Valentina’s mother, already living in Berlin illegally, organized her daughter’s entry before immigration laws for Colombian citizens were made more restrictive. She got support from the group “Papiere für alle” (Papers for everyone) that screenwriter Claudia Schaefer is also part of. Schaefer met Valentina on the day of her arrival in Berlin and documented her story four years later. After her tourist visa had expired, Valentina and her mother both continued to live in Berlin without papers. Her emergency situation became part of her everyday life. Whenever a dangerous situation like a public fight or an accident occurred, Valentina ran away, in fear of interacting with the police. Registering for school was a tough fight for Valentina. Restrictions concerning school registration and compulsory registration were not loosened until 2011.
Like Charo, Valentina wore the expensive gowns of her mother’s employers for fun. She also hid a stolen rabbit in a plastic bag, sung songs on the subway with her mother and hid under a blanket to call her lawyer when the police arrived, as featured in the film. Like Charo, Valentina has had to lies and pretend often to maintain her safety.

A life without papers in Germany

According to estimates, there are 50.000 people living in Berlin without papers and half a million people in Germany without a proper residency permit. These people live in constant fear of being discovered, arrested and deported. Thus, most of them try to attract as little attention in everyday situations as possible. However, living in hiding makes it more difficult for them to be granted rights to safety, education, housing, work or health care. Social services are often obliged to report people without papers to the police. The film depicts a small part of an ‘illegal’ life, told through the true story of a child.

Notes from the director Frieder Schlaich
When I read the screenplay by Claudia Schaefer, the conflict and the energy of Charo, the film’s main protagonist, immediately spoke to me. In film, I am always interested in characters that are on the threshold of adolescence. In their teenage years they are unable to understand the world fully and yet they are often confronted with all its hardship.
I wanted to investigate the emergency situation of being ‘illegal’, especially in a city like Berlin that has such a liberal and international reputation. How do you live with the constant fear of being discovered and deported as a teenage girl whose life is ‘under construction’ in so many other ways? Because I have two kids in Charo’s age group, I am very aware of the lack of films that speak to that demographic. The genre of the teen film is basically non-existent, as TV stations show little interest in broadcasting films of that genre, resulting in meager production subsidies.
Casting Mariangel Böhnke as Charo was a major motivation for me to make the film. From the first time I met her, she was different from all the other kids. She is skittish and unpredictable, withdrawn, aggressive and radiant at the same time. She made me curious and brought a lot to the film, despite all the difficulties we had.
A big surprise in the film is the unexpected ending. Charo stays in Germany without her mother and prefers to go her own way instead of holding the family together. This is something that the audience might only accept because they want Charo to be happy. The ending is supposed to leave some questions unanswered, because there is no easy solution to these problems.
It was a deliberate decision not to portray the difficult everyday circumstances of ‘illegal’ people in great detail. My idea was not to have a bleak, depressing view of the subject, but rather to change the focus to something that seemed to be equally important, namely the constant state of insecurity and mistrust that influences and damages a person’s life dramatically. For children, security, trust, and friendship are extremely important. That’s why the narrative of friendship between the two girls is the core of the film. It’s about the trust that Charo is able to develop in the course of the film.

Official Website
Soundtrack (songs by Miss Kenichi, Sea + Air, Charter, Amalva, Beatsteaks), making of and tv - clips, flyer and more: WWW.WEILICHSCHOENERBIN.DE

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