MY FRIEND RAFFI Pictured: a tiny, useless, disease-ridden creature. Also pictured: a hamster.

THERE’S SOMETHING charmingly bizarro about annual by-country groupings of cinema. Movements can certainly emerge based on convergence of time and place—but more often, a geographically thematic festival like this week’s seventh annual German Film Festival is a total grab bag.

The opening night film is the American premiere of Erich Kästner and Little Tuesday, which finds yet another unique lens through which to examine the WWII era. Its opening scene—in which hard-partying citizens of the Weimar Republic guzzle booze and dance with their boobs out—is downright misleading. This is a thoughtful, melancholy film that feels particularly poignant at this moment; while the central focus is the true story of a friendship between children’s author and political radical Erich Kästner and his young fan Hans Löhr, the story’s timespan demonstrates the gradual rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, as well as the stages of denial and disbelief the country’s citizens went through as shit incredibly, disturbingly, continued to get real.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is my new favorite hamster film! My Friend Raffi makes a compelling case for live-action over CGI special effects in a delightful crime caper starring what I hope are about 40 identical hamster actors. Did you know hamsters can swim? They don’t like it! But they will if they’re being pursued by cigarette smugglers! I’m pretty sure some hamsters died during filming, but it was totally worth it.

On the in-between there are amusing entries like the hilariously try-hard, Taken-style kidnapping action drama Nick: Off Duty, an excursion to Japan with Fukushima, Mon Amour, and an intriguing sampler platter of 12 short films by up-and-coming German film students called Next Generation Short Tiger 2015. Viel Glück!