All week long, Carlo Chatrian, the artistic director of the Berlin International Film Festival, has been rolling out the lineup of the seventy-first edition, one section after another, leading up to yesterday’s unveiling of the main competition. From March 1 through 5, dozens of features and shorts will stream to the juries, industry professionals, and accredited press, and then, hopefully, the general public will have the opportunity to see them from June 9 through 20.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour, Asako I & II) will tell three stories in Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. In one, a young woman learns something surprising about her ex; in the second, a student aims to bring down her professor; and in the third, two friends reveal their true feelings for each other. Hong Sangsoo returns to the competition for the fifth time with Introduction, a single story told in three chapters as a young man visits his father, lover, and mother. Introduction stars Shin Seokho, Park Miso, and Kim Minhee.
Of the twelve titles competing in this year’s Encounters, one of the most anticipated has to be The Girl and the Spider, Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s long-awaited follow-up to 2013’s The Strange Little Cat. In the second installment of a projected “trilogy about human togetherness,” director Ramon and producer Silvan—they’re twin brothers and cowriters—launch “an emotional rollercoaster” as Lisa (Liliane Amuat) moves out of the apartment she’s been sharing with Mara (Henriette Confurius).
- Bloodsuckers, in which a penniless Soviet refugee falls for a rich German vampire, will be Julian Radlmaier’s first film since 2017’s Self-Criticism of a Bourgeois Dog.
- In 2016, Jim Cummings won a top prize at Sundance for his short film, Thunder Road. Two years later, he turned it into a feature and won the grand jury award at SXSW. Now Cummings has teamed up with actor and producer PJ McCabe on The Beta Test, the story of a married Hollywood agent lured into “a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.”
- Samaher Alqadi’s documentary All I Want was sparked by the public rape of her best friend in the streets of Cairo and confronts the trauma of her own past.
- Alice Diop’s We is a series of portraits shot along a journey crossing Paris and its outskirts from north to south.
- In Bardia Yadegari and Ehsan Mirhosseini’s District Terminal, Peyman, a poet and a junkie, tries to write while a deadly virus has gripped Tehran.
- Swiss director Andreas Fontana’s Azor follows a banker from Geneva to Argentina, where his partner has mysteriously disappeared.
- In Denis Côté’s Social Hygiene, a petty thief reduced to sleeping in a friend’s car is confronted by five women. One after the other, they explain why he needs to get his act together.
- Fern Silva says that his debut feature, Rock Bottom Riser, is an experimental work that takes Mauna Kea, the dormant Hawaiian volcano, as a starting point from which to explore “the influence of settler colonialism, the search for intelligent life, and the discovery of new worlds.”
- Two roommates discover a dark secret in their apartment in The Scary of Sixty-First, the first feature by Dasha Nekrasova, the Belarusian-American actress and co-host of the podcast Red Scare.
- In Jacqueline Lentzou’s Moon, 66 Questions, a woman discovers a secret about her father that helps her understand and love him for the first time.
- A broken leg keeps a Nigerian soccer player in Vietnam out of the game, so he teams up with four middle-aged women to create a world of their own in an old house in Lê Bảo’s first feature, Taste.
Ephraim Asili has called his first feature, The Inheritance, which opened the NYFF’s Currents program last fall, a “remix” of Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise (1967), “a critique and an homage at the same time.” In Juste un Mouvement, Vincent Meessen looks back on the story of Omar Blondin Diop, who appeared in La Chinoise as himself, a young militant philosopher and the film’s only actual Maoist student. Both The Inheritance and Juste un Mouvement are among the seventeen films selected for this year’s Forum.
Salomé Jashi’s Taming the Garden premiered in the World Documentary Competition at Sundance, and the first round of reviews leans toward the mildly favorable. An anonymous billionaire in Georgia—the country, not the state—is buying up ancient trees, roots and all, and having them transported to his private garden. Like Nikolaus Geyrhalter, suggests Daniel Gorman at In Review Online, “Jashi is simultaneously in awe of the insane endeavor unfolding in front of her camera but also well aware of the damage such processes inflict on both nature and the surrounding communities.”
For the New York Times, Charles Kaiser talks with Davies, who “can still remember exactly when he realized the epidemic was real. He was outdoors in June 1983, walking in the blazing sun, when he spotted this headline in Him Monthly magazine: ‘AIDS Gay Death-Plot Panic’—the words superimposed on an erotic drawing of naked men boiling to death in a test tube. It’s a Sin recreates all of the horror he felt in that moment.”