Posts Tagged ‘Berlinale 2018’

Transit (2018) **** Curzon Home Cinema

Dir/Writer: Christian Petzold | Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese | Drama | Ger |

Christian Petzold’s tale of love during wartime captivates with a romantic allure that feels timeless yet very much rooted in the 1940s. Unlike his 2014 drama Phoenix, this is a more ephemeral film – a noirish mystery thriller with modern credentials that imagines a believable yet imaginary scenario: there are no guns or soldiers on parade and the costumes are ‘classic’: don’t expect a clear cut finale because TRANSIT captures the essence of transience: we’re never quite sure of what will happen next.

Franz Rogowski – Europe’s answer to Joaquin Phoenix – gives a charistmatic tour de force as German refugee Georg who is escaping the Nazis in Marseille with another escapee, a writer called Weidel who dies on route. Taking his papers, which include a manuscript and a letter from an Embassy assuring him a visa, Georg has secured an identity and an escape route – but his plans are soon to change when a mysterious woman crosses his path and the two become linked by a extraordinary twist of fate.

Petzold fleshes out his sinuous storyline with some convincing characters: there’s a conductor on his way to Caracas, a Jewish woman who is stuck with her employers’ two dogs and the enigmatic Marie (Petzold’s latest Paula Beer), who is searching for her husband. Georg becomes obsessed by Marie but cannot reveal the truth of is own identity which must remain a mystery to her. This intoxicating love affair thrives on this sense of enigma and shadowplay.

The starving wartime Europeans escaping their homelands for a new beginning feel very much like today’s refugees, looking for a stable existence in this saraband for lost souls, who may even just be fleeing from themselves in a time of uncertainty. Franz Rogowski (the interloper in Happy End) shares a potent onscreen chemistry with Paula Beer’s beguiling Marie. This is a moving, memorable and thematically rich addition to Christian Petzold’s war-themes tales: Phoenix; Barbara and Jerichow  . MT


The Green Fog (2018) **** Now on Vimeo

Dir.: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson; USA 2017,63 min.

Guy Maddin’s’ love letter to San Francisco and Hitchcock’s Vertigo is a montage of clips from features shot in around the Californian coastal city: around one hundred or so – no new material was filmed. Aesthetically, Green Fog settles somewhere in between Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) and another Maddin/Johnson collaboration, Forbidden Room from 2015. There’s no real narrative to speak of, but Green Fog will appeal to those who like their film history served with a dizzy twist of the insane.

Oblique and opaque, Green Fog shows an overbearing obsession with Hitchcock: morbid and melancholy, we follow Scottie and Judy on a drive through the city, morphing into a hell-raising ride, where love turns to disillusionment. Novak and Stewart are played by various actors: Faye Dunaway, Susan Saint James, Gina Lolabrigida; Anthony Franciosa and Dean Martin. As one actor melds into another, one forgets that they look different in this headlong rush, on foot and in automobiles, as they’re drawn to the Golden Gate Bridge and oblivion.The film’s quotes range from the thrilling (The Lady from Shanghai, 1947) to the downright bizarre (Confessions of an Opium Eater of 1962 and So I married an Axe Murderer of 1993), via obscure gems such as Obayashi’s Take Me Away! 1978, and Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983). The common thread is their Vertigo locations; if not directly then metaphorically. The titular fog, which saturates Judy from the neon street sign, re-appears throughout: under water, most menacingly in a hospital corridor. And there are even in the clips from The Great Fire, – which was started by a film fan no less.

Hitchcock’s obsession with voyeurism is celebrated in many scenes, from surveillance rooms, to men gazing at the screens, unsure of their targets – rather like Rock Hudson, on being quizzed “what are we looking for, Sir?” by a tape operator, to which Rock retorted: “I don’t know, but at this point I’ll take anything”. Karl Malden and Michael Douglas from The Streets of San Francisco are frequently found in their search for more contemporary perpetrators. Green Fog is a ghost story, a collage of landscapes and rooms (echoing Un Chien Andalou) which are haunted by loss and death, their doom underpinned by a Hermannesque score from Jacob Gavchik. Despite of the gravity of it all, Maddin still manages to be playful and impish throughout. AS



Varda by Agnès (2019) ****

Dir: Agnes Varda |Writers: Agnes Varda, Didiet Rouget | Doc France

Agnès Varda’s final film plays out as a masterclass, the maverick 90-year old filmmaker talking us through her life and legacy, in no particular order, giving fresh insight into her the methods behind her genius as the pioneer of the French New Wave movement, in a meaty two hour documentary. Composed of reels of archive footage, clips from her films and newly shot material – we also get to meet the star of her Venice awarded Vagabond, Sandrine Bonnaire, the two sit in a field sheltered by plastic umbrellas, a sign of her determination to take the rough with the smooth. You could call it providence.

Born in Brussels as ‘Arlette’ Varda in 1928, she would go on to make 55 films in her fruitful career. Sitting comfortably in a classic director’s chair on a stage before her audience, Varda comes across as modest and approachable and despite her ardent feminism and trenchant intellect, amiable and quietly self-assured. Her canvas was always the familiar or domestic, filming subjects she knew about or felt deserving of attention. On her documentary style she muses: “The idea was to film people, whether they realised it or not, Nothing is trite if you film people with empathy and love”.

There are plenty of quintessentially Varda moments in this final adieu. At one point she is seen sitting on a beach surrounded by cardboard seagulls: “we love to talk to birds, but of course they don’t understand”. And her fear of playing to an empty cinema, or not engaging with the audience have enforced her belief that cinema is very much a two-way process. And Varda By Agnès is a film that is both introspective and expansively outward-looking at the same time. And with her previous outing Faces, Places having had an Oscar nomination last year Varda is pretty guaranteed to reach wider audiences beyond Europe.

Varda started life as a photographer and her pictures are testament to her frank and witty approach to life. The film takes us through the last century and into the present day starting with The Gleaners and I that showcases the freedom of digital. Her personal life is very much integrated into her work as an artist and there is much candid and unsentimental mention both vocal and visual of her partner Jacques Demy, making it all the more appealing particularly during his failing health.

Music features heavily in all her films: “Early on, I realised that contemporary composers were my allies.” And Varda certainly made plenty of allies in her work in the cinema and outside it. Her career as a visual artist has given rise to impressive installations and performance art, most noticeably in Faces Places –  and she often turned up to events dressed as a potato – her voluptuously rotund figure ideally suited for the long-running joke.

It seems both apposite and poignant that this informative career retrospective should be her last hurrah. Perfectly timed and with a sense of completion and hope Varda By Agnès is a memorable auto-biopic from the grand dame of cinema herself. MT



Madeline’s Madeline **** (2018)

Dir: Josephine Decker | US | 90′ | Drama | Cast: Miranda July, Molly Parker, Helena Howard

Josephine Decker’s inventive, impressionistic dramas – Butter on the Latch (2013) /Though Wast Mild and Lovely (2014) are an acquired taste but one that marks her out as a distinctive female voice on the American indie circuit. And here she is at Berlinale again with a multi-layered mother and daughter tale that is probably her best feature so far. With a stunning central performance from newcomer Helena Howard and a dash of cinematic chutzpah that sends this soaring, Madeline’s Madeline is a thing of beauty, intoxicating to watch, compellingly chaotic and with a potently emotional storyline. It’s probably best described as a experimental drama set in an experimental theatre run by Evangeline (Molly Parker), who, at one point says to protege Madeline: “In all chaos there is a cosmos. In all disorder a secret order.” In other words, “there’s a method in the madness; a predictability to every unpredictability”. And this seemingly obtuse truism really sums up this most original of features.

Howard’s Madeline is an often precocious but highly gifted performer teenager and who is clearly on the spectrum but we are never quite sure of what mental condition or how much it affects her. Hospital visits are mentioned and medication is involved, and mother Regina (Miranda July) and daughter clearly have issues with each other. Evangeline has spotted the 16 year old’s talent to entertain, and is also nurturing and exploiting it, and the trio’s relationship becomes increasingly complex and unpredictable. Ashley Connor’s roving camera is all over the place creating a fluid feeling that is enjoyable, but also disorientating as Madeline becomes more and more powerful in this ingenious female ménage à trois. MT



Styx (2018) ****

Dir: Wolfgang Fischer | Cast: Susanne Wolff | Thriller | 98’

Wolfgang Fischer’s debut was evocative philosophical psycho-thriller: What You Don’t See.  STYX works along similar lines with Fischer putting his characters into difficult situations to see how they cope. Once again the result is only surface deep in this two-hander which could almost be called an eco-thriller with its glorious seascapes and focus on flora and fauna. It follows Reike, an emergency doctor who is in her mid-thirties and decides take her holidays sailing single-handedly to the Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. We are told Reike is “is confident, determined and committed” but she is also terribly naive. The film opens as she attends to an RTA before preparing for her trip equipped with the latest snazzy gear and gadgetry. Her hedonistic early days are soon over on the high seas when, after a storm, she finds herself near a stricken refugee boat.

Fischer’s sophomore effort luxuriates in a magnificent sense of place, telling its tale through visuals and atmosphere. Reike gradually faces some stark moral dilemmas as she is torn between her dream and her nagging sense of responsibility. And although we feel little for heroine, Wolff still makes for compelling viewing – a strong woman suddenly made vulnerable by her flawed sense of duty to her fellow man when she comes up against a distressed fishing trawler filled with refugees off the coast of Cape Verde.

The final stretch is tense and unsettling as Reike helps teenager Kingsley (Gedion Wekesa Odour) on board and gets emotionally involved in a story that can only end badly when her coastal support lets her down. The sober truisms of the situation are bravely laid bare in a drama that holds its own given the current refugee crisis, and while Styx offers no easy answers to the thorny dilemma it raises, it certainly offers absorbing food for thought. MT





Freak Show (2017) ** Bluray/DVD release

Dir: Trudie Styler | Musical Drama | US | 97′

Actor, producer and now filmmaker, Trudie Styler works her contact list to great effect in cobbling together this middling teen-outsider musical powered by an impressive central turn from Alex Lawther. He plays Billy Bloom, a spirited and thoughtful young man who finds his gay identity at odds with his new surroundings when the family move from New York to a Red Neck southern state.

Thanks to DoP Dante Spinotti, Freak Show opens stylishly with a glamorous Bette Middler (as Muv) dancing with her little son (Eddie Schweighardt as the young Billy). The two are as thick as thieves but when Muv falls off the waggon, leaving Billy with Daddy ‘Downer’ (Larry Pine actually looks like Lawther), the movie soon loses its pacy allure, and dissolves into a series of musical vignettes that piece together Billy’s gradual empowerment from victim to victor. This schematic sprawl lurches from one scene to the next, hanging entirely on Lawther’s capable coat tails – and there are some striking rigouts thanks to Colleen Atwood and Sarah Laux – and Billy gets the best lines: “I just moved here from Darien Connecticut, the hometown of Chloe Sevigny”.

Intended for a teen audience Freak Show brings to mind Amy Heckerling’s 1995 comedy Clueless, and is adapted from James St James novel by Patrick J. Clifton and Beth Rigazio, who also wrote Raising Helen. Rather than finding her own distinct voice, Styler cherry picks liberally from reliable stalwarts such as Oscar Wilde and Plastic Bertrand whose quotes and music may not be known to young audiences.

After the conservative kids get used to Billy’s outlandish attire at his new school, he soon becomes friends with tousled haired dreamboat Flip Nelson (Ian Kelly), who he secretly fancies, meanwhile Flip is a bland but underwritten teen idol who remains unconvincing as a real person. Billy suffers a brutal homophobic attack that lands him in a coma and hospitalised, but this deepens his thing with Flip and he’s persuaded to run for homecoming Queen. There are some witty exchanges between Middler’s Muv and Dad’s housekeeper Florence (Celia Weston) who flags up the potential woes of Billy’s adolescent crush with Flip, and the gauche handling of this particular conflict resolution is one of the film’s many flaws. But these will likely slip off the radar of the film’s intended audience – it premiered at Berlinale’s 14K generation plus sidebar. See this for Alex Lawther and his star performance as Billy. MT



Mug – Twarz (2018) Bfi player

Dir: Malgorzata Szumovska | Michal Englert | Cast: Mateuz Kosciukiewiczz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik | Drama | Poland

In this salacious social critique of her homeland, filmmaker Malgorzata Szumovska captures the zeitgeist of rural Poland with a strangely moving story involving a scruffy metalhead builder who is forced to reevaluate his life after a tragic accident at work.

Twarz means mug/face in Polish. It refers to the central character Jacek (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), who still lives in the lakeside town of Western Polish town of Świebodzin with his petty, provincial family. Despite best intentions to move to London with his floozy fiancée Dagmara (Gorol), Jacek is put off by his brother in law’s zenophobic stance on things and Brexit doubts. Only his sister seems to be on his side.

Jacek is building something he believes in – a statue of Christ the King, and the tallest representation of the saviour so far. But a dreadful fall derails his future and his face is so badly injured that he needs life-changing surgery: the local priest (Roman Gancarczyk), his fiancée Dagmara, and the rest of the family will have to chip in to the expensive medical bills. And the result may be quite different from the Jacek they knew and loved. And the after effects are quite different, although by no means as bad as the family feared. That said, even his mother (Anna Tomaszewska) refuses to accept his new look (cleverly photographed by Michal Englert who also co-wrote the script). But when Dagmara shuns him, her rejection strikes to core of his being as a lover and man. Only his sister (a superb Agnieszka Podsiadlik) is there to help with his rehabilitation.

Szumovska cleverly navigates tonal nuances from realism to comic fantasy in a film that is competently performed, utterly compelling and thematically rich with its reflection on consumerism, identity and prejudice. The film also tackles religious belief and the nature of human suffering symbolised by Jacek’s dignified forbearance under the gaze of an all-seeing Jesus Christ. MT


Teatro de Guerra (2018) * * *

Dir/Writer: Lola Arias | Doc | Argentina, Spain 2018

The Falklands War (1982-84)  took the lives of 655 Argentinian and 255 British soldiers. It ended in Argentina’s military defeat and in territorial claims on both sides that remain contentious to this day.
Experimental in nature, this frank and often moving film essay from Argentinian artist and filmmaker Lola Arias tries to discover if past trauma can ever be resolved by collectively revisiting the memories by giving soldiers from both sides a chance to explore their feelings and even re-enact their experiences 34 years after hostilities officially ended. This is an illuminating piece of filmmaking that puts us at the cutting edge of the combat through face to face interviews; news footage and staged episodes of the conflict enacted by those who actually took part.

Now in their early 50s, the 12 veterans from both sides, bear their souls in a piece that swings between moments of anguish and absurd comedy. At one point the men even break into song and perform together in a rock band, emoting and finding a cathartic outlet for their anxiety from the past. This makes for an interactive cinema – the soldiers finding a space to release their trauma and viewers experiencing the full throttle of their pain – and even elation. An engaging piece of cinema that grapples with the coal face of conflict in new and inventive ways. MT



3 Days in Quiberon * * * (2018)

Dir/Wri: Emily Atef | Cast: Marie Baumer, Birgit Minichmayr, Charly Hübner | Germany | Drama | 115′

Award-winning German director Emily Atef’s breezy black and white playful portrait self-indulgently explores the brief sejour in the Britanny seaside resort of Quiberon of one of Europe’s most famous but now fading stars as she attempts to detoxify. At only 42, Romy Schneider’s career was on the wane and she was to die not long afterwards (in 1982). It soon becomes clear that the garrulous diva – a luminous Marie Baumer – is battling demons of all kinds and desperately missing her two children, a baby girl and a teenager who refuses to live with her.

The focus here is the two-day interview with Stern magazine German journalist Jürgs whose crafty attempts to get her to open up about the death of her first husband, who had committed suicide two years earlier, and her tortured relationship with her mother, who allegedly colluded with the press, finally pay off after plying the diva with copious amounts of white Chablis.her best friend arrives to offer support but the two soon fall out.

This playful drama takes inspiration from the glorious maritime setting of a modernist beachside hotel, and is anchored by four thoughtful performances, particularly from Bäumer who bears an uncanny resemblance to Schneider. Thomas Kiennast’s luminous photographs help to recreate a distinct Seventies feel. An enjoyable but rather superficial riff on the nature of celebrity, love and friendship. MT


The Heiresses (2018) ****

Dir: Marcelo Martinessi | Cast: Margarita Irun, Ana Ivanova, Ana Brun

Paraguayan actress Ana Brun won a Silver Bear for her dignified portrait of loss and loneliness in Marcelo Martinessi’s finely-tuned first feature.

The Heiresses shares similar thematic concerns with a number of recent South American features recalling a gilded past such as  Jorge Thielen Armand’s Caracas-set La Soledad (2017) and Argentinian drama Tigre (2017) that played at last year’s East End Film Festival.

Living in reduced circumstances in a well-appointed but shabby apartment in the capital Asuncion, Chela (Brun) has been forced slowly to sell off her prized heirlooms in legal negotiations handled by a trusted friend, Carmela (Alicia Guerra), to save her debt-ridden but considerably more jovial partner of 30 years Chiquita (Irun) who is threatened with a spell ‘inside’. Martinessi’s elegant script enigmatically weaves tentative romantic undertones and female solidarity into his texturally rich and atmospherically evocative storyline often transporting the introspective Chela into a dreamlike reverie consistent with her daily dabbling as a painter.

But an unexpected request from her more flush and considerably less guarded next door neighbour Pituca ( Maria Martins) ushers in a gradual change of circumstances allowing Chela to step out of the sidelines and into the limelight as she slowly regains confidence and a new sense of direction availing herself of a long disused Mercedes to ferry local ladies who lunch to and from each others homes for games of bridge and social tittle tattle. And it is during these leisurely afternoons that the drama gains a gently humorous twist and an opportunity for Chela to broaden her social and romantic inclinations, and to come into contact with the languorously seductive Angy (a feline Ana Ivanova).

Delicately drawn in subdued tones and sombre interior settings The Heiresses is an intimate female-centric affair that draws seething suspense from its hauntingly enigmatic minor-key and acutely observed characterisations of the former elite going about their elderly lives in leafy and affluent Asuncion. But danger is never far away in the over-crowded streets and backwaters of the city.

Men are absent but frequently alluded to in invariably dismissive or even derogatory tones: for what they haven’t done or have done badly, not only on a personal but on a national level. By definition women have learnt to be resilient, forbearing and generally self-reliant and there is considerable warmth and solidarity amongst them, and even though the usual bouts of bitchiness occasionally creep in they are tripped over lightly and soon forgotten. The gay pair have ceased to be close in the intervening years of financial hardship (“have you used my toothbrush again” Chela chides Chiquita) but still cling fastidiously to their routines and rituals: the hair coiffed and perfumed; the jewellery proudly displayed; the morning coffee meticulously prepared and served by the willing housekeeper (Nilda Gonzalez), each cup and accoutrement in its correct place or there’s hell to pay. And it’s these rigorous daily moments that hold their lives together, while everything seems to be gradually falling apart.

Chiquita’s eventual spell in the local women’s prison provides seamy contrast to their sedate life behind domestic doors where the splendour of yesteryear is reduced to ghostly shadows and peeling paper on the wall where once hung masterpieces and family treasures. And when Chela mobilises the ancient Mercedes there’s still a certain diffidence until she gets herself back into gear. But soon her distant memories of the glory days seep back as the casual nonchalance of Angy’s feral joie de vivre proves intoxicating. And it’s here that The Heiresses draws comparison with Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria, as Chela’s slow but sure emergence from emotional confinement finally starts to emerge again quietly but defiantly in this nuanced, slow-burning but compelling drama. MT




Putin’s Witnesses (2018) *** Karlovy Vary 2018 | Best Documentary Winner

Dir: Vitaly Mansky | Doc | Latvia/Switz/Czechia | 102’

On New Year’s Eve 1999 the former head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, became president of Russia. In his latest offering the exiled documentarian Vitaly Mansky (Truba) threatens to blow the lid on his own entente cordiale in a film that gives intimate and unprecedented acces to Putin himself and other protagonists on the Russian Political scene including Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin, who chose the ambitious 47-year-old politician as his successor.

Ukrainian-born Vitaly Mansky bases his film on witness accounts of the events that happened in the years following that fateful day in December, perhaps the most important moment in 21st century Russian history. Making his presence known both behind and infront of the camera as he relaxes with his wife (who openly admits her hatred of Putin) and kids durimg the New Year holidays, the filmmaker offers his own telling perspective on the current man behind the iron mask who is seen delivering red roses and a hug to his former teacher and giving his own personal take on the responsibilities of being a president, while being driven to his private gym: “you have to create a world which you are happy to live in..and not hang you head in shame..when your term of office is over”. Throughout  all this bonhomie and bumfluffery, Putin smiles but remains cold-eyed.

During their voluble encounters, Mansky probes the president on his decision to restore the Soviet anthem and his reasoning behind doing appears candid and unguarded in a film that allows this entertaining expose to speak for itself. This is not about the here and now but how it all came about and throughout a sinister soundtrack signals doom and bleak resignation. At one point a sick and bloated Yeltsin puts a call through to Putin to congratulate him on his victory only to be told that Putin will ring him back. He never does. Although Mansky seems keen to humanise the whole affair, Putin’s glare never really melts, although he cracks the odd fake smile. He is man who plays his cards close to his chest, and we can see all see through the charm offensive. Mansky’s final words offer a chilly takeaway:  “Tacit consent turns witnesses into accomplices” MT








New Directors for the Berlinale

The Berlinale turns over a new leaf as Carlo Chatrian takes over as artistic director and Mariette Rissenbeek as executive director of the International Film Festival starting in 2020.

Carlo Chatrian, born in Turin in 1971, is a film journalist and has directed the Locarno Film Festival since 2013, where he has proved that he can successfully curate and lead an art house audience festival. He stands for an artistically ambitious mix of programming and for a focus on discovering new talents. He and the new executive director, Mariette Rissenbeek, will head the Berlinale starting in 2020. Mariette Rissenbeek (born in Posterholt, The Netherlands in 1956) has long headed German Films, the information and advising centre for the international distribution of German films, as managing director. Her successful career in the film industry makes her the ideal choice for this position: She has many years of experience in working with all the important film festivals around the world and has an extensive network of national and international contacts in the film industry.

BERLINALE 2019 | 7 – 17 FEBRUARY 2019


Season of the Devil (2018) ***** | Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Lav Diaz; Cast: Shaina Magdayao, Piolo Pascual, Pinky Amador, Hazel Orencio, Noel Santo, Domingo, Bart Guingona, Joel Saracho; Philippines 201, 234′

No director working today symbolises the face of contemporary auteur cinema quite like Lav Diaz, who wrote, directed, produced, composed and edited Season of the Devil, his third feature in twelve months and follow-up to Lullaby to a Sorrowful Mystery which was twice as long and took last year’s Silver Bear at Berlinale. The Woman who Left, went on to win the Golden Lion in Venice the previous year, in 2016.

Like his contemporary Bruno Dumont, (Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc), the radical Filipino indie filmmaker works as his own composer creating a subversive musical format for his chronicle of jungle warfare in the Philippines of the 197os. But his musical approach is Brecht, mixed with Démy, and overall, Season – at least in spirit – has much in common with Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing. The musical style is disconcerting; the harmonies are repetitive and set to a recurrent chorus of ranting moans, aggression and desolation.

Filmed in Malaysia, Season of the Devil tells the story of rebel poet Hugo (Pascual) and his wife Lorena (Magdayao), a foreign doctor who, exasperated by the widespread suffering arising out of the decade-long civil war (brought about by President Ferdinand Marcos’ deployment of the Para-Military wing of his 70 000 strong Civilian Home Defence Forces), had left Hugo in order to help the community of Barrio Ginto, a small outback town where Marcos’ goons were running riot. Setting up a clinic, Lorena encounters Kwago (Amador), whose husband and son have been abducted and murdered. The village elder (Guingona) is powerless. He knows – along with the audience – that resistance is useless, after watching a couple of assassins on a motorbike gunning down a student and hanging a sign on him that says:” I am a rebel, don’t imitate me”. The military leader (Saracho) is supported by his second in-command, a lieutenant (Orencio) and the sinister Narciso (Domingo), a man with – literally – two faces, one of them representing Ferdinand Marcos. Narciso has the task of establishing a “new Church” on the island: but in reality he only recycles old lies of ghost and other superstitions. He blames the rebel forces for being in league with these apparitions, and holds them to account for the murder and violence committed by his functionaries. We only see these gangsters in a cohort; they are too cowardly to face the population on their own. The men rape and torture, and after a warning, they abduct Lorena. Her ordeal – not shown graphically – is a sad but masterful highpoint of Season. Hugo has gone mad after Lorena’s disappearance, and finally travels to Ginto, to learn about his wife’s fate.

Season of the Devil is a challenge to projectionists because of the unusual 1.50:1 aspect ratio: it is somewhere in the middle of 4:3 and 16:9, nearly like a 1:2. Visually, this is a startling film: DoP Larry Manda mixes the director’s trademarks of static shots, a shady monochrome palette, long shots and deep staging and live recoding on-set, with indoor shots, only lit by a single light source. Sometimes, protagonists “step out of the picture”, crossing the unmarked line, which is the demarcation in mainstream cinema.

Season of the Devil will stay with you for a long time. And so it should: current Filipino President Duterte, who had buried the body of President Marcos in the National Hero’s Cemetery, has unleashed a Para-military force Marcos would have been proud of. And, in 2016, after the killing and rape of Jacqueline Hamill, an Australian missionary in the town he was presiding over as mayor: he told supporters “Son of a bitch, she looked like an American actress. They lined up for her rape. Was I angry because she was raped? Yes, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful. I think, the mayor should have been first”. And on 10..3.18, The Guardian reported that Duterte had put the name of Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a UN Human Rights Investigator, on a list of “Maoist Rebels”, who are due to be hunted down by Duterte’s Special Forces. But do not fear, President Duterte has pity for female fighters: “We will not kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina”.


Garbage (2018) * * | Berlinale 2018 | Panorama

Dir: Qaushiq Mukherjee | Cast: Tanmay Dhanania, Trimala Adhikari, Satarupa Das, Gitanjali Dang, Shruti Viswan, Satchit Puranik | Drama | India | 105′ | World premiere

Bengali director Q, best known for Gandu, pushes forward a punishing political and societal agenda in this narratively slack but stylishly filmic story of exploitative hatred in a lush paradise of Goa.

Drugged by its own breath-taking beauty this is a lurid thriller full of livid anger and pain revolving around two women who are humiliated by men, and then get their revenge. We are made to feel nothing for these empty characters, they exist merely to represent Q’s hatred of social media, right wing politics, religious extremism and pretty much everything else. GARBAGE has us believe that in contemporary India all relationships are exploitative and nobody wins in the end; although the finale provides a cinematically sickening masculine takedown. GARBAGE is another sorrowful snapshot of strife from a nation where female status lags far behind male, despite burgeoning economic growth and rapid technological advancements. But the saddest character is actually a submissive and sexually-repressed taxi-driver Phanishwar (the sultry sylph-like Tanmay Dhanania) who keeps a female maid (Satarupta Das) chained to his kitchen wall. He doesn’t abuse her sexually, as he’s impotent due to testicular cancer and more preoccupied with pleasuring his own master, the religious extremist guru Baba (Satchit Puranik) whose radical rants he promotes on social media, where he also salivates over salacious porn videos. One of these features Rami (Trimala Adhikari), who by a strange coincidence gets into his taxi the following day. A deja-vue moment leads Phanishwar to obsess about having sex with her, but he’s too low on self-esteem to manage it. But Rami (Trimala Adhirkari) is having none of his lust. Being a victim to revenge porn is not what she has in mind as a highly savvy medic, but she doesn’t shy away from a lesbian love-in with the alluring Simone (Gitanjali Dang). Lakshman Chandra Anand is a real wizard behind the camera creating some impressive scenes in lush tropical landscapes with expert precision. Sadly his images are wasted on this empty vessel of style over substance. Q has a great team behind him and some laudable thematic pretensions, but his angry bile makes this a toxic experience, poisoning a picture that could been impressive in the right hands. MT



The Interpreter (2018) * * * * * | Berlinale 2018 Special

Wri/Dir: Martin Šulík | DoP: Martin Štrba | German, Slovak, 113′ | Cast: Peter Simonischek, Jiří Menzel, Zuzana Mauréry, Anita Szvrcsek, Anna Rakovská, Eva Kramerová, Réka Derzsi, Attila Mokos, Karol Šimon, Igor Hrabinský | World premiere | Drama

Peter Simonischek senses danger when he opens the front door of his elegant Vienna appartment to a well-dressed Jiří Menzel, who later emerges as the interpreter Ali Ungár in this war-themed drama levened by the same piquant humour the Austrian actor brought to Maren Ade’s satire Toni Erdman. A Slovakian Jew, Ali lost his parents during the war, and has tracked down the whereabouts of the SS officer responsible for their deaths. Georg (Peter Simonischek) quickly informs him that his father is dead. The atmosphere gently thaws as the pair gradually discover that the war has deeply affected them both in quite different ways. And Ali is not the only one keen to trace his roots. Georg recalls an eventful childhood filled with pride at his often absent officer father. Ali’s memories are swathed in dark shadows of loss and humiliation and he is still deeply traumatised by the loss of his parents. Keen to maintain his distance from a man he considers his vicarious enemy, he agrees to take Georg back with him to Slovakia charging a daily fee as his interpreter, and the two set off on an illuminating, and often tenderly moving journey to the past and themselves.

The Interpreter is above all a penetrating and poignant character piece punctuated by picaresque humour, Martin Šulík and co-scripter Marek Lescák deftly and sensitively conflate tragedy with comedy with meaningful results. Unlike the inflammatory Black 47 (2018) which revisits history stirring up hatred and stoking anger, The Interpreter is a far more conciliatory piece that seeks to promote understanding and pouring healing balm over still-smarting wounds in an enlightening exploration of a lesser known episode of the Holocaust – at least to more Western audiences. Martin Strba’s stylish camerawork captures sleek Viennese interiors and the transcendent tranquility of the Slovakian countryside in Spring.

The Second World War and its devastating effects are not the central thrust of the narrative, The Interpreter is a tribute that offers a refreshing take on events seen from the perspective of a generation who clearly remember things differently. The reveal in the final scene doesn’t come as a game-changer but offers further insight into the minds involved: Ali’s personality has been shaped by mistrust from childhood, but Georg is more instinctual in his reaction to events, which clearly mark him as the past unfolds. Both Menzel and Simonischek are brilliant in their depictions of men who are the products of their circumstances. Midnight Run and The Odd Couple spring to mind. Both men are endearing is their respective ways: Georg a wily, ebullient, womaniser; the curmudgeonly Ali proves an old-fashioned ally, but nobody’s fool. War has no winners or losers here but deeply effects us all. MT


Ryūichi Sakamoto: Async at the Park Avenue Armoury **** Berlinale 2018

Dir: Stephen Nomura Schible | Doc | USA, Japan 2018 | Without dialogue, 65 min

In April 2017 Japanese composer, pianist and music producer Ryūichi Sakamoto made a guest appearance for two evenings in the Veteran’s Room, an small 200-seater hall at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. Experienced music documentarian Stephen Nomura Schible, filmed this the intimate gathering, the first for eight years since the Sakamoto’s recovery from cancer. Async is not just a musical experience but also a visual one: a huge screen under ceiling of the auditorium fills up with images and videos.

After his first solo album in 1978, Sakamoto’s career concentrated on a fusion of synth pop, techno and house genres. But he also branched out into film music, winning an Oscar for co-writing the score for Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, followed by more recent work for Brian de Palma and Pedro Almodavar. So it comes as no surprise that async is very much influenced by visuals and images. “This album is probably the one most influenced by moving images. Movies always inspire me. So when I am feeling empty I start watching a movie. Kung Fu films are so inspiring, so wild”. Unlike the music of the 18th century, which is very much rigid in its formal design, Sakomoto wants to make music as a spontaneous invention. “My desire was the only rule”. The music – with various instruments, western, Japanese and even a sheet of glass – creates a soundtrack for an imaginary film by Andrei Tarkovsky. The composer admits that he is very jealous of his music heard by an audience, “I did not want anyone to hear it”. The 5.1 surround channel underscores the cinematographic experience, one experiences music and images as if present.

If you’ve never heard music by Sakamoto, let your mind wander, and you will soon find your head was filled with associations from the images/music –nothing spectacular or specific, just a pleasant sliding into wellbeing. Even as a great fan of Baroque music, with its very clear formal limits, it never occurred to me that I would feel any asynchrony in the performance – it simply invites the viewer to wander away and dream. AS



Circle (2018) * * * * | Berlinale 2018

Writer/Dir/DoP.: Jayisha Patel; Documentary with Kushbu Devi, Chandna Devi, Shabha Devi; UK 2018, 14 min.

India is the World’s 6th largest economy and yet many aspects of society still linger in the Dark Ages, as seen here in Javisha Patel’s poetic documentary, that had its world premiere at Berlinale 2018.

Set in contemporary Uttar Pradesh, CIRCLE is a lament for the plight of young women in many parts of India who still fall victim to rape and beatings within their own families. Their punishment is meted out by their grandmothers who have suffered the same fate, and collude with their menfolk in perpetuating and enforcing a culture of misogyny in a society which remains locked in the past. Luminously shot and elegantly framed, Patel’s film is sombre in tone but never mawkish in focusing on the emotional journey of Kushbu who has stoically internalised her grief and humiliation; almost inured to the status quo. While women are going about their work in the fields, men are seen as bystanders, hanging about in leisurely groups, as in the opening shot. Over the housework, Kushbu discusses her feelings after the brutal assault by four men who kidnapped and blindfolded her, taking her to a remote field. She claims even the police woman beat her up, forcing her to change her plea. Minimal dialogue conveys that life is a living hell with her grandmother’s demands. But little change is in sight. One of the women states clearly that “she will punish the young woman who will marry into her family, the same way”. Later, Kusbhu is married off in an elaborate ceremony to a pre-teen she has never met. Symbolically the wedding takes place without score or dialogue, the children staring around, bewildered. A passionate and poignant film.


Lemonade * * * * (2018) | Berlinale 2018 | Panorama

Dir: Ioana Uricaru | Cast:  Mălina Manovici, Steve Bacic, Dylan Scott Smith, Milan Hurduc, Ruxandra Maniu | Romania, Canada, Germany | Drama | 88 min

Ioana Uricaru directs this absorbing immigration truth-based drama from a linear script she co-wrote with Tatiana Ionascu and with the support of Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu and Canadian finance. Exposing the often ugly corrupt and officious underbelly of US officialdom, it follows Mara, a nurse from Romania, who marries one of her patients (Daniel/Dylan Smith) while on a working visit the USA, and tries make her new life with her husband 3 year old son legal and above board. With a sensitive central performance from Mălina Manovici whose winning personality as Mara makes for an absorbing watch, this intelligent film conflates a New Wave drama with a taut psycho-thriller, managing its tonal shifts with surprising dexterity.

When the police ask Mara if Romanian is an Arabic language, you realise the depth of ignorance we are dealing with is ludicrous. But this is not the worse part: Mara’s aggressively inappropriate immigration official (a sleazy Steve Bacic from TV’s Arrow) asks her for a blow-job; and during a hospital visit, she is give an injection without her consent  “because it’s free”. Yet the arm of the law comes down heavily when she leaves Dragoš alone in the appartment. It then emerges that her husband Daniel has a ‘criminal record’ from abusing a minor. Despite all this Mara presses on obdurately remembering the Romanian saying: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Luminously lensed by Friede Clausz, this is a well-paced debut that doesn’t overstay its welcome, from a talented female team. MT


Touch Me Not (2018) Berlinale 2018 | Winner Golden Bear

Dir.: Adina Pintilie; Cast: Laura Benson, Tomas Lemarquis, Christian Bayerlein, Grit Uhlemann, Adina Pintilie, Hanna Hoffman, Seani Love, Irmena Chichikova; Romania/Germany/France/Bulgaria/Czech Republic, 2018, 123 min.

Written, directed and edited by first time feature filmmaker Adina Pintilie, this surprise winner of the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival has split critics and audiences alike. The key to the mis/understanding of this fictional sex-based documentary may lie in Pintilie’s own background. At 38, she is the director of the Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival (BIEFF). Her award-winning short films fall into the category of “Fine Art” documentaries.

In this unique film the focus is Laura Benson and her exploration, through sexual therapy, of her deep-held anger and frustration. Pintilie does away with the fourth wall, participating both behind and in front of camera. The colour white dominates giving the feature a documentary feel, only disrupted by the soundtrack which destroys the illusion of realism, although the naturalistic performances make us feel like voyeurs in a candid and highly intimate sexual interaction. This is an uncomfortable film to watch. Many may find the degree of physical and emotional oversharing deeply off-putting, 

Laura visits a tattooed male prostitute who undresses for her and later masturbates. Laura looks on in barely disguised lust, and later smells his sperm in the bed. Then Laura meets Hanna Hoffman, a transsexual prostitute who also doubles up as Sex-Therapist. Hanna playfully romps on the bed, talking about her breasts who are named Lilo and Gusti, the former being the more sensitive one. She also fondles her penis through a pair of Y-fronts. Hanna is also involved in music and appreciates Brahms, like Laura’s hospitalised father. In a clinic two mwn who feel let down by their bodies: Christian Bayerlain, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and is visited by Tudor (Lemarquis), who has been completely hairless since the age of 13, due to Alopecia Universalis. Tudor (if I had a choice, I would choose not to have hair, because it’s just another form of disguise”) is still in love with his ex-girl-friend (Chichikova), whom he sometimes stalks at night.

Ironically, Christian’s penis is one of the parts of his body which functions perfectly, and he is keen on sex, because before it makes him feel more than just “a brain, floating around with no body”. After meeting an other sex-therapist (Love), who brings out in predilection for strong physical interactions, suddenly asks the director to change places with her. Pintilie acquiesces, admitting “that this a tough place to be in. I feel lots of fear, of being looked at, judged. When you screamed with anger, I knew the feeling very well.” To which Laura answers “Did I scream for you?”.

The only criticism here is a rather superfluous scene in a sex club where some of the participants meet. Otherwise Pintilie stays the course in this permanently questioning roleplay of transference and projection: like an orthodox Freudian, she claims sex to be the the centre of our lives. Sex being influenced by our hopes and denials –  foremost, of our past, parental and otherwise. There is no escape, and Pintilie is brave enough to join the fray in a film that teeters of the brink of but never oversteps the mark. Where the demarcation lines of documentary and fiction are, is never revealed. But the director, with the help of DoP George Chiper-Lillemark – who punctiliously clinical images give the impression of ongoing scientific research in some futuristic laboratory – succeeds in bringing in bringing Laura’s odyssey to a successful, surprising and moving conclusion. AS


Mug (Twarz) **** (2018) | Berlinale 15-25 February 2018 | Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize

Dir: Malgorzata Szumovska | Michal Englert | Cast: Mateuz Kosciukiewiczz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik | Drama | Pol |

In the latest salacious social critique of her homeland, filmmaker Malgorzata Szumovska captures the zeitgeist of rural Poland with a strangely moving story involving a scruffy metalhead builder who is forced to reevaluate his life after a tragic accident at work. 

Twarz means mug/face in Polish. And refers to the central character Jacek (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), who still lives in the lakeside town of Świebodzin (Western Poland) with his provincial-minded and petty family. Despite intentions to move to London with his floozy fiancée Dagmara(Małgorzata Gorol), Jacek is put off by his brother in law’s zenophobic stance on things and Brexit doubts. Only his sister seems to be on his side.

Jacek is building something he believes in – the statue of Christ the King, which is currently the tallest representation in the World. But a dreadful fall derails his future and his face is so badly injured that he needs life-changing surgery: the local priest (Roman Gancarczyk), his fiancée Dagmara, and the rest of the family will have to chip in to expensive, ongoing medical bills for a man who may be quite different from the one they knew and loved. Even his mother (Anna Tomaszewska) refuses to accept his new look – which is by no means monstrous (cleverly photographed by Michal Englert who also co-wrote the script). But worse of all, Dagmara shuns him. Only his sister (a superb Agnieszka Podsiadlik) is there to help with his rehabilitation.

Szumovska masterfully manages the tonal nuances from realism to comic fantasy in a film that is competently performed, utterly compelling and thematically rich with its reflection on consumerism, identity and prejudice. She also reflects on religious belief an the nature of human suffering symbolised by Jacek’s dignified forbearance under the gaze of an all-seeing Jesus Christ. MT


The Tree | Drvo * * * (2018) | Berlinale 2018

Dir: Andre Gil Mata | Petar Fradelic, Sanja Vrzic, Filip Zivanovic | Bosnia| Portugal | 104′

Admirers of slow cinema will delight in this beautifully crafted laborious drama from Portuguese auteur Andre Gil Mata. It follows an old man whose task is to collect water in war-torn Bosnia. At a snail’s pace, the old boy leaves his ramshackle hovel and painstakingly makes his way down to the river’s edge while doing his rounds collecting bottles from the houses he passes on the way. Accompanying him on this meticulous journey through swirling snow is his faithful canine. The sound of bombs and artillery sound in the distance, signalling some kind of conflict in this timeless, dark and gloomy setting. The tone is best described as Fadoesque. After nearly an hour he reaches the river where a boat awaits him as he gingerly sets off gliding gradually through the moonlight and mist. After a while, he sees a figure on the riverbank who then hurries off into the distance, and the man climbs ashore. It would be churlish to say that this feels like watching paint dry, but it certainly does. There are many who delight in this filmmaker’s fare which has echoes of Hungarian master Bela Tarr in its gentle rhythm and cadence. Some find it all mesmerising while others describe the experience as akin to “pulling teeth” or even “Chinese torture”.  In the right mood, it is certainly somnolent. The riverside figure who ran away later emerges as the man’s companion on his return journey, water bottles replete. And this languidly morose segment is regaled with unintelligible dialogue. Cineastes often conflate slow cinema with profundity, and this is certainly the case here.  The Tree will prove delightful for some, purgatory for others. You decide. MT


Khook | The Pig (2018)*** | Berlinale 2018

Dir/Writer: Mani Haghighi | Cast: Hassan Majooni, Leila Hatami, Leili Rashidi | Comedy | Iran

Narcissism is rife in the creative world and Iranian filmmaker Mani Haghighi (A Dragon Arrives) mines its funny side in this surreal screwball satire. The Pig’s Telenovela-ish style and garish visual aesthetic may not appeal to everyone, and some of the arcane humour may just go over Western viewers’ heads in sending up the Iranian middle classes who spend their days on the tennis court or channel their artistic energy into louche fancy dress parties (styled here by designer Negar Nemati’s in vibrant pinks and reds), hamstrung by the government’s strict censorship controls.

In downtown Tehran a serial killer is on the loose, but he doesn’t pick any old victim – the heads he decapitates belong to famous film directors, and black-listed helmer Hasan Kasmai (Hasan Majuni) is furious that he’s still alive, and despite his mother’s assurances that he deserves to die on account of his brilliance, Hasan remains petulant at being ignored especially as one of victims is Rakshan Bani-Etemad, who has championed women’s issues and bravely challenged the censorship code.

Haghigi’s political piece – which he also produced – sees Iran as a matriarchal society where men are adored and cosseted, particularly by their mothers and wives, who have the last word. Hasan is really just a grouchy Grufalo whose bedroom is cluttered with rock posters and man toys and whose affair with Shiva (a gently humorous Leila Hatami) is doomed to fail due his inactivity film-wise. Despite its flaws and rather unsatisfactory ending, The Pig is a brave attempt to send up Iranian politics and poke affectionate fun at ego-driven artists without offending. It will either win your heart or do you head in. MT


Fake Tattoos * * (2017) | Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Pascale Plante; Cast: Anthony Therrien, Rose-Marie Perreault, LysandreNadeau, Brigitte Poupart, Nicole-Sylvie Lagarde; Canada 2017, 87 min.

Unlike many new filmmakers, Pascale Plante plays it low-key with this open-ended, bittersweet love mystery that eventually gets lost in its own enigmatic quality.

Theo (Therrien) meets Mag (Perrault) on his 18th birthday, on their way out of a rock concert. They hit it off at once and like the same music, and tattoos – Theo having a talent for drawing them. He lives with his mother (Poupart), but soon moves out to his sister’s, four hours drive away. Mag is a year older than Theo; she looks after her little sister (Nadeau), while her mother (Lagarde) is busy on the dating scene. Theo and Mag Clearly enjoy sex, but we learn next to nothing about them. But Theo has a doomladen quality about him, and slowly he starts to retreat into himself, distancing himself from his mates when he meets wheelchair-bound Kev.

But Plante lets go of her material towards the end: many scenes go on for much too long and the slow-motion sex sequences don’t help the underwhelming narrative, leaving the audience detached despite some strong performances and resplendent images from Vincent Allard. AS


Generation Wealth (2018) **** Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Lauren Greenfield; Documentary; USA 2018, 106 min.

Filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield (Queen of Versailles, 2012) has put her whole working life of 25 years into this mammoth project, which is accompanied by a book and an exhibition – just to make the point. But it is not only the wealthy who are the objects of her research: Greenfield freely admits to something a woman in her documentary Thin(2006) pointed out to her: Your addiction is work.

The quote from Thin is not the only revisiting Greenfield does: the high-octane-living teens of FastForward fame are also back to report about their life thereafter. These new additions fall mostly into the category of ‘obsession’. Self-obsession usually involves finding an outlet in which to prove yourself: hedge fund manager Suzanne is not only status obsessed, but after having nearly missed the boat in having children, her latest obsession is to have a child – whatever it takes.

Kacey Jordan, an adult film star famous for her relationship with Charlie Sheen is repentant – but not before filming her own suicide attempt. Florian Homm, a hedge-fund manager who once had 600 M Euros to his name, fell foul of the US regulatory system and cannot now leave his native Germany, after having been imprisoned in Italy. He calls Germany “a prison”, but is truly proud of the fact that he bought his teenage son a prostitute in Amsterdam, “to make a man out of him”. His son watches on with his current girl friend, blushing. But there are also examples of redemption such as when Iceland’s economy boomed, a young fisherman suddenly found himself behind a desk in a bank. After the bust, he is back proudly fishing with his son, happy to have escaped the big time.

The pusuit of beauty has always been a major topic for the director (Beauty CULTure, 2011), and it is frightening to see the young Kardashians in their early teen years. But even more harrowing is Eden wood, ‘trained’ by her lower-middleclass Mom from Arkansas to win and compete in “Toddlers and Tiaras”, wishing for nothing more than a whole room full of money. Six years later, Eden has somehow managed to morph into a cheaper model of the Kardashians. Finally Cathy Gant, has spent all he money on beauty treatments in Brazil whilst neglecting her daughter, who now suffers from body dysmorphia with terrible results.

The lost American dream – lost to a mixture of capitalism, narcissism and greed is there for all to see. Nobody looks at the Jones’ next door any more, but at the Kardashians on TV. “In my work, I often look at the extremes to understand the mainstream”, says Greenfield. Perhaps she should have added “at myself”. Her interviews with her sons Noah Gabriel are as heart-breaking as her professional portraits. Cool teenager Noah puts it simple but devastatingly: “I got used to growing up without you around. The damage has been done”.

The hyper-saturated colours and absurdist wide angle-effects give the documentary a carnival-like atmosphere: this is a bonfire, not only of vanities, but also the last roll of the dice of a global civilisation (China and Russia having successfully joined the club), hell bent on destroying itself. Just asthe pyramids with all their splendour were the last gasp of the Egyptian pharoahs; in the make-believe world of TV, everyone is measuring themselves against each other with tragic consequences: the death of family, traditions and even human emotions. Unlike Egypt, this will not be the end of one civilisation, today’s humans are determined to take the whole planet down with them. AS


Unsane (2018) Mubi

Dir: Steven Soderbergh | Cast: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Amy Irving, Juno Temple | Thriller | US

The expression ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ is a glib way of describing certain experiences in our increasingly bizarre world of today. But this unnerving twisty toe-clencher is exactly that. The times we live in are uncertain and strange, anything can happen and it invariably does. And Steven Soderbergh conflates the real and the unreal in his 2018 feature UNSANE, scripted by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer..

Shot on an iPhone (but not so you’d notice) it stars Claire Foy as Sawyer Valentini an ostensibly straightforward career girl whose life becoming increasingly stressful when she is involuntarily confined to a mental institution, after seeking professional advice to avoid a stalker. Many may find this storyline outlandish but there are those who can attest to the manifold ways that stalkers and high-performing psychotics can gain access to remedies in law enabling them to slip through the net and continue menacing their victims, often incriminating them in the process. Pushed over the edge by PSD, Sawyer is forced into a twilight zone of the real and the imaginary when her stalker (Joshua Leonard) appears as a male nurse in the facility where she is now a patient.

This is a compelling and pacy thriller that grips and startles with its psychological meltdown. Soderbergh makes a convincing case for the stalker in creating an antiheroine who is often unsympathetic and as equally hard-edged as her sociopathic hunter who also exhibits traits that are plausible and even appealing, until the final reveal. Soderbergh punctuates the terror with plenty of dark humour and Jay Pharaoh is appealing as Sawyer’s close friend and ally. Juno Temple is the fly in the ointment, playing against her usual type as a trailer trashy fellow inmate. There’s a claustrophobic haunting quality to the iPhone’s gritty indie grittiness. A quick-witted film that keeps you guessing as it careens from panic to paranoia finally delivering a conclusion that satisfies and startles. MT.


The Happy Prince (2018) *** Berlinale 2018

Dir: Rupert Everett | Cast: Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Emily Watson

Rupert Everett has made no secret of his appreciation for the British playwright Oscar Wilde having played him in various film and stage adaptations with The Happy Prince being the latest. His debut as director and writer draws comparisons with the theatre outing The Judas Kiss where the focus is Wilde’s controversial relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas – better known as Bosie – a crime that led to several years in a hard larbour camp for which the writer received a posthumous pardon last year.

Taking its title from Wilde’s fairy tale parable about the friendship between a statue and a swallow finding the Kingdom of Heaven after sacrificing their worldly treasures – Wilde is pictured in the opening scene reading this bedtime story to his children in flashback, and at the end, to his protégées, a pair of French urchins (Benjamin Voisin and Matteo Salamone).

In between Everett avoids a straightforward narrative opting for an impressionistic hagiographic hotpotch of visually alluring vignettes that follow Everett’s Wilde as the self-indulgent raconteur of his own decadent final years as a raddled Victorian roué in exile roaming the flesh pots of France and Italy on a flight of fancy, courtesy of a generous allowance from his estranged and undeservedly berated wife Constance (Emily Watson). During this interlude, Wilde emerges as a bloated narcissistic lush mourning his unfinished love affair with the rather fey Bosie (Colin Morgan), while dallying with the more reasonable Robbie Ross, his literary agent. He eventually reunites with Bosie in scenes that suggest their affair is fired as much by lust as by mutual understanding. Everett makes the decision to flip from French to English accentuating the rather pretentious tone of the piece and detracting from the moments of coruscating wit that pepper Wilde’s caustic repartee.

Although the result is an ethereal feast for the eyes this is a film far too floaty and dramatically unsubstantial to sustain the attention for its 103 minutes, despite some sterling underpinnings from Everett himself, Colin Firth as Wilde’s old habitué Reggie Turner and a thoughtful but underwritten Emily Watson. MT

IN CINEMAS FROM 18 June 2018 | Berlinale 2018 review

First Stripes | Premieres Armes * * * (2018) | Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Jean-Francois Caissy; Documentary; Canada 208, 106 min.

After visiting a care home for the elderly (La Belle Visite), Canadian documentarian Jean-Francois Caissy turns his camera on those starting out in life: young recruits embarking on a 12-week training course for the Canadian Army share their hopes and aims with the director in this informative film.

Some have joined up personal reasons – one young man had promised his father on his dead bed that he would join the Army – but most men are looking for a new challenge. In common with other armies, the Canadian Force is not just about combat training, soldiers can train in engineering and and medicine. Women recruits are still a minority in the challenging male dominated environment, and men are kept firmly under control, although one female recruit talks about the verbal “disrespect”, she encountered. Most of the training is spent teaching males basic hygiene. They don’t seemed to have learnt how to wash their bed linen or clothes. They also lie blatantly about the use of their mobiles outside the prescribed hours. All in all, they come over as immature and hopelessly egocentric. The instructors constantly adopt new ways of making them grow up – but it’s a difficult task.

The women are, on the whole, very serious. One phones her young child regularly, telling the father how privileged he is to be spending every day with his son. Another is delighted to be told  “that she is ready for a great adventure”, at the end of the course. Her instructor also mentions -bizarrely – how ‘inanely’ suited she is to a military career. One man gives combat training the thumbs down and does not want to be talked into joining the fighting unit, although he is eminently suited – he prefers to stay with the non-combat unit he had chosen at the start. There is a plan amongst some of the instructors to “turn back to the 80s style of training”. But by the end it’s clear that the Canadian Army is at home in the 21st century; most of the conflict is banal and the overall tone is very civilised – like Canadian society as a whole.

Caissy mixes training drills with close-up camerawork, and DoP Nicolas Canniccioni familiarises us with the recruits’ faces, with lingering shots and clear framing. First Stripes is a sober but absorbing portrait of modern army training that avoids any sensationalism. AS


Black 47 * (2018) Berlinale 2018

Dir: Lance Daly | Cast: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Barry Keoghan, Freddie Fox | Ireland | Drama

Lance Daly’s dreary historical revenge drama revisits the peak of Ireland’s potato famine (1847) from the perspective of a raw and wretched Irish ranger who has served the British Army abroad. The malcontent has a particular axe to grind in this story, and his weapon of choice is a vicious shortened sabre that slices through anyone who gets in his way when his plans to escape the rain-soaked Emerald Isle for pastures new in America are scuppered.

Martin Feeney (a deeply sinister looking Frecheville), has deserted the Imperial army and finds his way back to Ireland to find his family has been largely wiped out and his brother hanged by the local English judge. His neighbours are now outcasts in their own country and Feeney launches a bitter vendetta, clearly posing a a threat to the powers that be. So along comes Captain Hannah (Hugo Weaving) who is tasked by the English, against his will, to track Feeney down.

If Daly’s plan was to worsen British Irish relations further by drudging up a miserable period of the nation’s past, at least he could have made a better more well-balanced job of it than this rather predictable, one-sided and cliche-ridden piece of cinema. The Great Famine was clearly a complete nightmare for both sides. Ireland had become part of the United Kingdom in 1801 but sectarian divisions between Protestants and Catholics causing religious wars during the 17th century had been made worse by the country’s prevailing economic problems in the 19th century and a general fall in global food prices, and Britain’s change to free trade in the 1840s only really benefited the industrialised North where Protestants predominated. The South relied on agriculture and was badly affected by the Famine which was exacerbated by poor weather. So torrential rain, religious differences and the well-known Colonial arrogance of the era, coalesced to create an unmitigated human disaster. It’s only reasonable that a decent tribute should be made but BLACK 47 was no the way to do it. It shows how Irish families were dying, while the English overlords were mercilessly exporting the little grain that was produced, and to make matters even worse, new eviction laws wreaked havoc among the poverty-stricken population producing the equivalent wide-scale homelessness and mortality seen – on a much larger scale – during Stalin’s policy of collectivism.

In this rather clumsy affair, the English are naturally painted as baddies, the cast are forced to be caricatures of pompous prigs, with the most unspeakably racist dialogue to deliver, which they do with aplomb, but flounder with the native Gaelic. There is the Boris Johnson-quiffed officer Pope (Freddie Fox) and his subaltern (Barry Keoghan from The Killing of a Sacred Deer) ). Even Jim Broadbent plays against his normal liberal type as the sneering snob Lord Kilmichael. Irishman Stephen Rea kisses the proverbial Blarney Stone as a wandering troubadour Conneely, who offers to help the English with his ‘lore of the land’. From the get-go  you wouldn’t trust him to post a letter, and he’s perfect in the part giving a peerless performance as a sly and slippery savant, flight of foot and mind.

And what a gift this story could have been if more equitable hands had mined the rich vein of dramatic potential in this land of misty seascapes, rich folklore and canny characters smouldering in wait for the British army. Instead we get a one-sided and schematic narrative with the English painted as unremitting rogues and a support cast of zombie-like faceless Irish freaks drifting around in bleached-out set pieces. Each scene is as predictable and the last. The only part with any real nuance, aside from Stephen Rea’s, is Hugo Weaving’s Hannah. There is breadth to his character and he plays the dark horse ’til the final hurdle. But what a travesty the rest of it is. Clearly Black 47 is intended as a flag-waving crowd-pleaser for the Irish, but it is a lazy, feel-bad movie for British audiences, opening old wounds and striking another blow for diplomacy, offering little hope for reconciliation over events that happened in the dim and  distant past. MT


The Real Estate (2018)**** | Berlinale 2018

xDir: Mans Mansson | Writer: Axel Petersen | Cast: Léonore Ekstrand, Christer Levin, Christian Saldert | Drama | Sweden | 88′

There’s no denying the similarities between the Grenfell tragedy and this caustic character thriller which shows that owning property can be as horrendous as not owning it. THE REAL ESTATE also offers a bracing blast of inventiveness to this year’s Berlinale line-up in a narrative that relies on its dissonant electronic score as much as its vibrant often chaotic images. In the wake of the European housing crisis this Swedish experience explores what happens when an elderly expat inherits a large block of flats from her father, forcing her to return home to Sweden and deal with the estate.

This darkly abrasive drama is not made easier to stomach due to its unlikeable characters. Nojet (Léonore Ekstrand) and her brother-in-law and nephew lock horns over her inheritance when it emerges that the men have sold illegal leases to the tenants on the 7th floor, not only making a sale of the block almost impossible – due to these existing tenants’ rights – but also revealing their widescale mismanagement of the property and trousering of the resulting funds: the heiress is faced with an intractable situation from which she cannot simply even walk away.

Described by the filmmakers Axel Petersén and Måns Månsso as a ‘family affair’ allowed them to get up really close and personal with Léonore Ekstrand, the only professional actor here who gives a feisty turn as a hard-nosed wealthy woman who had clearly retreated to sunnier climes, but retirement has not softened her toughness when it comes to business. After the funeral service and crematorium scene – pictured at hideously close quarters – Nojet gets down and dirty with her claws out. There’s an uncomfortable detachment here which has much in common with Ulrich Seidl or even Jonathan Glazer and the Swedes keep the tension taut with a jagged and unpredictable tale which sees Nojet decamp to the countryside home of her father’s lawyer, played by a dissipated Christer Levin, who has a lethal arsenal of weapons and is also a rather good cook. As with Grenfell, it soon emerges through Nojet’s door to door enquiries at the block that many of the inhabitants are subletting illegally or are immigrants. She gets intimate with a potential buyer who gives the property (and then Nojet herself) a good going over, but then backs off due to the inherent complications.

The ingenious plotline and bracing aesthetic is certainly a shot in the arm for avant-garde cinema, but may shoot itself in the foot beyond diehard arthouse audiences. This is an unsettlingly aggressive film with its hard-angled baleful bitterness, but those who stick with it may even applaud is sensory onslaught and shaky handheld camerawork. This is an intrepid and caustic film about sharks. MT


The Prayer * * * (2018) | Berlinale 2018

Dir: Cedric Kahn | Fanny Burdino | Cast: Anthony Bajon, Damien Chapelle, Alex Brendemuhl, Hanna Schygulla | Drama | France | 107′

Best known for his 2004 drama Red Lights, based on Georges Simenon’s novel, French filmmaker Cédric Kahn returns to Berlin with this traditional but drifting coming of age love story that explores the road to salvation for a teenage boy who joins a Christian retreat after becoming lost in a world of drugs and drinking.

Newcomer Anthony Bajon leads an impressive cast that includes Damien Chapelle and Hannah Schygulla’s mother superior, and while he makes a great screen debut expressing the confusion and anguish of puberty, the real star of the film is Bruno Dumont’s regular DoP Yves Cape whose widescreen images evoke the fresh verdance and soul-regenerating benefits of the Auvergne in springtime. MT

BERLINALE 15-25 FEBRUARY 2018 | SILVER BEAR Best Actor | Anthony Bajon

U – July 22 (2018)* * * | Berlinale 2018

Dir: Erik Poppe | Cast: Andrea Berntzen, Aleksander Holmen, Brede Fristad | Thriller | 90′ | Norway

U 22 JULY seems a rather dismissive title for a film about the tragedy that killed 77 people, many of them teenagers, on the on the Norwegian island of Utøya on that fateful day in 2011. But if any director could tell the story with a sensitive way it is certainly Norwegian director Erik Poppe’s whose Oscar hopeful The King’s Choice made the shortlist to represent the country in the 89th Academy Awards. This docudrama vividly recreates the horror and the anguish without sensationalising the horrific events that turned a summer’s day into a living nightmare that went on for 72 minutes, and still continues to haunt the lives of an entire generation of Norwegian youth and those affected. Poppe’s approach is to focus on the victims who were in the midst of enjoying their holidays, but judiciously gives only a passing distant glance to the perpetrator, right-wing extremist Anders Briekvik.

Piecing together direct experiences and interviews with those present, his drama involves characters who are entirely fictitious, so as to spare the families further heartache. What results is  bodyblow of a film. Apart from showing a few bruises and bloody faces, the film focuses on the psychological effects of the onslaught that opens with the bombs exploding on the government buildings in Oslo and then relocates to the island, as the kids desperately flee for cover, huddling in groups in the thickly wooded shorelines. The camera follows teenager Kaya (Andrea Berntzen) who is sharing a tent with her younger sister Emilie (Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne). After being separated when gunfire opens, she then rushes through the island trying to find her sibling while giving comfort and support to her friends and along the way until the final desperate moments. Not an easy or particularly enjoyable film to watch in its one-note tone of unremiting tension, but a story well-crafted and atmospherically told – and one you won’t forget easily. MT



The Silk and the Flame (2018)* * * | Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Jordan Schiele; Documentary with Yao Shuo, Fu Qin, Ma Qin; USA 2018, 87 min.

Shot in moody black and white, Jordan Schiele’s documentary sees the future colliding heartbreakingly with the past and rural family life in a village in Henan, central China.

Yao, a gay man in his late thirties, arrives from Beijing to celebrate the New Year along with three billion or so other workers who make this annual pilgrimage to be with their families. The journey takes nearly four days, not the usual nine hours. Yao is successful in a modern sense, with an MA his salary helps his extended family to survive in the 21st century. His parents are still waiting for him to settle down but he keeps his sexuality a secret, out of guilt, and events invents fake girl friend, who just happens to be in Korea over the New Year. The whole family watches him Skype her on his mobile.

Schiele joins Yao on his journey south and tries to talk world politics with his bedridden father Fu Qin – who was forced to beg in his childhood and has suffered two strokes. Yao’s deaf and dumb mother Mu Qin, is also a full-time carer to her husband, coping with his total immobility. The family room of the ramshackle house is dominated by a poster of the young Mao – Yao tells us that his father prays both to Mao and Jesus to make him mobile again. Yao’s brother Fu Qin is clearly the family favourite but Yao is always aware of his otherness: Managing the expectations of his family and former teacher are a constant concern. “I never visited him with a girl, and now the first friend I introduce to him is a man”. A sombre ending, when the two men drive away in their car after the festive season, concludes this gloomy visit – the fireworks providing the only upbeat moments.

Everybody seems to talk all the time about their happy family life but Schiele makes clear that the opposite is mostly the case. Yao even contemplates marrying a woman just to keep his family happy. Such are the pressures of the ties that bind. For all its cultural differences, China is no different from anywhere else: underneath the multi-layered family conflicts everyone keep the status quo. An eerie atmosphere of repression and denial makes for an often strange, but fascinating watch. AS


The Cranes Are Flying | Letjat schurawli (1957) Berlinale Classics 2018

Dir.: Mikhail Kalatozov; Cast: Tatjana Samoylava, Aleksey Batalov, Vasily Merkuryev, Aleksandr Shvorin; USSR 1957, 95 min.

Mikhail Kalatosov (1903-1973) led Soviet cinema back to the lyricism of Pudovkin and Eisenstein, and broke with the hollow realism and personality cult of the Stalin era. The director owes much to the collaboration of DoP Sergei Urussevsky and editor Marya Timofeyeva – even though the actress Tatjana Samoylava, in the centre role of Veronika, got most of the attention at Cannes Film Festival in 1958, where The Cranes won the Palme D’Or and Samoylava Best Actress.

Boris (Batalov) and Veronika are a happy couple when Germany invades the Soviet Union in June 1941. Boris immediately joins the Red Army, to defend the Motherland, but is soon killed at the front. Veronika is unnaware of his death, and after her parents are killed in an air raid, she moves in with her uncle Fyodor (Merkuryev), a surgeon, and his cousin Mark (Shvorin), a pianist, who rapes Veronica during an air raid, and she is forced to marry him. When Fyodor discovers that Mark has bribed the authorities to avoid being drafted, he throws him out of the house. Veronica wants to commit suicide, but is saved at the last moment, when she spots an abandoned child, needing her help. Only at the end of the war does she accept that Boris is dead, giving the flowers she brought him to the returning soldiers.

Kalatosov (I am Cuba, The Red Tent) breaks many taboos of the Stalin period – where it was unconscionable to admit that citizens bribed officials in order to avoid conscription. Rape, even in this very nuanced form, had never been shown before. And a heroine, who even seriously contemplated suicide  – never mind being a second away from it – had no place in a cinema throttled to death by censorship.

Urussevsky’s often handheld camera is extremely mobile, and his moody black-and-white images glow in depicting a private and public world in chaos. Samoylava’s heartfelt acting is never sentimental and Kalatosov helps the re-birth of Soviet cinema by going back to the masters of the first hour after the revolution. Without any exaggeration, one can say that this feature deservedly buried Stalinist film culture in the muckheap of history.


Teatro de Guerra (2018) * * * | Berlinale 2018 Forum

Dir/Writer: Lola Arias | Doc | Argentina, Spain 2018

The Falklands War (1982-84)  took the lives of 655 Argentinian and 255 British soldiers. It ended in Argentina’s military defeat and in territorial claims on both sides that remain contentious to this day.
Experimental in nature, this frank and often moving film essay from Argentinian artist and filmmaker Lola Arias tries to discover if past trauma can ever be resolved by collectively revisiting the memories by giving soldiers from both sides a chance to explore their feelings and even re-enact their experiences 34 years after hostilities officially ended. This is an illuminating piece of filmmaking that puts us at the cutting edge of the combat through face to face interviews; news footage and staged episodes of the conflict enacted by those who actually took part.

Now in their early 50s, the 12 veterans from both sides, bear their souls in a piece that swings between moments of anguish and absurd comedy. At one point the men even break into song and perform together in a rock band, emoting and finding a cathartic outlet for their anxiety from the past. This makes for an interactive cinema – the soldiers finding a space to release their trauma and viewers experiencing the full throttle of their pain – and even elation. An engaging piece of cinema that grapples with the coal face of conflict in new and inventive ways. MT



Cross My Heart | Les Rois Mongols (2018) | Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Luc Picard; Cast: Milya Corveil-Gauvreau, Henry Picard, Anthony Bouchard, Alexis Guay, Clare Coulter; Canada 2017, 101 min.

Director Luc Picard (Esimesac) and  Nicole Belanger adapt her book into a moving feature about children caught up in the world of adults and their often heartless pragmatism.

At the height of the ‘October Crisis’ in Canada, when separatists of the FLQ (Quebec Liberation Front) kidnapped and killed the Deputy Prime Minister Pierre Laporte on October 17th 1970, four children from Montreal took a leaf out of the book of adult politics and staged their own kidnapping. Teenager Manon (Corveil-Gauvreau) overhears her mother talking to a social worker about her plans to separate her kids to the care of foster parents: their father is dying of cancer, and the mother is near a nervous breakdown. During the father’s illness, Manon and Mimi often stayed at their aunt’s house with their two cousins. Martin has a crush on Manon,  a good Catholic girl. She first asks Jesus for help, but after nothing happens, loses her faith. Martin, on the other hand, promises to help. Inspired by the actions of his student brother Paul, he suggests a kidnapping might put paid to the break up of Manon’s family. The two teenagers abduct a wheelchair-bound neighbour (Coulter) and escape into a cabin in the north of the country, taking the enthusiastic Mimi and Denis with them. But they leave the ransom note – a near exact copy of the actual kidnapping demand, signed Family Cell instead of Chernier Cell. Later, in the cold cabin, the five bond after a shaky beginning: the old lady is a good grandmother to the little boys in spite of her lack of French, and the teenagers make it to the first kiss, before the police intervene. Manon is put into a home for juvenile delinquents – but her quest to free her brother is only a step away from becoming reality.

Picard describes the different worlds of adults and children with much imagination: they just want to be adults before their time. Their naivety and lack of judgement leads them to behave it a way that may work in the world of kids, but not in a world corrupted by adult scheming. The biggest difference between these two universes is adult adjustment – which children like Manon and Mimi – see as treachery. All four young actors are brilliant, and DoP Francois Dutil’s images are the stunnung stuff of fairy tales. The world of the adults is suitably grey and brown; the kids’ kingdom full of vibrant brillliance. This is a film for children and adults who still see themselves as kids, at heart. And who haven’t forgotten the power of make believe and magic. AS

BERLINALE 14 -24 FEBRUARY 2018 | Crystal Bear for the Best Film Generation Kplus

Grass (2018) | Berlinale 2018 Forum

Dir: Hong Sangsoo | Drama | Cast: Kim Minhee, Jung Jinyoung, Ki Joobong, Seo Younghwa, Kim Saebyuk, Ahn Jaehong, Gong Minjeung | Korea 2018 | Korea, 66 min

GRASS is Hong Sangsoo’s shortest film so far but he returns once again to familiar territory, this time in black and white, a exploring the dynamic between men and women when they first meet. And this one is as light-hearted as ever and takes place in a single location in the Korean capital of Seoul: a cafe with classical music. Strains of Wagner and Schubert can be heard as his regular muse Kim Min-hee, but this time there’s a twist. The heroine is using the other customers in the place as characters in a series of stories, even adapting their conversations for the dialogue while the food and Korean soju flows.


The Omission *** (2018) | Panorama

Dir.: Sebastian Schjaer; Cast: Sofia Brito, Malena Hernandez-Diaz, Lisandro Rodriguez, Laura Lopez Moyano, Pablo Sigal; Argentina/Franc/Germany 2017, 90′.

Sebastian Schjaer has set his beguiling, enigmatic debut high in the mountains of Argentine’s Tierra del Fuego. Like a puzzle, the pieces fall slowly into place, before a surprise ending questions everything we have seen before in this slim but affecting drama.

We first meet Paula (Brito) on a bus in Buenos Aires. She is heading south to the mountain region to work in a hotel during the holiday season and as a part-time tour guide to raise money to fund a better life with her boyfriend Diego (Sigal) – the two have a five-year old daughter, Malena (Hernandez-Diaz) who is being looked after by Laura’s aunt (Lopez Mayano), while she saves up for a visa to Canada to visit Diego’s parents. One dark morning Paula meets a photographer, Manuel, and begins to rethink her sketchily laid out plans. But when the hotel management cheats her out of her wages, Paula starts seeing Manuel (Rodriguez) who is so smitten that he agrees pays her for sex. On top of it, he arranges for Paula to be employed as a photographer.

Paula seems to be running away from something: we often see her in transit, buses and cars – and again and again, running. She seems afraid of any emotional contact, apart from her relationship with her daughter, whom she adores. But Paula treats both the men in her life with utter detachment. Her self-esteem is brittle, and she quails away from making decisions. Viewing her life from the outside in, she seems to exude a strength which men find appealing. They flock to her, asking for her commitment, which she is not (yet) ready to give. Every step she takes is an intermediate one, the goal perhaps even unknown to her.

Schjaer directs with great sensibility, and Ines Ducacastella’s (mostly) handheld camerawork  vibrantly catches Paula in perpetual motion. What emerges in the end is a portrait of a woman who is on the way to self-definition under her own terms. AS


Entebbe * * (2018) Berlinale 2018

Dir: Jose Padiha | Writer: Gregory Burke | Cast: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl, Eddie Marsan | Thriller | 107′

7 Days in Entebbe (July 1976) felt more like 2 weeks in this hard slog of a thriller that cruises rather than soars, never mustering any real suspense. Despite some terrific performances from its stellar cast – and particularly Eddie Marsan for the best Hebrew accent this site of the Mediterranean – the direction is sluggish with most of the film’s running time spent on debate between hijackers and planning on part of bewigged and besuited politicians. Daniel Bruhl is bland as the ideological head of the German Revolutionary Cells that was purportedly one of the nation’s most dangerous leftist terrorists groups. Rosamund Pike does her best with a rather frosty role as his accomplice. Most of the time she looks frightened to death.

Any hostage tragedy offers rich dramatic potential, yet this feels like a detached procedural that fails to excite or entertain. There’s a terrific turn from Nonso Anozie as bumptiously sinister dictator Idi Amin. And the vaguely related dance routine that headlines the start and finale of the film is a welcome idea that gives a kick up the backside to this otherwise lacklustre affair. MT

BERLINALE 2018 | 15 -25 FEBRUARY 2018

Cobain (2018) *** | Berlinale 2018

Dir: Nanouk Leopold | Cast: Bas Keizer, Naomi Vellissariou; Wim Opbrouck, Dana Marineci | DRAMA | Netherlands/Belgium/Germany 2018, 93′.

Director Nanouk Leopold (It’s all so quiet) and producer/writer Stienette Bosklopper have created a small, intimate social drama, which is carried by the lead actors and the imaginative images of DoP Frank van den Eeden, which always favour expressionism over realism.

We first meet the 15-year old runaway after he is caught for fare-avoidance in the metro. Cobain (Keizer) is living in a care home, and is due to be released to foster parents. Hating his name (“Nobody can spell it, and who want’s to be called after a guy who shot himself?”), he is searching for his single mother Mia. He only lasts a day at the foster home before  he is on the road again. When he eventually meets Mia – who goes on calling him ‘my little man’ – she is pregnant, and still on drugs. It does not help, that Cobain’s next port of call is the sinister Wickmeyer (Opbrouck), pimp and drug dealer, and once Mia’s employer. Cobain, following Wickmeyer like a lapdog, soon finds out that one of his ‘girls’, Adele (Marineci), has withheld some payment from her boss, and Cobain, who has just put lipstick on, forces her to sleep with him as price for his silence. He seems happiest with the pet iguana: looking more and more the child he really is. When Mia turns up at Winkmeyer’s, the latter insults her, and forces Cobain to take sides. After a visit to the hospital, Cobain learns, that his mother is still taking drugs, and endangering the baby. In his desperation, he takes his mother to a remote countryside house, and locks her in. Whilst well meaning, he has no idea about the dramatic consequences of his action.

Neglected all his life, Cobain, is unsure about everything, even of his sexual orientation. The adults he meets, are either paid for giving him attention, like the social workers, or even more unstable than himself, like his mother and the Winkmeyer set-up. There is a sad, but funny scene in the house, where the girls lounge around, one of them is a sex-manual reading in halting Dutch: “When you have mastered the missionary position, it is time to go on to more advanced practices.” They are all exploited by Winckmeyer, and Cobain might put lipstick on, to show solidarity with the women. And this evaluation becomes true, when the ‘boss’ attacks him, with clear sexual undertones, before ordering Adele into a bedroom.

The images are often dreamy, when Cobain closes his eyes, his field of vision becomes blurred, and he possibly thinks of a better world. Cobain is most at piece at the countryside, even his mother is positively impressed by the outdoor silence. The long rides on the motorcycle are reminiscent of the Dardenne Brothers, and Leopold is equal to their sensitive directing style. Overall, Cobain is a melancholic moody drama, with shades of the old fashioned French poetic realism. AS



Eva (2018) * * * | Berlinale 2018

Dir: Benoit Jacquot | Gilles Taurand | James Hadley Chase | Cast Isabelle Huppert, Gaspard Ulliel, Julia Roy | Drama | France | 100

Benoit Jacquot (‘A Single Girl’) and Isabelle Huppert (‘Elle’) are together in this enjoyable but unconvincing adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s sixties bestseller Eva.

Annecy is the snow-capped setting for this often unsettling menage a trois that would have us believe that a good-looking young gigolo (Gaspard Ulliel) leaves his luscious blond babe (Julia Roy) and falls in thrall to an ageing geisha girl (Isabelle Huppert) whose stick is ‘treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen.

But what starts an alluring affair rapidly loses its way. That said It’s typically French, flirty and fun. Jacquot and scripter Gilles Taurand’s version opens as wannabe something Bertrand (Ulliel), is tending to the needs of a dying writer – whether as carer or call boy is never made clear here. As the old man chokes, Bertrand makes off with his manuscript of a play entitled Passwords, hoping to make it to the bright lights which he does with his wealthy girlfriend in tow. But the second play poses a problem and his producer (Richard Berry) is becoming impatient.

Despite its light-hearted overtones there’s a menacing Hitchockian undertow that keeps the noirish tension tight and ticking over as the action unfurls with its rather unsavoury characters that definitely have a retro twang of the Sixties. Isabelle Huppert does her stuff with perky aplomb but we never really buy into the dicy dynamic between her and Ulliel which eventually leads to his undoing. quickly becomes an obsession that will ruin his life in a drama, that while entertaining to a certain extent is ultimately rather empty.

BERLINALE 15-25 February 2018 | COMPETITION

Horizon (2018) * * * * Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Tinatin Kajrishvilli; Cast: George Bochorishvilli, Ia Sukhitashvilli, Jano Izoria, Lika Okroshvilli, Nana Datunnashvilli, Sergo Buiglishvilli; Georgia/Sweden 2018, 105 min.

Director/co-writer Tinatin Kajrishvilli (Brides) creates an atmospheric, elegiac portrait of lost love and self-destruction. Set mainly in the ravishing countryside of Georgia, Horizonti is full of passion and longing, a paean to the past that echoes a Chekov play.

Still in his thirties, Giorgi (an impressive George Bochorishvilli) lives a life straight out of the 19th century. Separating from his wife Ana (Ia Sukhitashi) has been a traumatic process – at heart he is a brooding, disillusioned romantic and he retreats to the coast where the region’s swamps and lakes suit his gloomy temperament. Ana has left him for Nico (Buiglishvilli) so Giorgi now takes refuge in the company of elderly Georgians who also mourn the old country.

There is Larisa (Datunashvilli), who dies on the eve of her journey to attend a wedding in the city: she does want to leave the slightly crazy Valiko, who always lets the chicken run free – and plays billiards alone. Only Jano (Izoria), a friend from George’s past, and Marika (Okroshidze) are of Georgi’s generation. But even though Ana has made it clear she is going to marry Niko soon, Giorgi does not want to accept reality: he always uses their two sons as an excuse to visit Ana, whose wedding to Nico is now imminent.

They spend a miserable time in a hotel near the sea, before Giorgi sets out to bury himself for ever in an outpost near the lakes.The snowy countryside is breath-taking, Irakli Akhalkatsi’s visual are mostly widescreen impressionistic paintings: a wounded animal, George becomes one with the landscape. Doom-laden from the beginning, he even looses his zest for hunting and starts drinking again. There is a symbolic walk along the seaside, Ana with her new husband  Niko, and the two children. At the end it is Ana who is lost in the boat, taking her back to the city: Giorgi was like a feral animal, who liked to roam – she certainly loved him once, but now she has finally set him free. AS


Central Airport THF **** | Berlinale 2018 Forum

Dir.: Karim Ainouz; Documentary; Germany/France/Brazil 2018,97’

Brazilian director Karim Ainouz, whose feature Praia do Futuro ran at Berlinale a few years ago, is also known for his installations. This informs his entertaining rather nuanced documentary about the Berlin Flughafen Tempelhof and its refuge camp, which falls very much between the two genres.

Ainouz underlines the absurdity of the situation: as a Syrian refugee how can you integrate smoothly into the high tech capital such as Berlin? Far more than a language problem, it’s a cultural gulf where even the most supportive German administrator struggles to accommodate the new visitors’ trauma – however well meaning they might be. Ainouz plays it shrewdly using minimal dialogue and subtle camerawork, including time-lapse, to convey the confusion as two worlds meet and try to get along. There’s a lowkey tongue in cheek humour between the well-meaning German “Ordnungsliebe” (love of order) with the chaos of the emigrants’ lives. Confrontation was eased to some degree when the refugees found work in the camp’s administration, but it put these administrators into a double-bind: they had to keep both their German bosses and the refugees happy.

Central Airport Berlin Tempelhof opened in 1923, the main building followed three years later. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, they vowed to build the largest airport in the world, but the war curtailed their efforts so the airport never became a central piece of Albert Speer’s Germania, the new gigantic capital planned to replace Berlin. At the end of the war, the US Air Force took over the airport, which was to play a big role in the Cold War. After its closure in 2008, Tempelhof became the largest heritage site in Europe and the old runways and the neighbouring fields were used as a “Vergnügunspark” (pleasure ground).

In 2015/16 the German government offered refuge to Syrians and other war-torn victims, but their sheer numbers defied the planners and in Berlin it was decided to house the refuges in the old airport’s huge hangars which very much resemble the setting for a horror film – no wonder, given their history. Security patrols are on 24 hour duty; a fence divides the pleasure ground from the camp facilities. The scene could not be more surreal: German families having a good time in the park, while on the other side of the fence, newcomers struggle to learn a new language and cope in their new homeland. Meanwhile, inside the hangars the contrast between the willing hostages and their sympathetic German hosts continues. German Christmas trees and carols are often lost on the families, who are mainly Muslims. Teenagers adapt more easily, but 18-year old Ibrahim Al Hussain still prefers his old village in the Syrian countryside. A sign on the wall in one of the hangers beats testament to their anguish: ‘I yearn for the dust of Syria’. When the first refugees entered the facility, they were told it would be for six weeks. Many have been here for three years. Al Hussain is one of the luckier ones and will soon start his integration and language course. But for many others, there will be just another harsh winter, with the old runways looking frozen tundra rather than sunny fields.


Damsel (2018) | Berlinale 2018

Dir: David Zellner | Nathan Zellner | Cast: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Robert Forster, David Zellner | Comedy Western | US | 113′

David and Nathan Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was a strange and subtly humorous mid-West mystery drama that screened at Berlinale in 2014. The brothers are back at Berlin again this year with a full on comedy Western that totally upends conventions and challenges gender roles. It stars Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska and Robert Forster.

DAMSEL is playful and beautiful to look at in its stunning Goblin Valley Utah setting, but its efforts to be inventive is really what really appeals, apart from a brilliant off the cuff script and, despite from the gun-toting and the darker themes of lovelorn loneliness, there’s an upbeat frisky playfulness that has much in common with Cat Balloo and Altman’s McCabe and Mrs Millar.

The film opens as a jaded Christian missionary (Foster) is bemoaning his efforts to proselytise the Native Indians, While waiting for a stagecoach back East, a pithy tete a tete plays out with a young man (a thoughtfully appealing David Z) who’s heading West, after tragedy, to look for a new start.  Suddenly something weird then happens and a more carefree mood carries us  through to a windswept beach in Oregon where Samuel Alabaster (a jaunty Pattinson), has arrived with a miniature Palomino pony Butterscotch, and is making his way into a redneck town where he meets up with David Zellner as the newly-styled Parson Henry.

With his jaunty charm and chipper breeziness Samuel is a man a with a mission – he’s got a proposal in mind and wants the parson to come with him, offering a generous reward. The two head off to the remote home of Samuel’s true love Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) where, brimming with excitement, he intends to make her his bride. His cheeky bravado wins the parson’s trust during their eventful treck, but when they arrive at their destination, it soon becomes clear that Samuel has misjudged the mood romance-wise.

Penelope is a feisty individual but sadly she lack depth – and after the cheerful opening credits – where she’s seen dancing with Samuel in better days, Wasikowska soon becomes a storm cloud without a silver lining of any kind. David’s Parson Henry, meanwhile is a man looking for a mother, rather than a mission. He gives a sensitive performance but his character is so sweet and self-deprecating he’s rather to good for this world, and any other – for that matter. So Robert Pattison’s Samuel gets the juiciest role with he pulls of with great charm, and there are some terrific turns from the support cast. The Brothers’ quirky sense of humour is an acquired taste but its certainly unique and some of the comedic incongruity even echoes early scenes from Blazing Saddles. DAMSEL is a real breath of fresh air. MT


Isle of Dogs * * * * (2018) Berlinale 2018

Dir: Wes Anderson | Jason Schwartzman | With: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton | Comedy Animation | US

Twenty years into the future in an isle in the Japanese archipelago five dogs are relegated to the scrap heap quite literally – a landfill site is no place for man’s best friend. In this richly rendered riotously rhythmic animation, Wes Anderson’s social satire says: man may be master of the Universe but behind every good man is his dog. And every dog here certainly has its day.

ISLE OF DOGS is undeniably a Wes Anderson masterpiece, the finely groomed stop-motion animation chockfull of current day themes such as fake news and Asian ‘flu. The canines are canny and convincing each with its own cute character; in an entirely fitting celebration for the Chinese Year of the Dog. Scenes of sushi preparation, human kidney transplant and Dog flu serum injection are delightfully impressive, all set to Alexandre Desplat’s tick-tocking score.

With its screenplay by Anderson co-scripting with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartman and Kunuchi Nomura, ISLE OF DOGS’ densely complex narrative beguiles and bamboozles, imagining a day when a dose of Dog Flu dispatches our furry friends to fend for themselves offshore, whereupon the mayor’s 12 year-old adopted son Atari, flies in to retrieve his beloved white guard-dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Delicate artwork raises a paw to Japanese masters Hagusai and Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki’s glowing Anime.

Naturally, dogs are pack animals led here by Edward Norton as Rex, with the runty Duke voiced by Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban is King; Bill Murray, Boss – and Scarlett Johansson the flirty blonde show-bitch Nutmeg. Tilda Swinton plays the TV-watching, Oracle with Harvey Keitel as Gondo. Brian Cranston’s Chief bings up the rear as the black stray who won’t obey. Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig plays a perky student protester, decrying the powers that be on the Japanese mainland.

There is never a dull moment in this often barking mad delight, all bristling with whip-smart wit and deadpan humour that Wes does so well. MT


Kishon (2018) * * * * | Berlinale 2018 | Market EFM

Dir.: Eliav Lilti; Documentary with Renana Kishon, Rafael Kishon, Amir Kishon; Israel 2017, 87 min.

Directed and co-written by Eliav Lilti (Urban Tale), this portrait of Israeli writer, filmmaker and playwright Ephraim Kishon (1924-2005) is mainly told by and from the perspective of his three children. It is not a hagiography of the man who wrote 50 books, 9 plays and directed 5 films, but a tribute to a whole life dominated by the Holocaust, which Kishon survived, but whose shadow he could never escape.

Born in Budapest as Ferenc Hoffmann into a middle-class Jewish family, university was not an option because of the racial laws, so he started to make jewellery instead, before being deported to the camps: “The Jews of Hungary felt safe; they said ’well, even the doctor of the leader Admiral Horthy is Jewish’. But then Horthy send his doctor to Auschwitz and the Jews saw their fatal mistake”.  Kishon survived due to his talent as a chess player: “I did not dare to lose a match to the commandant, because he would have sent me back to the forced labour force”.  Escaping, he found his way back to Budapest where he was reunited with his parents and his sister, who had been saved by a neighbour, whilst the rest of the large family was murdered.

Under Stalinism he made a career with a satirical magazine under the name of Kisthon, also winning a contest for best play which focused on the persecution of all bald people – serving as a metaphor for the Jews – because they had been declared “bad” by the state. He got his prize money but the play was never staged as one of Hungary’s leading politicians, Matyas Rakosy, was famous for his baldness. In 1949 Kisthon emigrated to Israel, where the border clerk renamed him Ephraim Kishon.

After learning Ivrit (Hebrew) whilst working as a janitor in a kibbutz, he took up writing again in his new language. His books and plays were very successfully, and his debut film Sallah Shabati (1964) was nominated for a Foreign Oscar. After what was to be his last film, The Fox in the Chicken Coop (1978) turned out to be a flop, Kishon felt unwelcome in Israel and set up a second home in Appenzell (Switzerland) in 1981. With his books selling in their millions, he was by now more popular in Europe than in Israel. In Germany, “the children of my executioners are queuing for hours to get a signed copy of my books.” He even started writing in German, one of the books called “Mein Kamm” (My Comb). Needless to say what the Israeli reaction was. But Kishon defends himself: “It was not just the Germans; Hungary, Romania and many more states supported the Holocaust. There were 110 000 Waffen-SS volunteers in the Netherlands. If you want a total boycott, you can’t set foot in Europe”.

His children Renana, Rafael (Rafi) and Amir talk about a rather strange upbringing. Driving with thier father in the car, they had to listen to the speeches of Hitler and other leading Nazis. And at bedtime, their father would give them Hitler salute: “That was very typical for my father”, says Renana. He also joked about his time in the camps: “The soda was very flat, no sparkle”. On the other hand, the children were allowed to watch Clockwork Orange and other adult films: “There was no censorship”. The boys could read the Playboy, which their father flaunted at the table. When Sara, his wife of 35 years and mother of his children, was dying of cancer “it turned out, that Dad was not a Mother Theresa. He never took her for treatments, and when she died, he was not present, he could not bring himself to see her”, says Renana tearfully. Whilst Kishon cried a few days after her death whilst receiving the Israel Prize for Life Achievement, he could not refrain from criticising that “it is like a state pardon, to get this prize. It is usually giving to left wingers, who love the Palestinians, and not the settlers.” Renana testifies, that he was always jealous of Amos Oz; and Kishon was angry, that he was not decorated for his writing alone, he felt snubbed, because he was foremost a writer.
Lilti and co-creator Arik Bernstein have integrated cartoons of Kishon, and a animated version of the long interview, Kishon gave to his friend, the journalist Yaron London in Appenzell in the mid-90ies. There are many special effects, like the cartoon versions of Kishon and London walking in 40ies Budapest, whilst the Jews are being deported onto trucks. Kishon is so much more than a biography: it is a history lesson about the force of evil, and its longevity. AS

KISHON is screening as part of Go2Films new line-up in BERLINALE EFM | 15-25 FEBRUARY 2018

Museum (20180 | Berlinale Film Festival 2018

Dir: Alonso Ruizpalacios Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Leonardo Ortizgris, Alfredo Castro, Simon Russell Beale, Lisa Owen, Bernardo

 In Alonso Ruizpalacios’ follow-up to his punchy debut Gueros, two wayward young Mexicans from Satellite City are bored with their provincial life so decide to rob the local archeological museum of its Mayan and After treasures in an offbeat but strangely captivating drama that gradually gets more entertaining, although it never quite feels completely satisfying, despite some stunningly inventive sequences and three convincing performances from Gael Garcia Bernal, Simon Russell Beale and Alfredo Castro (The Club).

And it’s largely down to local Mexican incompetence that these two amateurish dudes (Bernal/Ortizgris) get away with their heist in the first place. But what starts as a so-so domestic drama with the same aesthetic as No!, slowly starts to sizzle with suspense as the director deftly manages the film’s tonal shifts to surprise and even delight us – this is a film that deserves a watch for its sheer wakiness and inventive chutzpah. 

It all starts in the early 1970s when Mexico’s rich heritage is being transported from original sites to provide interest in a brand new modernist museum in Satellite. During the Christmas holidays the two sneak away from their families and – in a terrifically tense robbery scene – slowly steal their plunder and make off through ventilation ducts when the alarm finally kick in. One of surreal effects is that Bernal imagines a vision of Pakal, a Mayan king, at the end of the tunnel.

Amazed at how easy it all was, the naive pair then set off to the Mayan site of Palenque to start liquidating funds through their various sources. On the way, they even get through border patrols who are more interested in Bernal’s celebrity (this is all part of Ruizpalacios and his his scripter’s quirky script). But their first hopeful Bosco (Bernardo Velasco), gives them the bum’s rush and they swiftly move on. Acapulco beckons and Simon Russell Beale’s vignette as a wealthy dealer is one of the scenes to savour, adding a certain upmarket whiff to proceedings, and the boys gets their knuckles rapped for wasting his time, retreating to a sleazy  nightclub and more playful fun – thing time involving Sherezada Rios (Leticia Bredice/The Difficult Life of an Easy Woman. 

Bernal plays it all with gusto in a role that sees him flipping from sweet-talking swindler to foolhardy fantasist when he switches off the headlights of their fast-moving car.

Quoting American shaman Carlos Castaneda, he indulges in some very Mexican fantasies about death, invincibility and warriorhood – then stupidly acts them out by switching off his headlights on a pitch-black highway. But reality finally bites in the satisfying denouement when he crashes down to earth with a clip round the ear from his father (a grave Alfredo Castro) forcing him to face his demons, and not only the ones he has stolen. MT


The Interpreter (2018) | Berlinale 2018 Special

Wri/Dir: Martin Šulík | DoP: Martin Štrba | German, Slovak, 113′ | Cast: Peter Simonischek, Jiří Menzel, Zuzana Mauréry, Anita Szvrcsek, Anna Rakovská, Eva Kramerová, Réka Derzsi, Attila Mokos, Karol Šimon, Igor Hrabinský | World premiere | Drama

In Martin Šulík’s thriller, Peter Simonischek senses danger when he opens front door of his elegant Vienna appartment to a well-dressed old man Ali Ungár (Jiří Menzel), who later emerges the interpreter in this war-themed drama levened by the same piquant humour as the Austrian actor brought to last year’s standout Toni Erdman.  Orphaned by WW2, he has located the home of the SS Officer who might have killed his parents – or at the very least, knows the location of their final resting place. He instead meets Georg (Peter Simonischek) who informs him that he’s actually the son of the Nazi, and that his father is long dead. A darkly comic exchange follows and Ali heads home to Bratislava.

Ali is short of money and so he grudgingly agrees to meet Georg when he shows up, suggesting an expedition. Georg wants to visit the places his absent father spent time in during the war, and wants Ali to guide him – with a daily fee, naturally. Georg is surprisingly jovial considering he’s planning a tour of holocaust hotspots. This section of the film plays like a geriatric road trip, complete with a jaunty soundtrack. There’s an ironic detachment to the humour, but the tones grows more sober as the crucial nub of the narrative is revealed. A reveal very late in the game makes a delicious twist to proceedings but the film doesn’t hang its hat on this one turn of events.

Both Menzel and Simonischek are brilliant; each are endearing in contrasting ways. Georg is a louche and opportunistic ladies’ man, Ali a serious-minded traditional. Georg’s easy-going glibness collides with Ali’s buttoned up decency: the contradiction provides a frisson and a feels genuine and real. Flipping between comedy and tragedy, Martin Šulík’s buddy drama works through their war-themed conflicts – with a timely resonance that makes The Interpreter feels both retro and refreshingly contemporary. Two ageing men who are keen to free themselves from the past each with a different style but both private and, in a way, isolated. Jiří Menzel plays the role is world-weary and worldly-wise Ali, Peter Simonischek is Georg, the light-hearted maverick with a difficult secret past. The Interpreter is one the best thrillers to come along for some time. MT


Dovlatov (2018) * * * | Berlinale 2018

Dir: Aleksey German Jr. | Cast: Artur Beschastny, Danila Kozlovsky, Milan Maric, Anton Shagin | 126′

Aleksey German Jr certainly knows how to create a stylish film. Under Electric Clouds was awarded a Silver Bear for Artistic Contribution for Cinematography in 2015, so it is a shame his latest offering about the literary heroes of Russia is another gorgeous cover to a rather empty book.

Set in 1971, it follows the festivities surrounding Leningrad’s October Revolution two decades after the death of Stalin, and is seen from the perspective of budding writer Sergei Dovlatov who, subsequently became a well known author read by millions. Here played by Milan Maric he has moved back in with his mother and is experiencing recurring dreams about Leonid Brezhnev. Communism is very much alive and kicking. But sadly, like a glossy magazine with juicy headlines, this filmic foray never really mines the dramatic potential of the weighty themes and characters it attempts to celebrate.

For all its aspirations Dovlatov is a pseudo intellectual schmooze that glories in an unknown breezy jazz score in the style of Krysztoff Komeda and some soigné cinematography, never quite convinces us of its characters’ desperate misery over their failure to get published. Łukasz Żal’s roving camera haunts the smoky venues where the literati glide endlessly engaged in alcohol-fuelled debate, but we feel little for their plight as real people. We’re expected to oh and ah as Pushkin, Dostoyevsky and Brodsky parade before us but despite their eventual acknowledgement as literary geniuses here they feel here like cardboard cutouts in a school play. Well-clothed and fed, they just swing around Moscow like a group of disenchanted uni students bemoaning their lack of a publisher. One or two dramatic moments puncture the day to day literary lock-down of these writers’ bland existence, but there are no standout performances to speak of: even Dovlatov remains a colourless cypher despite his intellectual pretensions, fecklessly neglects his kid and his intelligent wife (Helena Sujecka). An opportunity to lift the lid on the real lives and characters of these literary giants and the importance of their work has been sadly missed. MT

BERLINALE 15-25 FEBRUARY 2018 | SILVER BEAR for Outstanding Artistic Contribution | Costume and production Design

Willem Defoe | Berlinale Homage 2018

This year’s Berlin International Film Festival is awarding the American actor Willem Defoe with an Honorary Golden Bear in recognition of his career featuring over 100 performances and spanning nearly 40 years since his 1981 debut in Kathryn Bigelow’s debut drama The Loveless. His enormous technical range as an actor extends all the way from the personification of the unfathomably evil to the portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth. In addition to his celebrated cinematic appearances, Dafoe has also pursued a parallel career in theatre, his other passion.

Born in Wisconsin in 1955, Willem Dafoe began studying theatre formally at the age of 17. In 1977, he was one of the founding members of the renowned New York theatre ensemble “The Wooster Group”, where he remained a member for several decades. In addition to his activities on stage, Dafoe increasingly began to turn his attention to film work starting in the early 1980s. Walter’s Hill’s Streets of Fire (1984) was soon followed by William Friedkin’s police thriller To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) where he played ruthless counterfeiter Eric “Ric” Masters, a villain who will stop at nothing to rival his adversaries.

In 1986, Dafoe’s portrayal of Sergeant Elias Grodin in Oliver Stone’s anti-war drama Platoon would expose him to a wider audience. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his performance in the break-through film. Two years later, Martin Scorsese successfully recruited him to fill the leading role as Jesus Christ in his hotly debated literary adaptation The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Still in the same year, Dafoe co-starred alongside Gene Hackman in director Alan Parker’s civil-rights-era drama Mississippi Burning (1988) (right). In the film, Dafoe plays a young FBI agent fighting against racism and the Ku Klux Klan.

Many multifaceted roles would follow, in films such as Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Wim Wenders’ In weiter Ferne, so nah! (Faraway, So Close! 1993) and The English Patient (1996). In the year 2000, Dafoe shined as Max Schreck in the horror film Shadow of the Vampire by director E. Elias Merhige. His brilliant turn as a member of the undead earned him his second Academy Award nomination.

In 2002 Dafoe appeared under the direction of Paul Schrader in the biopic Auto Focus. In 2004 Dafoe collaborated with director Wes Anderson on the latter’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Parallel to these appearances, he slipped into the role of Norman Osborn, aka the villainous “Green Goblin”, three times for the Spider-Man movie franchise (in 2002, 2004 and 2007).

In 2009 Danish director Lars von Trier cast him as the male lead alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg in his psycho-thriller Antichrist – the film became the subject of controversy due to scenes featuring graphic sex and violence. In 2011 Dafoe put on an extraordinary acting performance once again as a lonely hunter in Daniel Nettheim’s thriller The Hunter. Three years later, in Abel Ferrara’s biopic (right) Pasolini Dafoe portrayed the Italian filmmaker in the final period of his life, shortly before his murder.

Last year Dafoe has appeared in Kenneth Branagh’s feature Murder on the Orient Express (2017). The German-American joint effort The Sleeping Shepherd (directed by Frank Hudec) is currently in pre-production. He has also finished filming under the direction of Julian Schnabel for At Eternity’s Gate, in which he plays Vincent van Gogh. Dafoe’s role in The Florida Project earned him both a nomination for the British BAFTA Awards and recently his third nomination for an Academy Award, in the category of Best Supporting Actor.

The ten films of the Berlinale Homage:


Antichrist (Denmark / Germany / France / Sweden / Italy / Poland 2009, Director: Lars von Trier)
Auto Focus (USA 2002, Director: Paul Schrader)
The Hunter (Australia 2011, Director: Daniel Nettheim) (image/left)
The Last Temptation of Christ (USA / Canada 1988, Director: Martin Scorsese)
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (USA 2004, Director: Wes Anderson)
Mississippi Burning (USA 1988, Director: Alan Parker)
Pasolini (France / Italy / Belgium 2014, Director: Abel Ferrara)
Platoon (USA 1986, Director: Oliver Stone)
Shadow of the Vampire (USA / United Kingdom / Luxembourg 2000, Director: E. Elias Merhige)
To Live and Die in L.A. (USA 1985, Director: William Friedkin)


Berlinale Competition titles | 15-25 February 2018

The Berlin Film Festival  – Competition line-up complete

Directors including Benoit Jacquot, Gus Van Sant, Alexey German Jr, Małgorzata Szumowska, Thomas Stuber and Laura Bispuri will compete in this year’s Competition while Isabel Coixet and Lars Kraume feature in the Berlinale Special strand.

Berlinale will open for the first time with an animation feature, Isle of Dogs, by Wes Anderson, in a dazzling line-up of World premieres starring the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black. For Alexei German Jr, this is his second Berlin’s competition title since Under Electric Clouds in 2015. He returns with a feature that follows several days in the life of Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov.

Jacquot’s thriller Eva, played by Isabelle Huppert, a playwright encounters a mysterious woman when he takes shelter in a chalet during a violent snowstorm. The feature is based on James Hadley Chase’s novel Eve is the sixth time the French director Jacquot and Huppert have worked together. Jeanne Moreau originally played her part in a 1962 adaptation directed by Joseph Losey. This latest version World premieres at Sundance in January. Stuber’s drama In The Aisles stars Toni Erdmann actress Sandra Hüller, while Bispuri’s drama Daughter Of Mine, explores a young girl’s relationship with both her biological and adoptive mothers. This is the second time Alexei German Jr’s work plays in competition since his 2015 feature Under Electric Clouds.

Meanwhile, Coixet’s drama The Bookshop sees British Actress Emily Mortimer playing a woman who decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop, a decision which becomes a political minefield.

Competition Line-up

U – 22 July (Norway) 

Dir: Erik Poppe (The King’s Choice)

Cast: Brede Fristad, Ada Eide, Andrea Berntzen, Ingeborg Enes

World Premiere

7 Days in Entebbe | USA/UK |

Dir: José Padilha (The Elite Squad, Garapa) |

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Eddie Marsan, Lior Ashkenazi, Denis Menochet, Ben Schnetzer

World premiere – Out of competition

Ága | Bulgaria/Ger/France

Dir: Milko Lazarov (Otchuzhdenie) | Cast:Mikhail Aprosimov, Feodosia Ivanova, Galina Tikhonova, Sergey Egorov, Afanasiy Kylaev | World premiere – Out of competition

Ang panahon ng halimaw (Season of the Devil) | Philippines

Dir: Lav Diaz (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, The Woman Who Left)

Cast: Piolo Pascual, Shaina Magdayao, Pinky Amador, Bituin Escalante, Hazel Orencio, Joel Saracho, Bart Guingona, Angel Aquino,  | World premiere

Museo (Museum) | Mex | Dir Alonso Ruizpalacios (Güeros)

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Leonardo Ortizgris, Alfredo Castro, Simon Russell Beale, Bernardo Velasco, Leticia Brédice, Ilse Salas, Lisa Owen
World premiere


Unsane  | USA
By Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, The Good German)

Dir: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins, Amy Irving

World premiere – Out of competition

3 Tage in Quiberon 3 DAYS IN QUIBERON  

Germany / Austria / France
Dir: Emily Atef (Molly’s Way, The Stranger In Me)
With Marie Bäumer, Birgit Minichmayr, Charly Hübner, Robert Gwisdek, Denis Lavant
World premiere


Black 47 
Ireland / Luxembourg
By Lance Daly (Kisses, The Good Doctor)
With Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene, Jim Broadbent
World premiere – Out of competition

By David Zellner, Nathan Zellner (Kid-Thing, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter)
With Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Robert Forster, Joe Billingiere | International premiere


Eldorado – Documentary
Switzerland / Germany
By Markus Imhoof (The Boat Is Full, More Than Honey)
World premiere – Out of competition


Las herederas (The Heiresses)
Paraguay / Germany / Uruguay / Norway / Brazil / France
By Marcelo Martinessi
With Ana Brun, Margarita Irún, Ana Ivanova
World premiere – First Feature


Khook (Pig)
By Mani Haghighi (Modest Reception, A Dragon Arrives!)
With Hasan Majuni, Leila Hatami, Leili Rashidi, Parinaz Izadyar, Ali Bagheri
World premiere


La prière (The Prayer)
By Cédric Kahn (Red Lights, Wild Life)
With Anthony Bajon, Damien Chapelle, Alex Brendemühl, Louise Grinberg, Hanna Schygulla
World premiere

Toppen av ingenting (The Real Estate)
Sweden / United Kingdom
By Måns Månsson (The Yard, Mr Governor), Axel Petersén (Avalon)
With Léonore Ekstrand, Christer Levin, Christian Saldert, Olof Rhodin, Carl Johan Merner, Don Bennechi
World premiere

Touch Me Not
Romania / Germany / Czech Republic / Bulgaria / France
By Adina Pintilie (Don’t Get Me Wrong)
With Laura Benson, Tómas Lemarquis, Christian Bayerlein, Grit Uhlemann, Hanna Hofmann, Seani Love, Irmena Chichikova
World premiere – First Feature

Germany / France
By Christian Petzold (Yella, Barbara, Phoenix)
With Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese, Lilien Batman, Maryam Zaree, Barbara Auer, Matthias Brandt, Sebastian Hülk, Emilie de Preissac, Antoine Oppenheim
World premiere


Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot  USA

By Gus Van Sant (Milk, Promised Land) | With Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Udo Kier

World premieres at Sundance.


Dovlatov | Russian Federation / Poland / Serbia | World Premiere | Director: Alexey German Jr. (Paper Soldier, Under Electric Clouds | With Milan Maric, Danila Kozlovsky, Helena Sujecka, Artur Beschastny, Elena Lyadova

World premiere


Eva | France | World Premiere | Director: Benoit Jacquot (Three Hearts, Diary of a Chambermaid)  | With Isabelle Huppert, Gaspard Ulliel, Julia Roy, Richard Berry

World premiere


Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine) | Italy / Germany / Switzerland |  Director: Laura Bispuri (Sworn Virgin)  With Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Udo Kier | World premiere


In den Gängen (In the Aisles) | Germany | World Premiere | Director: Thomas Stuber (Teenage Angst, A Heavy Heart) | With Franz Rogowski, Sandra Hüller, Peter Kurth



Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot  | Germany | World Premi| Direction: Philip Gröning (Into Great Silence, The Police Officer’s Wife | With Josef Mattes, Julia Zange, Urs Jucker, Stefan Konarske, Zita Aretz, Karolina Porcari, Vitus Zeplichal

Twarz (Mug) | Poland | Director: Małgorzata Szumowska (In the Name of, Body) | World Premiere  | With Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Małgorzata Gorol, Roman Gancarczyk, Dariusz Chojnacki, Robert Talarczyk, Anna Tomaszewska, Martyna Krzysztofik

World Premiere

 Berlinale Special Gala

The Bookshop  | Spain / United Kingdom / Germany Premiere | Director: Isabel Coixet (Things I Never Told You, My Life Without Me, The Secret Life of Words | With Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson




Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Revolution) | Germany | Word Premiere | Director: Lars Kraume (The People vs. Fritz Bauer) | With Leonard Scheicher, Tom Gramenz, Lena Klenke, Jonas Dassler, Florian Lukas, Jördis Triebel, Michael Gwisdek, Ronald Zehrfeld, Burghart Klaußner

Special at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele



Gurrumul – Documentary
By Paul Williams
International premiere – Debut film
In Cooperation with NATIVe

Viaje a los Pueblos Fumigados – Documentary
By Fernando Solanas (The Hour Of The Furnaces, Tangos, The Exile Of Gardel, Memoria del saqueo – A Social Genocide)
World premiere



7 Restorations | Berlinale Classics 2018

BERLINALE CLASSICS 2018: SEVEN RESTORATIONS WILL CELEBRATE THEIR WORLD PREMIERES. The Berlinale Classics section of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival will present the world premieres of a total of seven films in digitally restored versions.

WINGS OF DESIRE | Der Himmel über Berlin by Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders’ prize-winning classic Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire, Federal Republic of Germany / France 1987) returns to the screen in a new, digitally restored 4K DCP version. Two guardian angels keep watch over Berlin, until one of them falls in love with a mortal woman. He chooses to become human, giving up his immortality, and an entirely new world is revealed to him. The film was shot on both black-and-white and colour stock. At the time, that required several additional steps in the lab in order to produce a final colour negative, which was several generations removed from the camera negatives. This version, restored by the Wim Wenders Foundation, is based on the original negatives;

MY 20th CENTURY | Az én XX. századom by Ildikó Enyedi

Az én XX. századom (My 20th Century, Hungary / Federal Republic of Germany 1989), the feature debut of the winner of the 2017 Golden Bear, Ildikó Enyedi, is a complex, poetic fairy tale, and an homage to silent movies. Shot in black-and-white, the film follows the very different live of identical twins in Old Europe at the dawn of the 20th century. Using the original camera negative and the magnetic sound track, the film was digitally restored in 4K by the Hungarian National Film Fund – Hungarian National Film Archive, working with Hungarian Filmlab. Cinematographer Tibor Máthé (HSC – Hungarian Society of Cinematographers) supervised the digital grading.

Fail Safe by Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet’s thriller Fail Safe (USA 1964) is an impressive critique of the Cold War military doctrine. When an errant U.S. bomber threatens to destroy Moscow, the president calls the Soviet premier on the red phone to try to prevent a retaliatory nuclear strike. The film was restored in 4K under the aegis of Sony Pictures Entertainment and its head of restoration, Grover Crisp. The incomplete camera negative was supplemented with the use of a duplicate negative. Conforming the various different source materials presented a special challenge to the restoration team.

THE CRANES ARE FLYING | Letjat schurawli by Michail KalatosoV

Letyat Zhuravli (The Cranes Are Flying, USSR 1957) by Mikhail Kalatozov was Soviet cinema’s first international hit after World War II. Made during the period of liberalisation that followed Joseph Stalin’s death, this unusual black-and-white film’s expressionist images tell the tragic story of two lovers after Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. The film brought international fame to Mikhail Kalatozov and his lead actress, Tatiana Samoilova. Letyat Zhuravli was restored by Mosfilm under the leadership of general director Karen Shakhnazarov. The ditigal 2K restoration, on the basis of the original negative, was supervised by the head of restoration Igor Bogdasarov.

LIFE ACCORDING TO AGFA | HaChayim Al-Pi Agfa by Assi Dayan

Director Assi Dayan was lauded by the International Jury of the Berlinale in 1993 for the courage and honesty of his HaChayim Al-Pi Agfa (Life According to Agfa, Israel 1992). The film revolves around a Tel Aviv bar, where a world of bohemians, business people, junkies, tourists, pimps, and soldiers all meet. The events of a single night, captured in black-and-white photos, are a microcosm of a society that considers itself liberal and tolerant, but in which seemingly trivial actions can become explosive. The 4K restoration was produced by the Jerusalem Cinematheque – Israel Film Archive, where the negative was scanned. It was supervised by cinematographer Yoav Kosh and supported by the Israel Film Fund.

TOKYO TWILIGHT | Tokyo Boshoku by Yasujiro Ozu

With Tokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight, Japan 1957), Berlinale Classics will provide a rare opportunity to see a largely unknown and seldom shown work by Yasujiro Ozu. The theme of the end of a family living together is one that Japanese directing maestro Yasujiro Ozu often reworks, and here he has given it a dramatic twist. In wintery Tokyo, a family’s silence leads to its breakdown. Tokyo Boshoku, considered Ozu’s most sombre post-war film, was digitally restored in 4K on the basis of the 35mm duplicate negative provided by the Japanese production company Shochiku, managed by Shochiku MediaWorX Inc. Colour correction was led by Ozu’s former assistant cameraman Takashi Kawamata and cinematographer Masashi Chikamori.

THE ANCIENT LAW | Das alte Gesetz by E.A. Dupont

The Berlinale Classics section will open on February 16, 2018, at 5 pm in the Friedrichstadt-Palast with the premiere of the Deutsche Kinemathek’s digital restoration of the 1923 silent film classic Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) directed by E.A. Dupont. ZDF/ARTE commissioned French composer Philippe Schoeller to create new music for this version, which will be presented by the Orchester Jakobsplatz München with Daniel Grossmann at the podium.

The full programme of the Berlinale Classics section:

Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law)
Dir: Ewald André Dupont, Germany, 1923
World premiere of the digitally restored version
in 2K DCP

Az én XX. századom (My 20th Century)
Dir: Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary / Federal Republic of Germany, 1989
Presented by Ildikó Enyedi and Tibor Máthé
World premiere of the digitally restored version
in 4K DCP

Fail Safe
Dir: Sidney Lumet, USA, 1964
World premiere of the digitally restored version
in 4K DCP

HaChayim Al-Pi Agfa (Life According To Agfa)
Dir: Assi Dayan, Israel, 1992
World premiere of the digitally restored version
in 4K DCP

Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire)
Dir: Wim Wenders, Germany / France, 1987
Presented by Wim Wenders
World premiere of the digitally restored version
in 4K DCP

Letyat Zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying)
Dir: Mikhail Kalatozov, USSR, 1957
World premiere of the digitally restored version
in 2K DCP

Tokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight)
Dir: Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1957
Presented by Wim Wenders
World premiere of the digitally restored version
in 4K DCP


Berlinale: Generation 2018

Generation 2018: On true fairy tales and magical realities

Last year’s Generation strand featured some really hot titles, proving that youth cinema is capable of surprising and entertaining the older generation – not just its key audience. In its 41st edition, Generation reinforces its reputation for presenting ambitious new discoveries in the international contemporary film scene to young people told at eye level.

16 feature-length films have already been selected for the competition programmes Kplus and 14plus. In the diverse cinematic formats characteristic of the section, narratives follow their young protagonists through magical worlds of imagery, creating their very own realities that make the contradictions of the fragile adult world visible in subtle ways. The complete 2018 Generation programme will be publicised in mid-January.

Generation 14plus

303 |  Dir: Hans Weingartner | Germany | World premiere

303 tells the story of two university students, Jule (Mala Emde) and Jan (Anton Spieker) who leave Berlin together in an old camper on a road trip south, but for different reasons. As they philosophise on the world and themselves in passionate discussions, director Hans Weingartner maintains a natural closeness to the two young people against breathtaking backgrounds. After his contribution for the episodic film Germany 09, 13 Short Films About The State Of The Nation (Competition 2009), Weingartner, who was also a GWFF Best First Feature Award jury member in 2006, presents his second film at the Berlinale.

Cobain | Dir: Nanouk Leopold | Netherlands / Belgium / Germany | World premiere

After Wolfsbergen (Forum 2007), Brownian Movement (Forum 2011) and Boven is Het Still (Panorama 2013), Dutch director Nanouk Leopold will be represented at the 2018 festival in the Generation 14plus competition. In her characteristic style of quiet radicalism, her newest film follows 15-year-old Cobain as he wanders through the city in search of his self-destructive mother. On his way he runs into her old friends, social workers and the methadone clinic. In his feature film debut, Bas Keizer gently and stirringly embodies the young man who must grow up far before his time.

Danmark | Dir:  Kasper Rune Larsen | International premiere

When 16-year-old Josephine finds out she’s pregnant, she sleeps with laconic Norge and tells him he’s the father. What follows is a wary approach in which questions on responsibility and commitment become increasingly important for the two young people. In his feature film debut, in attentively registered gestures and looks, and keenly observed bodies, faces and things the two protagonists say or don’t say, Kasper Rune Larsen paints a perceptive portrait of young people with deep respect for their wishes and fears, their mistakes and desires.

Güvercin (The Pigeon) | Dir: Banu Sıvacı | Turkey | World premiere

Only on the roof of his parents’ house, above the alleys of a slum in Adana, with his beloved pigeons, can Yusuf find peace, and himself. Finding a foothold in the dystopian world outside is more difficult. Banu Sıvacı’s feature film debut – which she also wrote and produced – follows Yusuf in sharply composed imagery through difficult times. His expressions and the twists and turns of his body open up his very own inner world that has lots to tell about the outside one.

Les faux tatouages (Tattoos) Dir: Pascal Plante | Canada  | International premiere

In Les faux tatouages (Tattoos), Pascal Plante tells the story of young love – tenderly, but without drifting into pathos. Misfit Theo, played by Anthony Therrien (lead in Corbo, Generation 14plus 2015), meets Mag on his 18th birthday, and she invites him to spend the night with her. Music is the language they have in common: Framed by wild punk rhythms and filled with youthful passion, a relationship unfolds whose intensity is only increased by its unavoidably approaching end. With great candour and precision, Plante captures the hopes and dreams of young people on their path into an uncertain future.

Para Aduma (Red Cow) | Dir: Tsivia Barkai | Israel |  World premiere

Director, Berlinale Talents alumna and Jerusalem native Tsivia Barkai was already a guest of Generation in the 2006 14plus competition with her first short film Vika. In her feature film debut, she tells the story of patriarchic order, and youthful desire and rebellion. Benny, a young woman, lives in East Jerusalem and sees her father’s religious, utopian nationalism with increasing scepticism – unlike the secret embraces of her girlfriend Yael. A story told in pictures as powerful as the stormy yearnings of its heroine.

Unicórnio (Unicorn) | Dir: Eduardo Nunes | Brazil  | International premiere

The mysterious drama by Brazilian director Eduardo Nunes develops the story of 13-year-old Maria, who lives alone with her mother in rural isolation. When a young man moves into the neighborhood with his herd of goats, their lives are thrown off balance. Using intoxicatingly immersive images, Nunes transmits the radical language and magical realism of author Hilda Hilst into a mystical, fairy-tale world in an imposing widescreen format.

Virus Tropical | Columbia / France | Dir: Santiago Caicedo | European premiere

Paola is growing up in Quito, Ecuador, as the youngest of three sisters. Dreams burst, companies fail, love grows and withers. In his feature film debut, director Santiago Caicedos translates the autobiographical story of the Ecuadorian comic illustrator Powerpaola into fast-paced, graphically daring, animated images. Emancipatory protest and a declaration of love combine to form an ironic perspective on contemporary Latin America.

Generation Kplus

Allons enfants (Cléo & Paul | DIR: Stéphane Demoustier | France | World premiere

Three-and-a-half-year-old Cléo is the reigning hide-and-seek champion. But then one day she forgets which path she took in the park. Suddenly the world is full of strangers staring at their smartphones. Cléo sets out on her own in the hustle-bustle of Paris in search of her brother Paul, who is only slightly older – and lost as well. In tender proximity to its tiny protagonists, this laconic cinematic fairy tale by Stéphane Demoustier turns the daily urban doldrums into a marvelous cosmos of wonderful things, places and encounters.

The Incredible Story of the Giant Pear | Dir:  Philip Einstein Lipski, Amalie Næsby Fick, Jørgen Lerdam | International premiere

Mitcho and Sebastian are quite surprised when they fish a message in a bottle out of the water one day. Inside is a letter from the mayor J.B., who vanished without a trace, and a seed that grows into a giant pear overnight. The pear turns into a sailboat and suddenly the anxious Sebastian and the hydrophobic Mitcho find themselves in the middle of the ocean with a mad professor. Based on the picture book by Jakob Martin Strid, this fast-paced, magical animation by a trio of directors tells the story of an adventurous journey to the mysterious island where Mayor J.B. is now believed to be located.

My Giraffe | Dir: Barbara Bredero  | Netherlands / Belgium / Germany | International premiere

Patterson’s best friend has a long neck and soft, brightly-spotted fur. His name is Raf, he was born the same day as Patterson, and he is: a talking giraffe. Now the two of them are turning four, and soon it’ll be their first day of school. Only animals aren’t allowed at school. Inspired by the classic Dutch children’s song and poem by Annie M.G. Schmidt, and told with a wink, this film is an imaginative story on value and flux in an unusual friendship.

El día que resistía | Dir: Alessia Chiesa | Arg/France | World premiere

They play hide-and-seek, read to each other, roughhouse and tumble with their dog Coco: At first glance, the siblings Fan (8), Tino (6) and Claa (4) lead an unburdened childhood life. But they are completely alone, and the forest is just outside, and wasn’t there something about a big bad wolf? With ample sensuality, Berlinale Talents alumna and Argentina native Alessia Chiesa’s feature-length debut unfolds into a dreamy but increasingly gloomy world.

Gordon och Paddy (Gordon and Paddy) | Dir”: Linda Hambäck | Sweden | International premiere

Told in wildly popular Scandinavian whodunit style, frog police chief Gordon, voiced by Stellan Skarsgård, and his assistant Paddy (Melinda Kinnaman) uphold the law of the forest, track down nut thieves and protect forest residents from the fox. Courteousness is legal and dirty tricks are illegal. But that’s always a question of perspective, as this absorbing animation shows using oodles of charm and attention to detail, by filmmaker Linda Hambäck, born in South Korea.

Les rois mongols (Cross My Heart) | Dir: Luc Picard | Canada  | European premiere

Montreal, October 1970. Twelve-year-old Manon’s poverty-stricken family breaks apart: His father has cancer and his mother is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. When Manon and her little brother are to be taken to a foster family, she makes a daredevil plan. Featuring stirring actors and skillfully linked to the real-life upheavals, this film manages to create a moving portrayal of those times, simultaneously exposing the lies and lack of understanding in the grown-up world in tragic and humorous ways.

Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen) | Dir: Kamila Andini | Neth / Austral / Qatar | Euro prem

In Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen), Indonesian director Kamila Andini, who presented her debut film The Mirror Never Lies at the Berlinale (Generation 2012) searches for answers to the question of how to say goodbye to a beloved person. Shaped by the Balinese understanding of Sekala – the seen, and Niskala – the unseen, Andini gives the world experience of a ten-year-old girl and her very ill twin brother an imagery of remarkable expressive power.

Supa Modo Germany | Dir: Likarion Wainaina |  Kenya | World premiere

This drama by Kenyan director Likarion Wainaina, co-produced by Tom Tykwer, tells the inspiring story of nine-year-old Jo. In her acting debut, Stycie Waweru embodies with touching earnestness the terminally ill girl who dreams of being a superhero. Against all odds and battling the time left her, a whole village takes it upon themselves to make Jo’s last wish a reality: to make a film and star in it. Wainaina succeeds in creating a deeply moving observation of the comforting value of imagination in the face of the finiteness of a still young life.


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