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Cause I have the Looks

GER 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.


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: CAUSE I HAVE THE LOOKS intertwines a vibrant coming-of-age story with the exceptional situation of illegal immigration. The film is based on a true story. Neben Frieder Schlaichs Filmen NAOMIS REISE und OTOMO bildet er eine Trilogie über Migration und Rassismus in Deutschland.


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Language: German (partly original language with subtitles), Subtitles: German, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech

Awards and Festivals

- Achtung Berlin - New Berlin Film Award
- Filmkunstfest Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schwerin
- Unabhängiges FilmFest Osnabrück
- One World Berlin Filmfestival
- Nomination for the German Film Critics' (Preis der deutschen Filmkritik) Award for "Best Children's Film"
- Stockholm International Film Festival Junior - Winner „Bronze Horse for Best Film“
- JeonJu International Film Festival
- Sommerblut Kulturfestival, Köln
- Zlin Film Festival, Czech Republic
- Festival des deutschen Films, Ludwigshafen
- Goethe-Institut Schweden, Katedralskolan, Uppsala
- Chicago International Children's Film Festival - Awarded the second prize in the feature film section
- Univerciné Allemand - Festival de Cinéma, Nantes
- Festival Les Enfants du Cinéma, Charleville-Mézières
- Cinephil, Saint Philbert de Grand Lieu
- Prokino, Vendome
- CAT - Moscow International Film Festival
- Interkulturelle Woche
- International Festival of Films for Children and Young People kicking off Armenia - Winner Film in the nomination „I have Rights!“
- Sommerfest für die medizinische Flüchtlingshilfe, Berlin
- Festival Augenblick in 30 elsässischen Kinos in Frankreich
- Fotokino Festival, Marseille
- DOK Leipzig
- Goethe Institut Rom

Additional Texts

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.


Frieder Schlaich
Claudia Schaefer
Mariangel Böhnke, Mira Aring, Angeles Aparicio, Andrea Sánchez del Solar, Anton Buchenhorst, Lavinia Wilson, Altaïr Jugo-Anka, Mario Golden, Stefan Kolosko, Inka Löwendorf, Orlando Rodriguez, Martin Neuhaus, Tom Lass, Valerie Koch, Anne Osterloh, Michaela Steiger, Ina Gercke, Till Zink, Katja Weilandt, Olga Corcilius, Gefion Reichert, Eileen Senkstock, Antonia Schlaich, Denis Bineytioglu, Ansgar Göbel, Ahmed Khaleteh, Olksiy Gusov, Daglar Sukusu, Jannis Bohlmann
Sasa Zivkovic
Director of Photography 
Benedict Neuenfels
Assistant Camera
Andreas Erben
Assistant Camera, DIT
Phillip Wölke
Nicolaus Metzger
Erik Schmitt und Stephan Müller
Robert Kummer, Kolja Kunt, Karina Ressler
Don Philippe
Production Design
Anne Schlaich
Production Design Assistant
Stefanie Granitza
Set Decoration
Sabin Enste
Bea Kosubek
Set Builder
Dirk Jacobs
Production Design Trainee
Britta Günnemann
Make-up Artist
Ljiljana Müller
Additional Make-up Artist
Mandula Hilf & Tilo Nethe
Costume Design
Gabriella Ausonio
Costume Assistant
Simone Kreska
Costume Trainee
Nora Skrabania, Marleen Peters
Rainer Stonus
Enno Hoffmann
Additional Electritian
Sebastian Zinburg
Original Sound
Nic Nagel
Sound Assistant
Lasse Viehöfer
Sound Design
Jochen Jezussek
Sound Mix
Matthias Schwab
Casting Direction
Antje Scholz
Casting Children and Teenager
Eva Plackner, Gesche Reimers casting/Agentur
Casting Beratung
Ulrike Müller
Children Coaching
Inka Löwendorf, Katrin Hansmeier
Dance and Choreographie Coaching
Anne Retzlaff
Child Care
Andrea Jaskiewicz, Carlos Falla
Matti Cordewinus, Reihaneh Youzbashi Dizaji, Dijon Menchén
Support Extras
Marian Heidbreder
First Assistant Director 
Simon Zwick
Second Assistant Director 
Isabel Braak
Set Manager
Nico Maresch
Location Manager
Michael Herbell
Set Manager Assistant
Roman Savary
Production Manager
Ole Nicolaisen
Production Manager Assistant
Viviana Kammel, Vanessa Sauerbrey
Postproduction Coordination
Maria Vogel, Filmgalerie 451, Ingo Grell, Vanessa Sauerbrey
Frieder Schlaich, Irene von Alberti
Produced by
Filmgalerie 451
Founded by 
Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (BKM) und Kuratorium junger deutscher Film
World Premiere
03.05.2012, Schwerin, filmkunstfest Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
German Theatrical Release


„Kinder ohne Papiere“, „Die wahre Geschichte der Valentina R.“, Casting: Charo and Laura, Trickfilm-Clip, Making Of-Clip, Costume Design-Anschlussfotos, Outtakes, Trailer
German (partly original language with subtitles)
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech
Country Code
PAL / Color
81 min + 45 min Extras
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
DD 5.1 + 2.0
Softbox (Set Content: 1), 12-pages booklet
Release Date
From 6 Years

Distribution Details

Screening Format
DCP (2K, 24 fps, 5.1)
Blu-ray Disc
Aspect Ratio
German (partly original language with subtitles)
English, French
Promotion Material
Trailer, A1-Poster
Teaching Material
24-pages PDF
License Area

From 6 Years

Hinweis: Für Schülervorstellungen ist der Film auch über die SchulKinoWochen zu beziehen.