The 65th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival gets under way today with Isabel Coixet’s Arctic drama ‘Nobody Wants the Night’, her third film to compete for the Golden Bear.
Jafar Panahi returns to the main competition with ‘Taxi’, being another feature in defiance of his twenty year filmmaking ban for supporting the Green Wave uprising.
Terrence Malick competes for the first time since winning 1999’s Golden Bear with ‘The Thin Red Line’ and explores Hollywood excess through the eyes of a screenwriter in ‘Knight of Cups’.
Werner Herzog’s competition title, ‘Queen of the Desert’, is his first dramatic film for six years after high profile documentaries ‘Into the Abyss’ and ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’.
Other eye catching competition selections include latest films from Pablo Larraín, Peter Greenaway and Patricio Guzmán.
Legendary German filmmaker, Wim Wenders, receives the Honorary Golden Bear.
And Darren Aronofsky leads this year’s international jury.
Sworn Virgin (Vergine giurata)
Laura Bispuri’s long gestating debut feature, ‘Sworn Virgin’, is already attracting a buzz ahead of its world premiere. Looking at women’s freedom from an unusual angle, it features a woman who obtains the same rights as men in an Albanian mountain community by swearing eternal virginity. Venice’s 2014 Volpi Cup best actress winner, Alba Rohrwacher, plays the lead.
After a couple of low profile shorts, Jayro Bustamante’s debut feature, ‘Ixcanul’, was a surprise selection for the main competition. Set in Guatemala and based on his own script, a Mayan woman comes into contact with the wider world by default after living on the slopes of an active volcano but it comes at a price. Newcomer, María Mercedes Croy, plays the lead.
Nobody Wants the Night
Isabel Coixet’s latest drama, ‘Nobody Wants the Night’, is this year’s BIFF opener. It focuses on two women enduring extreme conditions in Arctic Greenland at the beginning of the 20th century and stars Juliette Binoche, Rinko Kikuchi and Gabriel Byrne. Coixet has competed for the Golden Bear twice before with ‘Elegy’ and ‘My Life Without Me’.
As We Were Dreaming (Als wir träumten)
Andreas Dresen revisits Germany’s recent past with an adaptation of Clemens Meyer’s debut novel, ‘As We Were Dreaming’. Experienced screenwriter, Wolfgang Kohlhaase, provides the script and it follows five friends in Leipzig after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Dresen won the Jury Grand Prix at Berlin thirteen years ago with ‘Grill Point’.
Under Electric Clouds
It’s seven years since Alexey German won the best director prize at Venice for ‘Paper Soldier’. He now returns with his long overdue follow up, ‘Under Electric Clouds’ and competes for Berlin’s Golden Bear for the first time. ‘Goodbye Lenin’ actor, Chulpan Khamatova, leads a strong cast and the film focuses on an architect encountering the tough reality of post-Soviet Russia.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato
Legendary filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein, arrived in Mexico during 1931 to shoot ‘Que Viva Mexico’ after politics had made a Hollywood career impossible. Peter Greenaway’s ‘Eisenstein in Guanajuato’ does what it says on the tin and dramatises the stay and its impact on the filmmaker’s philosophy. Greenaway has already announced a follow up, ‘The Eisenstein Handshakes’, with Elmer Bäck returning as the lead.
The Pearl Button (El botón de nácar)
Patricio Guzmán’s intriguing documentary, ‘The Pearl Button’, reveals an alternative history after small buttons in the ocean link two found stories. It follows Guzmán’s popular ‘Nostalgia for the Light’, which picked up best documentary at the European film awards and the audiences’ second prize at Toronto. Guzmán made an appearance in Berlin’s Forum sidebar with ‘En nombre de Dios’ over 25 years ago but it’s his first in the main competition.
Andrew Haigh has assembled a strong cast for his third feature, ’45 Years’, including Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine James and Tom Courtenay. Adapted from David Constantine’s shorty story, ‘In Another Country’, the discovery of a body threatens a solid marriage as the couple plan their 45th wedding anniversary. It’s the follow up to Haigh’s festival hit, ‘Weekend’.
Queen of the Desert (US)
by Werner Herzog
Legendary filmmaker, Werner Herzog, returns with his first dramatic film for six years after high profile documentaries ‘Into the Abyss’ and ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’. It’s a biopic of a classic Herzog subject, Gertrude Bell, an explorer, spy, writer and political attaché at the beginning of the twentieth century. Nicole Kidman plays the lead.
Diary of a Chambermaid
Benoit Jacquot has adapted Octave Mirbeau’s novel, ‘Diary of a Chambermaid’, being the same source material as for Luis Buñuel’s surreal film of the same name over fifty years ago. Léa Seydoux is a fabulous choice for the Jeanne Moreau role, Celestine, but Jacquot intends to put his own stamp on the adaptation. Jacquot has made one previous appearance in the Berlin competition with ‘Farewell, My Queen’.
Gone with the Bullets) (Yi bu zhi yao)
Sixth Generation Chinese filmmaker, Jiang Wen, competes in the main competition for the first time with ‘Gone with the Bullets’. It’s only his fifth feature in thirty years and focuses on the unexpected events following a notorious beauty pageant. Jiang is best known for ‘Devils on the Doorstep’, winner of the grand jury prize at Cannes.
Radu Jude returns to Berlin where he screened ‘The Happiest Girl in the World’ in the Forum sidebar six years ago and picked up the arthouse C.I.C.A.E. Award. He returns to 19th century Romania for his latest period drama, ‘Aferim!’, where a victim of the Gypsy slave trade goes on the run after an illicit affair with his owner’s wife. Jude is best known for his last feature, ‘Everybody in Our Family’, which won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival.
El Club (The Club)
Leading filmmaker of the Chilean new wave, Pablo Larraín, successfully concealed his latest film from the media until Berlin announced its competition line up. It features five secluded priests struggling to purge past sins, and Roberto Farias, Antonia Zegers and Alfredo Castro all return in starring roles from Larraín’s Oscar nominated best foreign language film, ‘No’. Funny Balloons have already acquired world sales rights.
Knight of Cups
Terrence Malick makes his first appearance in Berlin’s main competition since winning the Golden Bear with ‘The Thin Red Line’. He returns with the enigmatically titled, ‘Knight of Cups’, and explores Hollywood excess through the eyes of a screenwriter but, as always with Malick, plot details are scarce.
Christian Bale and Natalie Portman head a superb cast.
Jafar Panahi continues to defy the Iranian authorities with his third feature since receiving a twenty year filmmaking ban for supporting the Green Wave uprising. It has a similar structure to Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Ten’ and stars Panahi as a taxi driver discussing controversial subjects with a cross-section of passengers. Celluloid Dreams have boarded international sales without charging a fee.
Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories
Phan Dang Di
Phan Dang Di’s debut film, ‘Bi, Don’t Be Afraid’ won best screenplay in Cannes’ Critics Week five years ago. He now returns with ‘Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories’ and, as the imaginative title suggests, it’s wide in scope. Set amongst the economic chaos of late 90’s Vietnam, a hard-up student considers vasectomy as a means to receiving a government payment.
Chasuke’s Journey (Ten no chasuke)
Sabu (Hiroyuki Tanaka)
Sabu returns to Berlin for the eighth time with ‘Chasuke’s Journey’ but it’s his first appearance in the main competition. Based on his own novel of the same name, it’s a fantasy romance that targets art-house and mainstream audiences and has an angel landing on earth to save a woman heading towards a fatal accident. Films Boutique has already picked up international sales rights.
by Sebastian Schipper
Actor and occasional director, Sebastian Schipper, makes his fourth feature from behind the camera with ‘Victoria’. Emerging actress, Laia Costa, plays the title character, who embarks on a dangerous nighttime adventure after meeting a stranger in a Berlin night club. Schipper presents it in real time.
Experienced Polish filmmaker, Malgorzata Szumowska, returns to the Berlin main competition after her complex drama, ‘In the Name Of’ two years ago. Szumowska’s latest feature, ‘Body’ expands her collaboration with regular cinematographer, Michal Englert, and, for the second film in succession, he receives a writing credit. It stars five-time Polish Film Awards best actor nominee, Janusz Gajos, who plays a cynical prosecutor coming to terms with his wife’s tragic death.
Also the buds provide comfort the very page for those sat next to you on the train