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Film festival topics travel well beyond Berlin

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Timing is everything.

If the makers of “Lapislazuli” just waited until last month, they could have used the newly discovered fact of surviving Neanderthal DNA as the story line for pairing a resurrected boy from the Middle Paleolithic Era with a contemporary German teenager. Instead, the movie — although it has a curiously captivating story and is set in the spectacular Tyrolean mountains — falls back on the device of a meteor “unmelting” the guy.

“Lapislazuli,” from Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger, is among the three dozen German-language films making up the 12th annual “Berlin & Beyond” festival. Presented by San Francisco’s Goethe-Institute, the festival opens today and runs through Wednesday at the Castro Theatre. Not in the category of major, powerful works — such as Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “Downfall” at the 2005 festival — “Lapislazuli” and many of the other 2007 “B&B” offerings provide entertaining alternatives to the mainstay Hollywood fare.

Only two of the festival’s films this year are expected to have commercial release in the United States. Andreas Dresen’s “Summer in Berlin” and Chris Kraus’ “Four Minutes.” In a curious coincidence, both films are about the relationship of two women, although in very different settings. “Summer” is a casual, cheerful story about everyday life; “Four Minutes” is a suspenseful, haunting coming together of two female prison inmates.

Doris Dörrie, well-known to festival regulars, checks in with “The Fisherman and His Wife,” a contemporary retelling of the fairy tale, with characters making their way from Germany to Tokyo and back again.

“Everyday life” rules at the festival, with such films as “Valerie,” about an aging model struggling to make do without income; “Lumber Kings,” about male bonding or the lack of same in a working class village; and “Ping-Pong,” about a teenager’s adventures at his uncle’s home.

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