Berlin International Film Festival 2014 (February 6-16)

February 16th, 2014 - Graham Eley

Wes Anderson’s latest feature, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, starring Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton and Bill Murray, will get the 64th Berlin International Film Festival under way tomorrow and also compete for this year’s Golden Bear.

 

Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ has perhaps generated more publicity than any other film screening in the main competition.  Providing an interesting new take on reality,  Linklater shot it over 12 years to show a boy’s changing relationship with his troubled parents.

 

Claudia Llosa, who won the Golden Lion with ‘The Milk of Sorrow’, returns with ‘Aloft’, a family drama dealing with complexities beyond our control.  Other Berlin regulars, Alain Resnais, Yoji Yamada, Hans Petter Moland and Rachid Bouchareb also have new films in the main competition.

 

No doubt, Lars von Trier’s much hyped ‘Nymphomaniac’ will grab the headlines when it screens out of competition.

 

Main competition:

 

71
Yann Demange

 

After making his name in television with the BAFTA nominated ‘Top Boy’, ‘Criminal Justice’ and ‘Dead Set’, Yann Demange directs his first feature film, ’71′.  Based on a screenplay from playwright, Gregory Burke (Black Watch), it returns to the height of the Northern Ireland troubles – the title signifies the year – where a British soldier finds himself stranded in hostile streets after becoming detached from his unit.

 

Aimer, boire et chanter (The Life Of Riley)
Alain Resnais

 

Alain Resnais returns to Berlin with his third adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play, one of which, ‘Smoking/No Smoking’, won a Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement.  His latest, ‘Aimer, boire et chanter’ (‘The Life Of Riley’), is a tragi-comedy with a group of friends celebrating the life of a dying man.

 

Aloft
Claudia Llosa

 

Claudia Llosa won the Golden Lion with her last feature, ‘The Milk of Sorrow’, which, strangely, did not receive the full acclaim it deserved elsewhere.  Her follow-up, ‘Aloft’, starring Jennifer Connelly, looks at child mortality, enforced separation and other serious family issues over two time periods.

 

Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice)
Diao Yinan

 

Diao Yinan’s intriguing third feature, ‘Bai Ri Yan Huo’ (‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’), has the characteristics of a contemporary film noir thriller but looks to transcend the sub-genre through exploring a complex murder case beyond the usual conventions.  Liao Fan plays an ex-cop, who is out of his depth when encountering a dry cleaner employee/femme fatale.  Diao is already established on the festival circuit after winning noteworthy awards for both of his first two films, ‘Uniform’ and ‘Night Train’.

 

Boyhood
Richard Linklater

 

Richard Linklater’s keenly awaited new feature, ‘Boyhood’, has probably received more publicity than any other film competing for this year’s Golden Bear – Lars von Trier’s limelight magnet, ‘Nymphomaniac’, screens out of competition.  Pushing authenticity to its limits, Linklater intermittently shot the film over a 12 year period to show a boy’s changing relationship with his troubled parents.  Linklater regular, Ethan Hawke, stars alongside Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane.

 

Chiisai Ouchi (The Little House)
Yoji Yamada

 

The vastly experienced and prolific Yoji Yamada – it’s now over fifty years since his debut feature – adapts Kyoko Nakajima’s Naoki winning novel, Chiisai Ouchi (‘The Little House’) for his first romance.  The change of direction takes us to pre-WW2 Tokyo and a friendship between the head of a modest household and his maid.  It is the fifth time that Yamada has competed for the Golden Lion.

 

Die geliebten Schwestern (Beloved Sisters)
Dominik Graf

 

The latest feature from German auteur, Dominik Graf, depicts a complex ménage à trois in pre-Revolution France with the volatile philosopher, Friedrich Schiller, and two aristocratic but very different sisters.  Four Minutes’ actress Hannah Herzsprung stars alongside Henriette Confurius and Florian Stetter.  It’s Graf’s second film to screen in Berlin’s main competition after ‘Der Felsen’ (‘A Map of the Heart’) twelve years ago.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson

 

Wes Anderson’s eighth feature, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, starring Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton and Bill Murray, will compete for the Golden Lion as well as opening this year’s edition.  It takes place in a fictional republic – Anderson-land in other words – where a well known concierge becomes embroiled in a series of unexpected adventures after inheriting a valuable painting.  Fox Searchlight has already acquired worldwide distribution rights.

 

Historia del miedo (History of Fear)
Benjamin Naishtat

 

Benjamin Naishtat makes his feature debut with ‘Historia del miedo’ (‘History of Fear’), starring relative newcomer, Jonathan Da Rosa, alongside the experienced César Bordón (The Headless Woman).  Based on his own script, it is a political satire set in abandoned suburbia and pushes State constructed paranoia to its limits.  Naishtat’s earlier ‘El juego’ won best short film at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema.

 

Jack
Edward Berger

 

Edward Berger co-wrote his latest feature with the experienced actress, Nele Mueller-Stöfen, who is best known for her performance in Christian Petzold’s ‘Die Beischlafdiebin’.  Ivo Pietzcker and Georg Arms make their debuts as two neglected and increasingly alienated children searching for their mother in all parts of Berlin.

 

Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance)
Hans Petter Moland

 

Hans Petter Moland makes his third appearance in Berlin’s main competition after ‘A Somewhat Gentle Man’ and ‘The Beautiful Country’.  This time it’s a jet black comedy, ‘Kraftidioten’ (‘In Order of Disappearance’), which sees Moland reunite with his (and Lars von Trier) regular, Stellan Skarsgård.  The Swedish actor plays a snow plough driver, who embarks on a journey to the unknown when searching for clues into his son’s death.

 

Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross)
Dietrich Brüggemann

 

Dietrich Brüggemann has enjoyed some exposure in his native Germany but very little elsewhere.  All of that could change with his fourth feature, ‘Kreuzweg’ (‘Stations of the Cross’), receiving a high profile screening in Berlin’s main competition.  Newcomer, Lea van Acken, plays a young teenager struggling to reconcile her daily life with an extreme form of Catholicism.

 

Macondo
Sudabeh Mortezai

 

Documentary filmmaker, Sudabeh Mortezai, turns to fiction for the first time with his third feature, ‘Macondo’, after ‘Im Bazar der Geschlechter’ and ‘Children of the Prophet’.  And Mortezai’s documentary style is likely to be evident in this realist asylum-seeker drama, where an eleven-year-old Chechnyan faces a future living in a makeshift settlement within Vienna’s no man’s land.

 

Praia do Futuro (Beach of the Future)
Karim Ainouz

 

Experienced Brazilian filmmaker and visual artist, Karim Aïnouz, is a familiar presence on the international film festival circuit where he boosts a number of notable wins.  His latest feature, ‘Praia do Futuro’ (‘Beach of the Future’) explores sexuality and identity when following a gay man’s move from Brazil to Germany with a new lover.

 

Stratos (To mikro psari)
Yannis Economides

 

None of Yannis Economides’ three previous features have received extensive festival screenings or a theatrical release outside Greece.  The appearance of his latest, ‘Stratos’ (‘To mikro psari’), will be an unknown quantity for many and it focuses upon a hit-man with a social conscience in normal society.

 

La tercera orilla (The Third Side of the River)
Celina Murga

 

Key figure in the Argentine new wave, Celina Murga, returns with her first fiction feature since the acclaimed ‘A Week Alone’ seven years ago.  Newcomers, Alian Devetac and Daniel Veronese, star in ‘La tercera orilla’ (‘The Third Side of the River’), a complex domestic drama where a doctor raises two families; one as part of a socially acceptable marriage and the other with his humble mistress.  Things come to a head when his eldest illegitimate son reaches sixteen.

 

Tui Na (Blind Massage)
Lou Ye

 

Lou Ye has received a Tiger Award at Rotterdam for his early feature, ‘Suzhou River’, competed twice for Cannes’ Palme d’Or and picked up various other nominations and prizes on the festival circuit.  His latest, ‘Tui Na’ (‘Blind Massage’), one of the most keenly anticipated films in the competition programme, is a experimental film that reflects on contemporary China from blind protagonists’ perspective.

 

‘La voie de l’ennemi’ (‘Two Men in Town’)
Rachid Bouchareb

 

Rachid Bouchareb is a regular at major film festivals and competes at Berlin for the fourth time with ‘La voie de l’ennemi’ (‘Two Men in Town’).  Forest Whitaker leads a stellar cast alongside Harvey Keitel and Ellen Burstyn and plays a Muslim ex-con grappling with the historical and cultural complexities of going straight in an unforgiving New Mexican town.

 

Wu Ren Qu (No Man’s Land)
Ning Hao

 

Ning Hao’s ‘Wu Ren Qu’ (‘No Man’s Land’) had an extraordinary history before its theatrical release in China at the end of last year.  The precise surrounding circumstances are unclear but Hao completed the film five years ago before allegedly encountering complications with China’s film bureau.  Xu Zheng and Yu Nan star in a bleak noir drama where a lawyer encounters the ugly side of humanity on a lawless road to the Gobi desert.

 

Zwischen Welten (Inbetween Worlds)
Feo Aladag

 

Actress turned filmmaker, Feo Aladag, made a huge impression with her debut film, ‘When We Leave’, which won multiple awards on the festival circuit, including best narrative feature at Tribeca.  She returns with ‘Zwischen Welten’ (‘Inbetween Worlds’), a complex war drama set in Afghanistan where political alliances don’t easily override cultural differences.levitra cost in canada
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Not for the first time, Berlin’s competition jury – this year led by Ang Lee producer, James Schamus – caught the pundits off guard, when awarding this year’s Golden Bear to Diao Yinan’s contemporary film noir, ‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’, which had slipped beneath the radar during the pre-ceremony hype.

 

Richard Linklater’s family drama, ‘Boyhood’ had been the clear frontrunner but, in the end, had to settle for the Silver Bear best director award.  Like the recipient of last year’s directors prize, David Gordon Green’s ‘Prince Avalanche’, the film arrived in Berlin as an international premiere, and it begs the question whether previous public screenings damage a competition title’s prospects for winning the top award.

 

The festival opener, Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic adventure, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, claimed the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prix, in effect, the runner’s up prize.

 

Alain Resnais’ tragi-comedy, ‘The Life Of Riley’, followed its Fipresci International Critics Award for best film in the main competition, by picking up the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, a slightly ambiguous award that recognises a film’s innovation.  This has been such a characteristic of the French master’s work for over fifty years, the award had the feel of a lifetime achievement honour in disguise.

 

And it proved a potentially career changing festival for Dietrich Brüggemann, who was little known outside Germany beforehand.  His ‘Stations Of The Cross’ received the The Ecumenical Jury prize earlier in the day and went on to win a Silver Bear for best script, which the filmmaker co-wrote with Anna Brüggemann.

 

Awards:

 

Golden Bear Best Film:
Black Coal, Thin Ice, dir Diao Yinan

 

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prix:
The Grand Budapest Hotel, dir Wes Anderson

 

Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize:
Life Of Riley (Aimer, Boire Et Chanter), dir Alain Resnais

 

Silver Bear for best director:
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

 

Silver Bear for best actress:
Haru Kuroki, The Little House

 

Silver Bear for best actor:
Liao Fan, Black Coal, Thin Ice

 

Silver Bear for best script:
Dietrich and Anna Brüggemann, Stations Of The Cross

 

Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution:
Cinematography: Zeng Jian, Blind Massage

 

Golden Bear best short film:
As Long As Shotguns Remain, dirs Caroline Poggi, Jonathan Vinel

 

Silver Bear Jury Prize Short Film:
Laborat dir Guillaume Cailleau

 

Best First Feature:
Güeros dir Alonso Ruizpalacios

 

Main competition:

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (opening film)
By Wes Anderson
World premiere

 

‘71

By Yann Demange
World premiere

 

Aloft

By Claudia Llosa
World premiere

 

Beloved Sisters
By Dominik Graf
World premiere

 

Black Coal, Thin Ice
By Yinan Diao
World Premiere

 

Blind Massage
By Ye Lou
World Premiere

 

Boyhood
By Richard Linklater
International Premiere

 

History of Fear
By Benjamin Naishtat
World Premiere

 

Inbetween Worlds
By Feo Aladag
World Premiere

 

In Order of Disappearance
By Hans Petter Moland
World Premiere

 

Jack
By Edward Berger
World Premiere

 

Life of Riley

By Alain Resnais
World premiere

 

Macondo
By Sudabeh Mortezai
World Premiere

 

No Man’s Land
By Hao Ning
International Premiere

 

Praia do Futuro
By Karim Ainouz
World Premiere

 

Stratos

By Yannis Economides
World premiere

 

The Little House
By Yoji Yamada
International Premiere

 

The Stations of the Cross
By Dietrich Bruggemann
World Premiere

 

The Third Side of the River
By Celina Murga
World Premiere

 

Two Men in Town
By Rachid Bouchareb
World Premiere

Discussion

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