Wong Kar Wai
Wong Kar Wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’, starring Tony Leung, will open the Berlin International Film Festival out of competition on Feb 7. Best known for his multi-award winning ‘In The Mood For Love’ and other uniquely stylised Hong Kong dramas, ‘The Grandmaster’ marks a change of direction as his first martial-arts epic. It is, nevertheless, based on a concept that he formulated early in his career and focuses on Bruce Lee’s ‘legendary’ mentor IP Man. Wong will be a prominent figure at Berlin next year where he is already serving as the President of the International Jury.
Main competition (world premieres):
Camille Claudel 1915
Bruno Dumont’s seventh feature ‘Camille Claudel 1915’ does what it says on the tin. Juliette Binoche plays the French sculptor of the film’s title during the year that she becomes an involuntary patient in a mental asylum after increasingly erratic behaviour. With little of her work surviving, Claudel is best known as being the mistress of Rodin, with whom she worked on the The Gates of Hell, and the sister of the poet, Paul Claudel. Dumont’s ‘Hadewijch’ won the the international critics award (FIPRESCI) at the Toronto International Film Festival four years ago.
The latest offering from the Romanian new wave arrives in the form of Calin Peter Netzer’s third feature, ‘Child’s Pose’. New wave regular, Luminita Gheorghiu (‘4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days’,’The Death Of Mr Lazarescu’, ’12:08 East of Bucharest’), plays a mother who protects a son after he is responsible for a serious accident. Netzer won a special jury prize at Locarno International Film Festival for his debut film, ‘Maria’.
An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker
Setting out his stall in the matter of fact film title, ‘An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker’, Danis Tanovic’s latest feature sits firmly in the East European hard edged realist tradition. It features a thirty something pregnant woman, who is urgently in need of surgery but cannot afford the medical fees. Tanovic made his name over a decade ago with his debut feature ‘No Man’s Land’, which won many awards, including best screenplay at Cannes.
Sebastián Lelio’s ‘Gloria’ is the latest feature to emerge from the sometimes overlooked Chilean new wave. Paulina García stars as a fifty something divorcée, who encounters unexpected obstacles after finding a potential long term partner. The drama plays out against contemporary political developments.
In the vein of Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, Thomas Arslan takes us to Canada at the end of the 19th century when a group of prospectors search for the gold fields, ignorant of the dangers that lie ahead. Nina Hoss returns from last year’s Berlin, when she starred in Christian Petzold’s best director winner, ‘Barbara’, to play the lead, a courageous woman, displaying more resilience than those around her who are better equipped. Arslan made his mark at Berlin with the crime drama ‘Dealer’, which picked up two awards in the 1999 Forum sidebar, including the FIPRESCI prize.
With auteur heavyweights often waiting for high profile world premieres at Cannes in May, Berlin has given competition berths to some outstanding features from more remote parts of the world that would have otherwise slipped through the net. Emir Baigazin’s debut feature, ‘Harmony Lessons’, is already attracting a buzz ahead of its world premiere and could be the latest to fall into this category. It is the first ever Kazakhstan film to compete for the Golden Bear, and newcomer, Timur Aidarbekov, plays a teenager who plots a revenge against the school bully.
In The Name Of
Malgoska Szumowska’s sixth feature, ‘In The Name Of’ is her first to compete in the main competition at Berlin. Leading Polish actor, Andrzej Chyra (Katyn, The Collector, The Debt) plays a gay Catholic priest who faces the prospect of provoking a scandal in his local community. It sounds more promising than her patchy last film ‘Elles’.
Pia Marais returns to her native South Africa for a contemporary thriller shaped by the country’s apartheid past. Rayna Campbell plays a single mother who takes a job polygraph testing, a potentially powerful metaphor for distrust and deceit. Marais won a Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival for ‘The Unpolished’ six years ago.
A Long And Happy Life
Boris Khlebnikov makes his first appearance in competition at Berlin with his keenly anticipated ‘A Long And Happy Life’. A tough drama in the Russian realist tradition has Alexander Yatsenko starring as a farm manager, who puts his neck on the line fighting local corruption. It marks a return to the Berlinale for Pavel Kostomarov following his Silver Bear three years ago for the cinematography on Aleksey Popogrebskiy’s ‘How I Ended This Summer’. Khlebnikov is best known for ‘Roads To Koktebel’, which he co-directed with Popogrebskiy.
On my Way
Emmanuelle Bercot has an intriguing cast for her latest feature, ‘On my Way’,
including acting legend, Catherine Deneuve, and singer, Camille. Deneuve plays a worldly grandmother, who goes on the run when facing bankruptcy and a love life in ruins and reconnects with her past in unexpected ways. Bercot’s ‘Backstage’ won best director at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.
Ulrich Seidl has been a dominant figure on the festival circuit during the last nine months with the first two parts of his ‘Paradise’ trilogy premiering at Cannes and Venice respectively, and the final instalment now receiving its berth at Berlin. The latest family member to come under the spotlight, a thirteen year old girl, discovers her first romantic feelings when staying at an austere diet camp. The second of the trilogy, ‘Paradise: Faith’, won a special jury prize at Venice.
Parde (Closed Curtain)
Jafar Panahi defied his twenty-year filmmaking ban with ‘This Is Not a Film’, a subtle documentary on the frustrations and injustice of house arrest that simultaneously threw down the gauntlet to the Iranian authorities. He now repeats the trick with his follow-up, ‘Parde’ (‘Closed Curtain’), which he made with the aid of co-director, Kamboziya Partovi. Panahi won the Jury Grand Prix for Offside at Berlin 2006.
La Religieuse (The Nun)
Guillaume Nicloux becomes the latest filmmaker to take on a big screen adaptation of Denis Diderot’s controversial novel, ‘La Religieuse’ (‘The Nun’). Boosting a strong cast, including Pauline Etienne and Isabelle Huppert, it portrays the harsh reality of a young nun forced into a convent against her will. Jacques Rivette’s version was so critical of the church, the French authorities banned it.
Vic+Flow Saw A Bear
Canadian filmmaker, Denis Coté, can claim the most intriguing title of the films competing for this year’s Golden Bear. Pierrette Robitaille plays a tough ex-con looking for a quiet existence on the outside but faces a few surprises along the way. Coté won the Golden Leopard for his last fictional feature, ‘Curling’, at the Locarno International Film Festival.gel lyte v v-gel v gel candid v gel