Mati Diop’s first feature since Atlantics (2019), the long-awaited return of Abderrahmane Sissako, and a reteaming of Hong Sangsoo and Isabelle Huppert are just a few of the immediate standouts in the Berlinale Competition lineup announced on Monday morning. Encounters, the competitive program artistic director Carlo Chatrian and his team created in 2020 “to foster aesthetically and structurally daring works from independent, innovative filmmakers,” will feature new work from Matías Piñeiro, Kazik Radwanski, and Travis Wilkerson.
The festival’s seventy-fourth edition, running from February 15 through 25, will be the last to be overseen by Chatrian and executive director Mariette Rissenbeek before their roles are fused into one job—director of the Berlin International Film Festival—which Tricia Tuttle will take on next year. Let’s take a first look at some of what next month has in store.
Nineteen of the twenty films here are world premieres. The one that isn’t is Aaron Schimberg’s A Different Man, which premiered over the weekend at Sundance. Sebastian Stan plays an actor who undergoes a physical transformation only to find himself longing for the life he had before. The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer calls the film an “endearingly twisted take on actors, playwrights, egos, and the plight of the profoundly disfigured.” The festival’s opening film, Tim Mielants’s Small Things Like These, starring Cillian Murphy as a coal merchant in a small Irish town, was announced last week.
Mati Diop’s documentary Dahomey will trace the journey of twenty-six royal treasures plundered from the former West African kingdom of Dahomey by French colonialists in 1892—and their return to present-day Benin. Ten years after Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako is back with Black Tea, starring Nina Mélo as a woman from the Ivory Coast who begins a new life in Guangzhou, China. And Variety’s Patrick Frater notes that A Traveler’s Needs will be the sixth film Hong Sangsoo has had at the Berlinale since 2020 and his third collaboration with Isabelle Huppert. Here, she plays a woman who earns her keep in South Korea by teaching French.
Matthias Glasner, whose Der freie Wille (2006) and Gnade (2012) premiered in competition at the Berlinale, returns with Dying, in which members of an estranged family reunite when the father and mother succumb to a cruel array of illnesses. Dying stars Corinna Harfouch, Ronald Zehrfeld, and Lars Eidinger, who made an indelible impression in Olivier Assayas’s 2022 reworking of his 1996 feature Irma Vep. Assayas’s comedy Suspended Time stars Vincent Macaigne as a filmmaker and Micha Lescot as a music journalist. They’re brothers, and they’re locked down together with their wives while the pandemic puts a stop to everything around them.
A couple of our most-anticipated films of the year make a showing in the lineup. In Bruno Dumont’s sci-fi comedy Empire, undercover extraterrestrial knights do battle in the tiny village in northern France first seen in P’tit Quinquin (2014). Alonso Ruizpalacios, whose Museo (2018) won a Silver Bear in Berlin for Best Screenplay and who returned to the Competition with A Cop Movie (2021), has cast Rooney Mara in La cocina, which is set in a bustling New York restaurant.
Gael García Bernal, Renate Reinsve, and Bérénice Bejo star in Piero Messina’s Another End, a dystopian vision of a near future in which the minds of dead people can be revived in living bodies. A hippopotamus is killed in the Colombian jungle but returns as a ghost in Pepe, the new film from Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias (Cocote). With The Devil’s Bath, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy) will take us deep into the Austrian woods, where, in the eighteenth century, ritual murders are carried out and a woman about to marry contemplates doing some very bad things.
Matías Piñeiro, known for the cycle of comedies he calls The Shakespeareads, works from a text by Cesare Pavese on the figure of Sappho in You Burn Me. Deragh Campbell plays a happily married professor who strikes up an affair with a man from her past (Matt Johnson) in Kazik Radwanski’s Matt and Mara. Travis Wilkerson calls Through the Graves the Wind Is Blowing, in which a detective tries to solve a series of murders in Croatia, an homage to the Yugoslavian Black Wave.
Une famille is the first feature from novelist and playwright Christine Angot, who worked with Claire Denis on the screenplays for Let the Sunshine In (2017) and Both Sides of the Blade (2022). Ruth Beckermann, who won the Encounters Award for Mutzenbacher (2022), will bring Favoriten, a documentary that focuses on a Viennese classroom, where most of the elementary schoolchildren speak German only as a second or third language. All fifteen films in this year’s Encounters program are world premieres.
Don’t miss out on your Daily briefing! Subscribe to the RSS feed.