With the lineup for Sundance 2019 set and new titles for Berlin, Rotterdam, and Slamdance just announced, the winter festival season is beginning to take shape. Last week, we learned that Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers, with Zoe Kazan, Tahar Rahim, Andrea Riseborough, and Caleb Landry Jones playing a group of friends struggling through a winter in New York, will open the sixty-ninth edition of the Berlin International Film Festival, running from February 7 through 17. This week, the Berlinale’s not only been giving us one sneak peek per day at its 2019 lineup, it’s also announced that Juliette Binoche will preside over the jury. Binoche, who’s appeared in films by Claire Denis (High Life), Olivier Assayas (Double Lives), and Naomi Kawase (Vision) this year alone, will soon be seen alongside Catherine Deneuve, Ethan Hawke, and Ludivine Sagnier in The Truth, the first film that Hirokazu Kore-eda has shot outside of Japan. Today, we have a first round of six titles slated to screen along with Scherfig’s in competition for the awards that Binoche and her fellow jury members will be deliberating over:
- Fatih Akin’s The Golden Glove is based on Heinz Strunk’s award-winning novel about a serial killer who terrified Hamburg, Akin’s hometown, during the 1970s.
- In Emin Alper’s A Tale of Three Sisters, three young girls are taken from a poor village in central Anatolia and given to affluent foster families.
- Denis Côté’s Ghost Town Anthology focuses on a small, isolated town in Quebec dealing with a tragic death.
- Marie Kreutzer’s The Ground Beneath My Feet centers on Lola, a successful business consultant who loses her grip on reality when her older sister comes back into her life.
- François Ozon’s By the Grace of God, based on a true story, tackles the contemporary aftermath of a French priest’s sexual abuse of young boys in the 1980s.
- And in Angela Schanelec’s I Was at Home, But, probably the most anticipated film in today’s round, the mother of a thirteen-year-old boy deals with his reappearance after a mysterious, week-long absence. The film features German actor-of-the-moment Franz Rogowski, who stars in Christian Petzold’s Transit and Terrence Malick’s forthcoming Radegund.
Three titles are set for the Berlinale Special program of gala presentations and occasional oddities that don’t neatly fit into any of the festival’s other sections:
- Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy is a Bollywood musical based on the lives of Mumbai rappers Divine and Naezy.
- Heinrich Breloer’s Brecht tracks forty years in the life of the giant of German theater and literature.
- Charles Ferguson’s four-hour documentary Watergate “is so dense and complicated, and at the same time so dramatic, suspenseful and clear, that it absorbs all of your attention,” finds the New York Times’ A. O. Scott.
The Berlinale Classics program will present the premieres of six new digital restorations and has so far revealed the titles of three: Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet (1955), Márta Mészáros’s Adoption (1975), and Dominic Graf’s The Invincibles (1994).
By its own account, Panorama is the festival’s “explicitly queer, explicitly feminist, explicitly political” section, and it’ll be celebrating its fortieth anniversary in 2019. To mark the occasion, Panorama will present a special retrospective program of thirteen features that have screened in past editions, including Lasse Hallström’s My Life as a Dog (1985), Tsai Ming-liang’s Rebels of the Neon God (1992), Ulrich Köhler’s Bungalow (2002), and Pascale Ferran’s Lady Chatterley (2006), as well as eleven short films by directors such as Jenni Olson, Isaac Julien, and Monika Treut.
Before the Berlinale, the tenth anniversary edition of Unknown Pleasures, Berlin’s festival of American independent cinema, will host Patrick Wang, who’ll take part in Q&As following screenings of both parts of his new film A Bread Factory; Ted Fendt, who’ll discuss Classical Period; and Bill Morrison, who’ll present Decasia (2002) and Dawson City: Frozen Time (2017). From January 1 through 21, Unknown Pleasures will also present new work, such as Kent Jones’s narrative feature debut Diane and Shevaun Mizrahi’s critically acclaimed Distant Constellation, alongside revival screenings of films by John Sayles, Whit Stillman, and Larry Clark.
The International Film Festival Rotterdam will open its 2019 edition on January 23 with Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak’s Dirty God, featuring newcomer Vicky Knight as a woman permanently scarred after her ex-boyfriend attacks her with hydrochloric acid. Festival director Bero Beyer calls Dirty God an “intensely powerful and emotional film” that tackles “questions of guilt and beauty, hate and fear, strength and femininity.”
The IFFR has also added a round of titles to its Voices program, including Eva Ionesco’s A Golden Youth, with Isabelle Huppert and Melvil Poupaud; Radu Jude’s “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,” which took the top prize in Karlovy Vary; and world premieres by Barcelona-based filmmaker Andrés Duque and Japanese artist Koki Tanaka.
Rotterdam’s coproduction market CineMart will host projects in the works by Jane Magnusson (Bergman: A Year in the Life) and Julian Radlmaier (Self-criticism of a Bourgeois Dog) among over a dozen other filmmakers currently preparing their pitches.
Steven Soderbergh, who’ll be receiving the 2019 Founders Award at Slamdance next month, will offer a sneak preview of High Flying Bird, the story of an agent (André Holland) who’s got a business proposition for a rookie baseball client (Melvin Gregg). The screenplay’s been written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Oscar along with Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, their adaptation of a play by McCraney, and the film also stars Zazie Beetz, Sonja Sohn, Zachary Quinto, Kyle MacLachlan, and Bill Duke.
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