The Berlinale – February 7-17. A massive list of films with socially relevant and controversial themes in the world’s largest and most well-attended festivals. It is the Berlinale celebrating its 69th edition with over 400 feature films and documentaries from all around the world ranging from classic narrative forms to the most daring and innovative cinematic expressions. 10 days to discover how established masters and new talents see the world today. Rich and varied offer, five competition sections, (Competition, Panorama, Generation, Forum, Berlinale Shorts) flanked by the sidebar sections Perspectives German Cinema, Berlinale Special e Berlinale Series, the Retrospective and Homage Section, the Special Culinary Cinema and Native.
MR JONES by Agnieszka Holland – In March 1933, Welsh journalist Gareth Jones takes a train from Moscow to Kharkov in the Ukraine. He arrives at a small station and sets off on foot on a journey through a country ravaged by the horrors of a famine following Stalin’s forced collectivisation of agriculture. Everywhere there are dead people, and everywhere he goes he meets henchmen of the Soviet secret service who are determined to prevent news about the catastrophe from getting out to the general public. Supported by Ada Brooks, a New York Times reporter, Jones succeeds in spreading the shocking news in the West. The film traces Jones’s encounter with George Orwell is said to have inspired the latter’s ‘Animal Farm’ (1945).
SO LONG, MY SON by Wang Xiaoshuai – A family saga spanning three decades of Chinese history where the private and the political merge on the backdrop of a society in constant change. Part melodrama, part critique of the times, this film takes us from the country’s upheaval in the 1980s following the Cultural Revolution to the prospering turbo-capitalism of the present day showing the scars of an apparently success story.
THE GOLDEN GLOVE by Fatih Akin – The flip side of the recent economic miracle of Germany in the Seventies. Based on the true case of serial killer Fritz Honka, a gripping portrait of a depraved, violent society driven by misogyny, and sexual greed in the post-war Germany’s booming economy. Fritz Honka, a short man with an unfortunate face, picks up lonely older women, in a local boozer called ‘Zum Goldenen Handschuh’ (The Golden Glove). strangles these women in his attic apartment, then dismembers them and disposes of their remains behind the attic wall. For the the penetrating smells he blames the neighbouring Greeks.
GOD EXISTS, HER NAME IS PETRUNYA by Teona Strugar Mitevska – Petrunya is 31 but her mother advises her to tell she is 24. She can’t find a job as she has studied history, a subject that no one in Macedonia seems to need. One day, on the Epiphany she decides to take on the challenge and participate in the yearly race for the holy cross that the priest has thrown into the icy river. She dives and competing against young men, she makes it. An angry and melancholic as well satire that questions the status of democratic change in Macedonian society, pointing its finger at the representatives of the church and the media by putting under the spotlight the figure of a woman who asserts herself against archaic traditions.
OUT OF COMPETITION
MARIGHELLA by Wagner Moura – The film follows the life of Marighella, writer and politician, who followed the footsteps of revolutionaries such as Zapata and Sandino – and not least Che Guevara, whose assassination in October 1967 provided the impetus for Marighella’s own struggle against oppression. The film spans from 1964 to his violent death in November 1969 at the hands of a commando. After the coup d’état that swept a legitimately elected government out of office in 1964 and brought a military dictatorship to power, Marighella led a group of young men into armed resistance.
VICE by Adam McKay – A caustic and subtly humorous biopic about the career of Dick Cheney, one of the most powerful and influent US Vice Presidents of all time. In his eight-year tenure in the White House he led a quasi shadow government. The mastermind of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Dick Cheney is portrayed in satirical tone, still perfectly the current state of the country.
Current issues, hot topics, extraordinary film personalities, unusual creativity.
ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky – In Kenya tusks are being measured and stacked. Striking images of humankind’s depletion open and close a high-impact documentary. We cannot but ask ourselves if there is any hope to reverse this trend. Anthropocene circumnavigates the globe showing us landscapes that have been irrevocably changed and destroyed by humans. The sorrows of nature cruelly subjugate by the man.
GULLY BOY by Zoya Akhtar – Murad is twenty-two. He lives in a slum in Mumbai. His father, an unskilled chauffeur, has just brought a second wife into their home, which does not exactly decrease the tensions in this five-person household. Murad seeks comfort in marijuana. One day Murad accidentally meets a well-known rapper who opens up a new world for him. Together with his friends, he begins producing his own songs in which he talks about what it means to be poor and Muslim in India. A Bollywood style feature film with a socially critical story.
WATERGATE OR HOW WE LEARNT TO STOP AN OUT OF CONTROL PRESIDENT by Charles Ferguson – ‘The interests of America first’ were the words Richard Nixon said after his resignation in 1974, after two years of slow revelations about a barely imaginable network of criminal machinations culminating the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters in a building complex called ‘Watergate’. Charles Ferguson reconstruct the case in its entirety with this four-hour montage of TV excerpts, interviews with contemporaries and re-enactments of tape recordings from the Oval Office. An almost Shakespearean web of intrigue, lies and betrayal, conducted by a man who was not prepared to lose and who deeply despised the establishment.
WHO WILL WRITE OUR HISTORY by Roberta Grossman – Realized with rarely seen footage, the documentary tells the story of historian Emanuel Ringelblum, who secretly built an archive inside the Warsaw Ghetto. In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a band of journalists and scholars decided to fight against Nazi propaganda with pen and paper and the weapon of the truth.
Alternative and extraordinary cinema, new talents, unconventional film narratives. 45 films, 29 feature films and 16 documentaries from 38 countries, 34 world premieres, 19 film debuts.
BUOYANCY by Rodd Rathjen – A story of present slavery. Set in Cambodia, the film chronicles the story of Chakra, fourteen years old, and his family, all working in a rice camp. When a friend tells Chakra about the possibility of earning money in a factory, the boy decides to set off. Sold into slave labour Chakra ends up on a Thai fishing boat where violence, torture and even murder are the order of the day. A gripping and brutal depiction of the situation for Cambodian forced labourers, a passionate testimony against social injustice.
FLATLAND by Jenna Bass – A social drama, a thriller, a story of emancipation against the backdrop of the ‘rainbow nation’ where skin colour, gender and social status actually continue to play an important role. The stories of three women in South Africa in a fast-paced road movie.
WAITING FOR THE CARNIVAL by Marcelo Gomes – In the city of Toritama in the dry and poor region in north-eastern Brazil, every year about 20 million pairs of jeans are produced. The city is the ‘capital of jeans’. In addition to the gigantic textile factories, some of the town’s inhabitants have turned into independent small-business entrepreneurs and organise the workload themselves. Only during carnival the sewing machines stand still when almost everyone goes to the coast for a few days. To pay the trip some even sell their fridges or television. The film depicts a microcosm reflecting the excesses of modern-day capitalism showing ways in which they can be overcome.
MIDNIGHT TRAVEL by Hassan Fazili and Emelie Mahdavian – A roadmovie filmed with the mobile phones of their protagonists: an Afghan family fleeing the Taliban. In 2015, director Hassan Fazili was sentenced to death. Forced to leave the country in search of safety, the couple, and their two daughters set off a journey, which was to last several years through many setbacks. They crossed the Balkan route, went through uncertain stays in various refugee camps never losing humanity and hope.
Socio-artistic themes for fresh and compelling perspectives in filmmaking. 39 feature films, 31 premieres, a film selection to explore new interactions between cinema and present-day reality.
HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME by Thomas Heise – Based on written correspondence, diary entries and many other documents, director Thomas Heise traces out the story the story of four generations of his family in the 20th century Germany in, among Vienna, Dresden and East Berlin. Landscapes, places, labour camps, the deportation of the Jews of Vienna, Dresden bombing, East German socialism. Traces of memories and images meticulously chosen and masterfully interwoven.
LEAKAGE by Suzan Iravanian – Foziye is in her fifties and her husband has disappeared. Oil leaks from her body. What to do of it? A powerful metaphor to depict of a country in which everything – people, animals, homes – is off-kilter. Suddenly everything begins to shake. But the causes of this tremor remain unclear. Fear, uncertainty, mysterious events all leading to a feeling of distrust and a chaos within a community whose only purpose is to leave the country.
AN OPEN ROSE by Ghassan Salhab – “And in the darkness, I smile at life.” This sentence, written by Rosa Luxemburg in solitary confinement at the end of 1917, gets to the very heart of what characterizes her letters from prison. Joie de vivre, regardless of the political situation. The documentary is constructed with numerous excerpts in both German and Arabic form and archive material from the First World War, voices, sounds, music and the soundless comments. An overlapping polyphony looking at the 20th century, at Germany and the Middle East, at the militant struggles that took place both here and there. A poignant acknowledgement that resistance and beauty can indeed co-exist, not least in dark times.
THE STONE SPEAKERS by Igor Drljača – After the end of the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, the economic system switched to capitalism. Yet to this day, it has never really taken off. Some communities have rebranded themselves as tourist destinations to generate economic growth. The town of Medjugorje, where children reported having visions of the Virgin Mary, has become an international pilgrimage site. In Tuzla, the depleted salt mines were transformed into lakes. In Visoko, a hill reportedly conceals pyramids said to generate cosmic energy fields. images with statements made by locals. A collage of images depicting a society in profound identity crisis, still overshadowed by its past whose inhabitants are trying to stay afloat with an amalgam of religion, folklore and esotericism.
WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED by Mariam Ghani – Mariam Ghani’s documentary explores five uncompleted films made between 1978 and 1992 under the various communist regimes in Afghanistan, a time when a blossoming film industry was set against censorship and propaganda.
GENERATION KPLUS and GENERATION 14PLUS
A comprehensive programme of contemporary films that are told through the eyes of their young protagonists exploring the lives and worlds of children and teenagers.
BY THE NAME OF TANIA by Bénédicte Liénard e Mary Jiménez – Tania, a young Peruvian girl heard that there is a place where the men are so rich that they sprinkle the girls they particularly like with gold dust. These tales of wonder are so tempting to a young Peruvian girl that she leaves her village and sets out for the country’s gold mines. What she finds is only but violence and forced prostitution. A moving film interweaving documental and fictional elements.
LOLA AT BERLINALE
An insight into contemporary German cinema to spotlight the best in German film open to accredited professionals.
BALLOON by Michael Bully Herbig – Set in 1979 East Germany, based a true story, a thriller that chronicles the crossing of the inner German border of two families from the GDR to West Germany with a homemade hot-air balloon. An initial failure puts their entire plan in jeopardy with setbacks and the state police at their heels setting off a dangerous race against time. The film portrays an incredible story of resistance.
LITTLE GERMANS by Frank Geiger and Mohammad Farokhmanesh – German children who grow up in in a world governed by extremes. Halfway animation and documentary the film follows the story of children born into extreme right-wing families, conditioned from an early age to hate everything that seems ‘foreign’. Who do these ‘little Germans’ become once they grow up?
A REGULAR WOMAN by Sherry Hormann – Hatun Ayhrun Sürücü, a German woman of Turkish descent, and her struggle for a free life in the face of her family’s opposition and her brother’s violence. After reporting him, she no longer feels safe at home, so she takes her child and moves away. Her family has a creepy plan for her. Trying to find a wife for her brother, her future killer, who takes care for the little boy after Hatun is dead.
KHARTOUM OFFSIDE by Marwa Zein – A snapshot of Sudan in women inspired documentary. Sara has a dream: putting together a Sudanese team for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The documentary explores a feminist universe on the outskirts of the Sudanese capital focusing on a group of young women, with and without veil, who play football defying family traditions, politics and religion.
PERSPEKTIVE DEUTSCHES KINO
An insight into contemporary German filmmaking.
DUST by Udita Bhargava – Against the left-wing uprisings a multilayered portrait of people caught up in an inhumane conflict. David is a man who embarks on a journey to the troubled heart of India to retrace the footsteps of his girlfriend Mumtaz. She was a photographer. David’s only remaining clue is one of her photos which depicts a small boy. In search of the boy, he finds himself confronted with dark past – a past that Mumtaz documented in her photographs: a camp where boys are trained to fight the exploitative state.
TALKING ABOUT TREES by Suhaib Gasmelbari – A film dedicated to the story of cinema in Sudan. Suliman and other three members of the “Sudanese Film Club” have decided to revive an old cinema. They are united not only by their love of cinema but also by the fact that they have all enjoyed a film education in exile. Tirelessly, they try to get the cinema’s owners on their side but repeatedly find themselves up against considerable resistance. In the meantime, memories of their experiences of persecution and even torture as oppositional artists come back.
International films and documentaries circumnavigating various food stories in film around the world.
GHOST FLEET by Shannon Service – Much of the seafood in our daily lives – sushi, frozen fish, shrimp cocktail, and the vast amount that goes into pet food – has been caught by slaves. Thailand is one of the world’s largest seafood exporters with a huge fishing fleet that requires thousands of fishermen. Decades of overfishing has decimated fish stocks in the region and today the Gulf of Thailand is one of the most barren parts of the ocean. Human traffickers have started to fill the labour shortage by selling men from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia. A documentary follows a small group of activists who risk their lives on remote Indonesian islands to find justice and freedom for the enslaved fishermen who feed the world’s appetite for seafood for a few hundred dollars each.