The lineups for the sixty-eighth Berlin International Film Festival, running from February 15 through 25, are coming hard and fast now. Today sees rollouts for the Forum, the main attraction for many a cinephile, and the Berlinale Series. With descriptions from the festival, plus an occasional note here and there . . .
14 Apples, directed by Midi Z. World premiere (WP).
Afrique, la pensée en mouvement Part I, Jean-Pierre Bekolo. International premiere (IP).
Aggregat (Aggregate), Marie Wilke. WP.
Amiko, Yoko Yamanaka. IP. From the PIA Film Festival: “Amiko, a high school girl, adores Aomi to the point of nearly worshipping him. But one day, he runs away from home. Amiko's sometimes cynical, sometimes self-deprecating inner monologue goes off like vibrant stand-up comedy.”
Apatride (Stateless), Narjiss Nejjar. WP. It’s “an account of a historical event from a female perspective, an event that still dictates the relationship between Morocco and Algeria to this day. Full of beguiling images, her feature shows how a gentle, yet determined woman attempts to prevail over the border between the two countries.”
Aufbruch (Departure), Ludwig Wüst. WP.
La cama (The Bed), Mónica Lairana. WP. From Sutor Kolonko: “A hot summer weekend in Buenos Aires. Jorge (58) and Mabel (56) spend their last hours together as a couple in their family home that has already been sold. They dismantle the house, they pack and divide between them the belongings they’ve collected in a lifetime together. On that last morning, Jorge and Mabel try to fuck one last time, but their attempts are in vain and it ends in tears. In a painful up and down of emotions they slowly part.”
La casa lobo (The Wolf House), Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León. WP. This stop-motion feature “tells the story of Maria, a young woman who takes refuge in a house in southern Chile after escaping from a German colony.”
Casanovagen (Casanova Gene), Luise Donschen. WP.
Classical Period, Ted Fendt. WP. It’s “once again shot in Philadelphia on 16 mm and tells a drolly melancholy story about intellectualism and loneliness. The members of a reading group exchange cultural and literary references with such vigor that there’s little room for anything else: an attempt to leave the modern world behind or merely their own solitary existences?”
Con el viento (Facing the Wind), Meritxell Colell Aparicio. WP. It “tells the story of Mónica and her reconciliation with a life she had left behind. She receives a call in Buenos Aires: her father is terminally ill. After 20 years, Mónica must return to the remote village in Burgos, Spain, where she was born. When she arrives, her father has already passed away and her mother decides to sell the family home, asking Mónica to stay to help her. Winter comes. The perpetual silence, extreme cold, and facing up to a dysfunctional family, prove tough for Mónica, who takes refuge in what she knows best: dance.”
Los débiles (The Weak Ones), Raúl Rico and Eduardo Giralt Brun. WP. From the Miami Film Festival: “Victor has a scuffle with a thirteen-year-old boy who is part of a gang. Hours later he finds his beloved dogs murdered. He gets his gun and begins a journey on board his pick-up truck on a path that will take him across the hostile land of Sinaloa. In his search for clues he will meet disturbing and eccentric characters who may or may not tell the truth about the whereabouts of the young criminal. At the end of his journey he will come to terms with his weakness and will learn to bear the injustice just as he bears the sun on the heat of the day.”
Den’ Pobedy (Victory Day), Sergei Loznitsa. WP. Loznitsa “observes the huge crowds that gather each year at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin-Treptow on May 9th and records the hustle and bustle with quiet precision, as different moods come to the fore: pride, contemplation, patriotism, curiosity, the desire for recognition.”
Die Tomorrow, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit. IP. From the site: “In Bangkok, six people are going to die tomorrow. They don’t have any clue of their fate. The film explores the conversation of people on their last day on earth. A day before death is always an ordinary day. Die Tomorrow consists of six parts of an ordinary day portraying ordinary moment before death of someone. The film is told in essay film style mixing with the fictional parts, found footage, audio recording and statistics to analyze the meaning of death.”
Djamilia (Jamila), Aminatou Echard. WP.
Drvo (The Tree), André Gil Mata. WP.
L’empire de la perfection (In the Realm of Perfection), Julien Faraut. WP. Comprised of “material largely shot in the 80s,” when “tennis-obsessed director Gil de Kermadec attempted to use film as means of analyzing the game. His meticulously shot footage of John McEnroe matches during the French Open forms the starting point for an ironic look at the parallels between film and the sporting world: cinema lies, sport does not.”
An Elephant Sitting Still, Hu Bo. WP. It might have represented “a new hope for Chinese cinema. But its twenty—nine-year-old director, Ho Bu, who had previously made a name for himself with two novels, took his own life soon after the film was completed. This visually stunning work links together the biographies of a range of different protagonists in virtuoso fashion, narrating the course of one single, tension-filled day from dawn until dusk, painting a portrait of a society marked by selfishness in the process.”
Fotbal Infinit (Infinite Football), Corneliu Porumboiu. WP. Another “peculiar look at the world of sport, this time in provincial Romania, following a local official’s attempts to bequeath the world an improved version of the beautiful game. But does everything here really just revolve around football?”
Grass, Hong Sangsoo. WP. It’s “another cheerfully melancholy story about the guests at a small café whose owner loves classical music. Kim Minhee, who won the Silver Bear for Best Actress in 2017, plays a café regular who always seems to be at the table in the corner writing on her laptop. She repeatedly draws inspiration from what’s happening around her, picking up the threads of the dialogue and spinning them further and sometimes even actively intervening in conversations. Is she perhaps the author of these relationship dramas in miniature, whose stores and themes mirror one another?”
The Green Fog (image above) and the world premiere of Accidence, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson. Critics Round Up has an entry on The Green Fog.
Interchange, Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky. WP.
Jahilya, Hicham Lasri. WP. Noting that “the title alludes to the pre-Islamic ‘time of ignorance,’” the festival adds that it’s “a furious condemnation of the misogyny of Moroccan society and all its attendant malice.”
Kaotični život Nade Kadić (The Chaotic Life of Nada Kadić), Marta Hernaiz. WP.
Last Child, Shin Dong-seok. IP.
Madeline's Madeline, Josephine Decker. IP. “The young titular heroine doesn’t like spending time with her mother, played by actress Miranda July, and feels far freer when with her theater group. But where does the border lie between personality and role?” Premiering on Monday at Sundance.
Maki'la, Machérie Ekwa Bahango. WP.
Mariphasa, Sandro Aguilar. WP. From Cineuropa: “Paulo works as a night guard in a building site. He lost his daughter in dramatic circumstances and no regret would ever give him a sense of closure . He often sleeps in his lover's house where he witnesses the repeated transgressions of an unstable neighbor. Everything threatens to crack.”
Minatomachi (Inland Sea), Kazuhiro Soda. WP.
Notes on an Appearance, Ricky D'Ambrose. WP. “Before the backdrop of the disquiet spread by the followers of a controversial philosopher, the film uses both real-life documents and smartly falsified writings to tell the story of a young man who one day disappears without warning. An eerie look at modern life with shades of dystopia.”
Old Love, Park Kiyong. IP. From Good Move: “One winter day, a man and a woman meet after twenty-five years by chance encounter at Incheon Airport. She was visiting Korea to see her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, and he was seeing off his daughter on her way to study in Australia. One week after the disordered encounter, they meet again over lunch, spending some time together. Neither of them shows their true self, but they reveal leftover sentiments for each other, both feeling a romantic thrill and confusion at the same time. Old Love is a melodrama about middle aged old flames, but it doesn’t indulge in the fantasy end of the genre. Rather, it is more about showing the process of how a fantasy breaks.”
Our House, Yui Kiyohara. IP. For the Japan Times’ Mark Schilling, Kiyohara depicts “the ways loneliness and alienation can distort the field we call reality until the afflicted start to feel the presence of unseen others and experience what rationally shouldn’t exist. She does this with a quiet assurance, supported by subtly spooky lighting and crisply composed visuals in traditional Japanese spaces, as though she’s been channeling Yasujiro Ozu as well as Kurosawa.”
Our Madness, João Viana. WP. From Les Films de l'Après-Midi: “Ernania is hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital in Mozambique. She dreams about her little son, Hanic, and her husband, Pak, who is a soldier of the war. In the meantime, a quirky musical instrument plays: her own bed. Ernania’s musical virtuosity, attracts the attention of the hospital nurses. One day, her song is played in a radio program and Rosa, an evangelical priest of ‘Rádio Moçambique,’ goes to the hospital to listen to Ernania’s song. Ernania takes the priest’s visit as an opportunity to run away from the hospital.”
Premières armes (First Stripes), Jean-François Caissy. WP.
Premières solitudes (Young Solitude), Claire Simon. WP. Simon “creates a cinematographic space for open, intimate discussion together with pupils from a school in the Paris suburbs. As they talk together about their backgrounds, parents, first loves, longings and fears for the future, ten ordinary teenagers forge ever closer bonds. It’s good to realize you’re not alone.”
SPK Komplex (SPK Complex), Gerd Kroske. WP.
Syn (The Son), Alexander Abaturov. WP. From Petit à Petit Production: “Dima is killed on the 23rd May 2013 at the age of twenty-one. Enlisted in the Russian army, he is shot in the head during a military operation in Daghestan. His parents brave the emptiness following his death; whilst those he calls brothers in arms continue to train for war in harsh conditions that create strong bonds between them. The two worlds echo one another in their reflection on death and absence.”
Teatro de guerra (Theatre of War), Lola Arias. WP.
Tuzdan Kaide (The Pillar of Salt), Burak Çevik. WP.
Unas preguntas (One or Two Questions), Kristina Konrad. WP. “At the end of the 1980s, Kristina Konrad collected opinions on the streets of Uruguay in relation to a referendum to be held on a law granting impunity to those responsible for the military dictatorship. Unas preguntas (One or Two Questions) takes a magnifying glass to the democratic process.”
Waldheims Walzer (The Waldheim Waltz), Ruth Beckermann. WP. A “documentary essay of frightening topicality” about “the scandal surrounding the Nazi past of former UN General Secretary and Austrian president Kurt Waldheim.”
Wieża. Jasny dzień. (Tower. A Bright Day.), Jagoda Szelc. IP. From Cineuropa: “Mula lives with her husband, sick mother and daughter Nina in a countryside house. At the weekend before Nina’s First Holy Communion, her brother with his family come for a visit together with Kaja—Mula’s younger sister, who disappeared suddenly six years earlier. Kaja is Nina’s biological mother. Mula is afraid that unstable Kaja might want to take her daughter away. The rest of the family, who at first keep their distance from Kaja, start to believe that this might be a new beginning for them and a chance for the sisters to reconcile. All this makes Mula even more frustrated and she decides to kick Kaja out. On the day of the First Holy Communion the sisters put their differences aside. However, there is a whole other reason why Kaja came home in the first place.”
Wild Relatives, Jumana Manna. WP. From Jeu de Paume: “Manna follows the matrix of hierarchies and relationships involved in a transaction of seeds between the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard, an island in the Arctic Ocean, and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. The film travels the path of these seeds and traces motifs of extracting and placing different life forms from and into the ground, back and forth from dry lands to permafrost.”
Yours in Sisterhood, Irene Lusztig. WP.
Bad Banks. Director: Christian Schwochow (Paula). Head writer: Oliver Kienle (Four Hands), based on a concept by Lisa Blumenberg. With Paula Beer, Barry Atsma, Désirée Nosbusch, Albrecht Schuch, Mai Duong Kieu, Marc Limpach, and Tobias Moretti. Broadcaster: ZDF, ARTE. World premiere. It “takes a close look at a young, talented, and very ambitious woman. She leads the viewer deep into the unscrupulous, profit-hungry world of finance. Her working life in Frankfurt and Luxembourg is ruled by the forces of greed, egotism, the pressure to succeed, and machismo.”
Heimebane (Home Ground). Creator: Johan Fasting. Director: Arild Andresen (The Orheim Company, The Liverpool Goalie). With Ane Dahl Torp and John Carew. Broadcaster: NRK. World premiere. A “trainer who leaves her successful women’s football team to become the first female trainer of a Norwegian premier league men’s team. She wages a hard fight against ingrained bias, as she struggles towards her dream. She is out to prove that, given the same qualifications, women are every bit as good as men.”
Liberty. Creator: Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cité Soleil, Man on a Ledge). Director: Mikael Marcimain (Call Girl, Gentlemen & Gangsters). With Connie Nielsen, Carsten Bjørnlund, Sofie Gråbøl, Magnus Krepper, Charlie Karumi, and Anton Hjejle. Broadcaster: DR. World premiere. It’s “set in 1980s Tanzania in the milieu of aid workers and ex-pats. A critical examination of the lasting effects of colonialism, the character driven family tale is based on the novel “Liberty” by Jakob Ejersbo. It features businessmen, who unscrupulously use the old structures of local exploitation to their own ends, as well as people working in development aid who, however well intentioned, overlook the actual needs of the local population. We are confronted with a culture that, in the end, considers itself more important than the foreign one where it has settled.”
The Looming Tower. Creators: Dan Futterman (Capote, Foxcatcher), Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Zero Days), and Lawrence Wright (Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief). Director: Alex Gibney. Written by Dan Futterman, based on the book by Lawrence Wright. With Jeff Daniels, Tahar Rahim, Peter Sarsgaard, Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, and Michael Stuhlbarg. Broadcaster: Amazon, Hulu (USA). International premiere. It “takes viewers inside the CIA and the FBI at the end of the 1990s. Indications of an attack on the US mount, but the two powerful institutions are locked in a calamitous rivalry. That competition is embodied by two men . . . who do battle on a strategic, bureaucratic level, all the while underestimating the increasing dangers.”
Picnic at Hanging Rock. Director: Larysa Kondracki (The Whistleblower, Shut Eye), episodes 1-3. Written by Beatrix Christian and Alice Addison. With Natalie Dormer, Lily Sullivan, Madeleine Madden, Samara Weaving, Lola Bessis, Yael Stone, Inez Currõ, Harrison Gilbertson, and Ruby Rees. Broadcaster: Foxtel. International Premiere. “Natalie Dormer plays the strict headmistress of a boarding school trying to ensure that her pupils receive a suitably decorous education. But we are led to question whether she herself has always led a demure life. Her dark past catches up with her, and then three girls disappear mysteriously during a school outing.”
Sleeping Bears. Creator and director: Keren Margalit. With Noa Koler, Yossi Marshek, Alma Zak, Yaakov Zada Daniel, and Doron Tavory. Broadcaster: Keshet Broadcasting. International premiere. A woman’s “therapist dies in an accident, and the transcripts of his session notes are sent to her as part of an anonymous threat. She wants to prevent her family finding out about her most intimate secrets and dreams. This private story becomes an expedition into contemporary Israel.”
The Terror. Showrunners: David Kajganich (True Story, A Bigger Splash) and Soo Hugh (The Whispers, The Killing). Director: Edward Berger (Jack, Deutschland 83), episodes 1-3. With Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Ciarán Hinds, Paul Ready, Adam Nagaitis, Nive Nielsen, and Ian Hart. Broadcaster: AMC, AMC Networks International, Amazon. World premiere. It’s “an epic spectacle in the best sense; it is based on Dan Simmons’s fictionalized account of Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition. The men battle with not only the natural world, but also the strict hierarchy and balance of power on board ship. The vast expanses of perpetual ice create an ominous sense of claustrophobia from which there is no escape.”
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