Category Archives: #BIFF

2018 Berlinale Festival Posters

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Berlinale Belongs to the Bears

 

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When the 68th Berlin International Film Festival takes place from February 15 – 25, 2018, Berlin will once again belong to the bears.

 

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Festival Director Dieter Kosslick

“It’s that time of year again: The bears are out and about! On this year’s posters they’ll be popping up at well-known Berlin landmarks to get us in the mood for terrific festival days,” comments Festival Director Dieter Kosslick.

 

The poster series, featuring six different scenes, was again designed by the Swiss agency Velvet. The posters will go up city-wide and be available for purchase at the Berlinale Online Shop starting on January 22.

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(Source:Berlin Press Office)

 

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Berlin announces first In Competition films for 68th Berlinale

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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It’s getting hot in here.

Here comes the 2018 Berlinale! After last year’s splendid close, this year’s 68th Berlin International Film Festival is taking shape and you don’t want to miss it.

The first ten films have been selected for the Competition and the Berlinale Special.

Alongside the previously announced opening film, Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson, seven productions and co-productions from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Serbia, the Russian Federation, and the USA have been invited to take part in the Competition.

 

So far two productions have been invited to participate in the Berlinale Special. As part of the Official Program, it screens recent works by contemporary filmmakers, as well as documentaries and works with extraordinary formats.

Competition

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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

International premiere

 

Dovlatov

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Russian Federation / Poland / Serbia

By Alexey German Jr. (Paper Soldier, Under Electric Clouds)

With Milan Maric, Danila Kozlovsky, Helena Sujecka, Artur Beschastny, Elena Lyadova

World premiere

 

Eva

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France

By Benoit Jacquot (Three Hearts, Diary of a Chambermaid)

With Isabelle Huppert, Gaspard Ulliel, Julia Roy, Richard Berry

World premiere

 

Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine)

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Italy / Germany / Switzerland
By Laura Bispuri (Sworn Virgin)
With Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Udo Kier
World premiere

 

In den Gängen (In the Aisles)

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Germany

By Thomas Stuber (Teenage Angst, A Heavy Heart)

With Franz Rogowski, Sandra Hüller, Peter Kurth

World premiere

 

Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot

Germany

By 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

World premiere

 

Twarz (Mug)

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Poland

By Małgorzata Szumowska (In the Name of, Body)

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

By Isabel Coixet (Things I Never Told You, My Life Without Me, The Secret Life of Words)

With Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson

German premiere

 

Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Revolution)

Germany

By 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

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(Source: Berlin Press Office)

World premiere

The European Film Market celebrates 30 year anniversary

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Berlinale_Proud30 years ago, the European Film Market (EFM) celebrated its premiere as an international trade market for films at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival. Today, the EFM is one of the most important film markets worldwide. It has become considerably more than just an industry get-together and distribution point: Starting with the digital transformation, the EFM began strategically opening up to new market participants, business fields, products and distribution paths. In recent years the EFM has increasingly positioned itself as a place for innovation and change in the film trade – without losing sight of its core business as a marketplace offering high-quality content. Its numerous platforms provide the film industry with trendsetting impulses that effectively strengthen its position as one of the most important international transfer points for moving pictures. The exhibition spaces for the upcoming EFM of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival at Martin-Gropius-Bau and the Marriott Hotel are already fully booked. More than 9,000 exhibitors, license traders, producers, buyers and investors are expected to attend the event over the course of nine market days from February 15 – 23, 2018.

 

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EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol

“The industry is still in the midst of change. The digital transformation is not yet complete and new possibilities for film that are worth a closer look are constantly opening up. With its platforms and different formats, the EFM provides participants with the tools to meet the contemporary challenges of the business.”

 

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Beki Probst, President and founder of EFM

President and founder of the EFM Beki Probst comments on the anniversary: “When the EFM began in 1988, it was clear that the Berlinale wanted to create a meeting point for the industry and that our planned format of a European Film Market would work. We never imagined that the EFM would become one of the most important film markets worldwide, reflecting the movements and pioneering spirit of the film industry in an incomparably diverse way. In all modesty: The EFM is a success story and has consistently been one for 30 years.”

 

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Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick

Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick congratulates Beki Probst on 30 years of successful work: “Without Beki Probst and her contacts worldwide, her charm and cosmopolitan gift for combining business and culture, the EFM would never have become such a successful platform and the strong backbone of the festival.”

 

In its anniversary year, Canada will be the “Country in Focus” at the EFM. Canada’s successful film industry will present itself comprehensively and highlight special aspects of Canadian filmmaking.

 

(Source: Berlin Press Office)

 

 

Berlinale Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary with L’Oréal Paris

Berlinale_Proud

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 

In 2018, the Berlin International Film Festival will be supported by the French cosmetics brand L’Oréal Paris for the 20th year in succession.

Listen to Festival Director Dieter Kosslick:

 

Berlinale-“No make-up, no movies – true to this motto, our partnership with L’Oréal Paris is especially close to our hearts. We are grateful and proud to be able to celebrate this 20th anniversary with our principal partner L’Oréal Paris at the 68th Berlinale. To this day, its passionate engagement and valuable support has given the festival, its guests, and the public many magnificent moments,” says Festival Director Dieter Kosslick.

 

With its professional make-up team, the Berlinale’s official cosmetics specialist has assisted the stars in finding the perfect look for the Red Carpet since 1999.

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Glimmering Gong Li walks the Berlinale Red Carpet outside the Berlinale Palast Pottsdam Theater. Make up by L’Oreal.

And the fact that the world of film is closely related to the world of beauty can be seen in the glamorous Red Carpet appearances of film icons and brand ambassadors such as Julianne Moore, Jane Fonda, Andie MacDowell, Gong Li and Iris Berben.

 

 

 

L’Oréal Paris also offers a very special service for festival-goers. Beauty experts will advise visitors and give them the latest “Berlinale look”, free of charge, at the L’Oréal Paris Make-up-Studio at Potsdamer Platz.

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(Source: Press release provided by Berlin Press Office)

 

 

Berlinale Classics 2018 Presents Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) by E.A. Dupont

Posted by Larry Gleeson

World Premiere of the Digitally Restored Version

As part of the Berlinale Classics program, the 68th Berlin International Film Festival will be presenting Ewald André Dupont’s silent Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law, Germany, 1923) as a special screening with live music. The film, digitally restored under the auspices of the Deutsche Kinemathek, and accompanied by new music by French composer Philippe Schoeller, will have its world premiere on February 16, 2018 in the Friedrichstadt-Palast.

 

Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) is an important piece of German-Jewish cinematic history; it contrasts the closed world of an Eastern European shtetl with the liberal mores of 1860s Vienna, and tackles the issue of the assimilation of Jews in 19th century Europe.

 

The Deutsche Kinemathek undertook the first efforts at reconstructing the film in 1984, trying to get as close to the original version as possible, as far as the sources available at the time allowed. When the original censor’s certificate was later uncovered, containing the text of the title cards, it would eventually provide the impetus for renewed research efforts world-wide and finally for a new, digital restoration.

 

“With its authentic set design and an excellent ensemble of actors, all captured magnificently by cinematographer Theodor Sparkuhl, The Ancient Law is an outstanding example of the creativity of Jewish filmmakers in 1920s Germany”, says Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective section and artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.

 

The new music by Philippe Schoeller was commissioned by the broadcasters ZDF/ARTE. Schoeller gets to the heart of the film with meticulously composed ensemble music that employs all the techniques of a modern soundtrack. It consciously establishes some historical distance to the film itself and uses a tapestry of translucid sounds to emphasise the visual excellence of the silent classic. The composition will be performed by the Orchester Jakobsplatz München, with Daniel Grossmann at the podium. The orchestra, founded in 2005, focuses on the work of Jewish composers, as well as 20th and 21st century music, making an important contribution to contemporary German-Jewish culture. Its most recent guest appearance at the Berlinale was in 2013.

 

The new restoration drew upon nitrate prints in five different languages found in archives in Europe and the US. The text of the original German title cards was long thought lost. It was not until the censor’s certificate listing the intertitles was unearthed that the restoration team from the Deutsche Kinemathek could accurately reconstruct them, as well as correcting and finalising the editing. The colour concept was based primarily on two found prints nearly identical in their colourisation. So this is the first time that a version corresponding to the 1920s German theatrical release will be shown, both in its original length, and with the colourisation digitally restored.

 

The Berlinale screening marks the start of the film’s tour to several cities, mainly in Eastern Europe, that were once hubs of Jewish life, including Vilnius, Budapest, Warsaw, and Vienna. It will also be shown at the Silent Film Festival in San Francisco.

 

The restored version will debut on television on February 19, 2018 on the ARTE channel. Simultaneously, absolut MEDIEN will release a DVD as part of its ARTE EDITION series, containing a wealth of bonus material on the restoration process.

 

The Deutsche Kinemathek’s digital restoration of Das alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) was made possible through the personal commitment of professor Cynthia Walk (University of California, San Diego), and generous support from the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts.

 

The world premiere of the digitally restored version in Berlin is a cooperative venture between the Berlin International Film Festival, the Deutsche Kinemathek, and public broadcaster ZDF in cooperation with ARTE.

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(Berlin Press Office)

Berlin Retrospective 2018 – “Weimar Cinema Revisited”

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Retrospective 2018“Weimar Cinema Revisited”

 

The Retrospective of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival will focus on the great variety of cinema in the Weimar era. Some one hundred years ago, at the end of World War I and the dawn of the Weimar Republic, one of the most productive and influential phases in German filmmaking began unfolding, a creative era that went on to shape international perception of the country’s film culture, even to the present day. For “Weimar Cinema Revisited”, the festival will present a total of 28 programs of narrative, documentary, and short films made between 1918 and 1933.

 

Berlinale-“Across genres, the Retrospective will document the Weimar Republic’s zeitgeist and tackle issues of identity. The spectrum encompasses zesty film operettas and comedies full of wordplay, as well as films with strong social and political viewpoints. The films are incredibly fresh and topical,” says Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick.

 

The Retrospective has three thematic emphases – “exotic”, “quotidian”, and “history”. In Im Auto durch zwei Welten (1927-1931) Clärenore Stinnes and Carl Axel Söderström take audiences on a fantastic trip to exotic, faraway lands. In Menschen im Busch (1930), an early example of ethnographic cinema, Friedrich Dalsheim and Gulla Pfeffer observe the unspectacular daily life of a family in Togo, breaking new ground by allowing the subjects themselves to speak instead of relying entirely on off-camera narration. The short films of documentarians such as Ella Bergmann-Michel, Winfried Basse, and Ernö Metzner capture 1920s life in Berlin and Frankfurt. In Brothers (1929), director Werner Hochbaum looks at a proletarian family and an existence marked by material deprivation. The film, which was backed by Germany’s Social Democratic Party, gains great authenticity with its use of amateur actors, and setting it during Hamburg’s 1896/97 dockworkers’ strike provides a reference to the contentious political issues of the 1920s. Heinz Paul is equally critical and sober with his portrayal of fresh historical events in The Other Side (1931). Conrad Veidt plays a traumatized British captain in World War I in Paul’s unsparing depiction of the senselessness and barbarity of the trench war.

 

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Rainer Rother

“The Berlinale has already dedicated considerable Retrospectives to prominent directors and stars of Weimar­‑era cinema. Now, with this thematic look back, it’s time to turn our attention to the films that are not necessarily part of the inner canon,” says Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective and artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.

 

The diversity of the Weimar film landscape is best grasped via the works of filmmakers who are not usually counted among the great and prominent directors of the era. The variety of the films, by directors as varied as Franz Seitz, Sr. (Der Favorit der Königin, 1922), Hermann Kosterlitz (The Adventure of Thea Roland, 1932), and Erich Waschneck (Docks of Hamburg, 1928), is evident in the abundance of not only differing subject matter, stories, and characters, but also aesthetic approach. Looking at this legendary epoch in German film history from a new perspective reinforces its artistic reputation.

 

Among the highlights of the Retrospective will be premiere screenings of films that have been newly restored by leading German archives and film institutions. The festival will be presenting the mountain epic Fight for the Matterhorn (Mario Bonnard, Nunzio Malasomma, 1928), Robert Reinert’s monumental Opium (1919), as well as a two-part film long thought lost – Urban Gad’s  Christian Wahnschaffe (part 1: World Afire, 1920, part 2: The Escape from the Golden Prison, 1921), based on Jakob Wassermann’s 1919 novel The World’s Illusion.

 

Most of the silent film screenings will be accompanied by music played live by internationally renowned musicians. Maud Nelissen and Stephen Horne are familiar faces to Retrospective audiences. Günter Buchwald will be celebrating 40 years as a silent film accompanist in 2018. And a newcomer to the Berlin festival is young pianist Richard Siedhoff, who has already made a name for himself playing at important silent film galas, as well as contributing music to various DVD editions.

 

The German-language book “Weimarer Kino – neu gesehen” will be published by the Bertz + Fischer house as a companion piece to the Retrospective. The richly illustrated volume will present essays by well-known film experts and directors, who will write on many as yet lesser-known aspects of Weimar-era cinema. The Retrospective film programme will once again be accompanied by a host of special sidebar events in the Deutsche Kinemathek.

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(Source: Berlin Press Office)

 

 

 

2017 Berlin Film Festival Retrospective

Posted by Larry Gleeson

I was proud to be an American abroad.


https://www.berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/2017/06_streaming_2017/Videos.html#item=45501

Diego Luna: I’m here to investigate how to tear down walls. Apparently there are many experts here. And when I bring that information back to Mexico…
Maggie Gyllenhaal: And to America.

Of course we must begin with the Wall. Fifty-six years after Berlin was split into two by a wall, a Mexican actor and director and a US actor – both members of the International Jury – sat together at the first Press Conference of the 2017 festival and drew inspiration from a peaceful revolution to learn how barriers and borders can be overcome. And not in the metaphorical sense.

On January 20, 2017, a shocking event played out in Washington D.C., one which appeared to many observers to be a nightmare from which they could no longer awake: Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America. And one of his election promises was the vow to build a wall between “his” country and Mexico to put an irrevocable halt to the flow of migrants from south to north. In the previous year, the billionaire had waged his election campaign against his opponent Hillary Clinton chiefly with half-truths, falsehoods and audacious lies, causing contemporary politics to be labelled ”post-factual”. The traditionally paranoid tendencies in American politics received an unprecedented boost. Thirty years after Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”, the global political situation scaled new heights of unreality to shocking effect. Journalists were excluded as the enemy whenever the new strong man in the White House deigned to face inconvenient questions.

And although Festival Director Dieter Kosslick already made it clear at the 67th Berlinale’s Program Press Conference that Trump should be deliberately omitted because the billionaire chiefly had the media circus surrounding him to thank for his success, it is still Trump we must begin with to make clear the “political” atmosphere in which the 2017 program unfolded.

Three of the 2017 Competition films: Viceroy’s HouseFélicitéEl Bar

The End of Utopias

The great ideologies had already been done for, communism and capitalism had both been discovered to be dead-ends. What remained was a reactionary (ultra) nationalism with powerful leading characters who created a lot of noise in the media: Trump in the US, Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, the list goes on. Society’s unifying themes had unravelled and vested interests governed and dominated – and the program of the 67th Berlinale reacted accordingly. “A spectre is haunting us – and not just in Europe. We have confusion following the collapse of the great utopian dreams and disenchantment with globalization. […] Rarely has the Berlinale program more forcefully captured the current political situation in images”, wrote Dieter Kosslick in his foreword to the program. A way out of this confusion was offered by a look back and an analysis of the historical developments which led to this current impasse.

In the Competition with Viceroy’s House, Gurinder Chadha traced the colonialism which was the original driving force behind both capitalism and globalization. This period piece is set in 1947, the year in which the territory of British India was arbitrarily partitioned into India and Pakistan and the conflicts which burden both countries to this day were irrevocably set in place. A present-day perspective on the ravages of colonialism was presented by Alain Gomis’ Félicité, in which the director follows his titular heroine on her daily struggle for survival in Kinshasa. The catastrophic consequences of the colonial past may not be present as an explicit indictment in this film but they nevertheless resonate in every frame. In his chamber piece El Bar (The Bar), Álex de la Iglesia delivered an experimental set-up that reflects the growing fear in Europe of falling victim to a random and sudden act of violence: a customer of a Madrid bar is shot dead upon exiting, without cause or provocation – a scenario which, due to the many random acts of violence that haunted the “peaceful” European homeland in 2016, captures with great precision the feelings of insecurity these acts left behind. Particularly in Berlin, the memory of December 19, 2016, when a perpetrator deliberately crashed an articulated lorry into the Christmas Market on Breitscheidplatz, was still raw.

Director Ceylan Özgün Özçelik on Kaygı

Interventions

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The spirit of a post-utopian era and its excesses was not only tangible in the Competition but throughout the festival. Erdogan’s “purging” of the political, civilian and military apparatus found its reaction in the Panorama film Kaygı(Inflame), in which director Ceylan Özgün Özçelik tells the story of a Turkish journalist who is censored and suppressed and finally descends into paranoia. A highly explosive subject matter – for even during the Festival, on February 14, the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel was arrested in Turkey. The power-crazed fantasies of another illustrious politician, Russian president Vladimir Putin, were considered in the Berlinale Special with The Trial – The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov by Askold Kurov which investigates the show trial of the Ukrainian film director and Maidan-activist who protested against the internationally unacceptable annexation of Crimea by Russia. Romanian filmmakers deployed placards on the Red Carpet to draw attention to the increasingly draconian censorship and the escalating corruption in their homeland. As he explained in an interview with Variety, Dieter Kosslick was relaxed about this appropriation: “‘Everyone has been using our red carpet as a kind of Hyde Park Corner, and I’m happy with this,’ he said, referring to the area in London where speakers share their political views with the crowd. ‘We want to be on the right side of the world,’ he said” (Leo Barraclough, February 18, 2017).

Such interventions were numerous and always had their finger on the pulse of the age. For example, the 2017 edition of the NATIVe – A Journey into Indigenous Cinema special presentation made its focal point the Arctic, a place which, according to climate researchers, will play a decisive role over the coming decades in the survival of humanity and the planet (it seems almost superfluous to mention President Trump’s promise to his supporters that, following his election, he would rescind all the hard-fought climate protection goals adopted by his predecessor Barack Obama).

The awarding of the first Glashütte Original Documentary Award: Producer Palmyre Badinier, protagonist Wadee Hanani and director Raed Andoni

A New Award

In a highly-politicised region, for decades the political football of increasingly opaque claims to power and sensitivities, Raed Adoni created his film Istiyad Ashbah (Ghost Hunting) which screened in the Panorama. In Ramallah the director enabled the Palestinian ex-inmates of an Israeli interrogation centre to replay their experiences there and, in doing so, traced their trauma and his own life story. The fictional framework of this re-enactment brings the very real wounds of the past to the surface. Adoni was recognised for his work with the Glashütte Original Documentary Award – the inauguration of the first prize in the history of the Berlinale to be explicitly devoted to the documentary form.

Aesthetics and the Political

At the beginning of the festival, Dutch director and President of the International Jury Paul Verhoeven declared he would not reward any film simply for having a political content. Cinematic art, the aesthetics, would be the deciding factor. In doing so he was merely expressing what has long been a programming principle for the Berlinale. A textbook example of this was delivered by Aki Kaurismäki in the Competition. InToivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope), the director tells of an encounter between a Syrian refugee and a Finnish travelling salesman. The rigorously composed, stoical shots stage the film’s (political) stance in Kaurismäki’s very own humorously melancholic style. We desperately need immigration, said the director at the film’s Press Conference, “because our blood is getting thick”.

The nexus of aesthetics and the political demanded by Verhoeven extended throughout the programme. In the ForumEl mar la mar focused on the very stretch of the Sonoran Desert which migrants have to cross in their desperate journeys north – the place where Trump will lay the foundations for his wall. Filmmakers Joshua Bonnetta and J P Sniadecki eschew the post-factual imperative to place emotionality above actuality and instead embark upon an archaeological journey and bear witness to the human dramas in the traces left behind in the landscape by the passing travellers. Avoiding an explicit political message, the film instead makes tangible the remorselessness of the landscape, of nature.

The search for archaeological traces was one of the strongest programming strands in the 67th Berlinale, a theme which permeated all the sections. In the Competition and sections alike an entire panoply of films was devoted to the past and the historical process. The current sorry state of “reality” did not happen overnight: there were signs, developments and early events, powers that developed unseen which have now risen to the surface. Many films took a step back and sought to find in yesterday the reasons for today.

No Intenso AgoraCasting JonBenet

An overview of the cinematographic eye expanded across the sections. And, as in previous years, the richness of the documentary form was compelling: No Intenso Agora (In the Intense Now) by João Moreira Salles in the Panorama traced the vibrancy of the Prague Spring as far as the revolutionary force of Paris in May 1968. A tightly knit film essay that permitted no causality and sometimes took an eccentric view of the genealogy of events. In his almost five-hour long Combat au bout de la nuit(Fighting Through the Night), Sylvain L’Espérance took Greece as the example for his exploration of the ongoing decline of the idea of Europe, an idea which suffered a further blow with the UK Brexit vote in the summer of 2016. With Casting JonBenet, Kitty Green put the process of uncovering the truth itself in the spotlight. Rather than furnishing the story of the still-unsolved murder of the six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey with further truths, she invited the people who lived in the area at the time of the murder to a casting session and observed the mechanics by which the truths about an event are first outlined and constructed. The documentaries in the Forum were notable for their long-term observations, taking in the rhythms of their subjects rather than adding redundant dramatisation to these lives. This was exemplified by Aus einem Jahr der Nichtereignisse (From a Year of Non-Events) by Carolin Renninger and René Frölke, which portrayed the life of a north German farmer.

Forum Expanded panel day on the archive in the silent green Kulturquartier.

History and stories were told whilst constantly ensuring the exposure of the methods of production and reflection upon them. Archive material often played a dominant role. In the Competition, Andres Veiel (re)constructed the work of Joseph Beuys almost exclusively from contemporaneous material (Beuys); the Forum Expanded devoted an entire day of panel discussions to the archive.

The Retrospective, in contrast, provided a change of perspective and, with its topic of Science Fiction film, dedicated itself to the future without losing sight of the present in the process: “We understand that, although Science Fiction tells a story set in the future, it actually uses this future to address questions and situations from the present”, explained section head Rainer Rother.

The Fictionality of Reality and the Reality of Fictions

In the war of images the borders between reality and fiction had become more porous than ever before. Politicians like Trump, Erdogan and Putin simply declared their assertions as reality and imposed their sovereignty of interpretation via all available media. The Berlinale program provided an important counterpoint to these fatal developments: “Nowhere else, neither in Cannes nor Venice, is the appetite for reality-based and reality-seeking images as great as here. For images that cleave less to the daily politics than to targeting the heart of the now, in slow films for frantic times” (Christiane Peitz, Der Tagesspiegel, February 20, 2017). The title of the 2017 Forum Expanded was also emblematic of this: “The Stars Down to Earth”. The works gave themselves to “the search for possibilities of an artistic way of dealing with a reality that is increasingly difficult to grasp”. The view is directed back down to earth, to the here and now and the condition of perceivable realities. Yet this was not about nostalgia for a “lost” factual era but instead the unnerving feeling that “reality”, which has always been in interplay with fiction, was being suffocated under the weight of false assertions.

Maike Mia Höhne took the same line with her selection for the 2017 Berlinale Shorts which, with its title of “Reframing the Image”, similarly interrogated the fundamentals of what we see and perceive. The relationship between “medial” and “factual” reality, between fiction and reality, is obviously not alien to the cinema. It lies at the heart of the medium itself, based as it is upon changing the actuality without losing it and creating stories out of the material of the visible world. Recognition, interpretation and, in the worst cases, lying – these are the techniques and questions that constitute film.

A lot of irony: the Press Conference on Toivon tuolla puolen

Poetry and Irony in the Competition

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Against this backdrop it is perhaps unsurprising that, on February 18, 2017, the Golden Bear was presented to a film which engaged intensively with the modulations and relationship between dream and reality – traditionally fertile ground for both film practice and theory. Testről és lélekről (On Body and Soul) by Ildikó Enyedi ostensibly tells a tender love story which contrasts the graceful ease of a dream with the – literally – bloody reality of a Hungarian slaughterhouse. Testről és lélekről was a worthy winner, lauded by critics and audiences alike. As Anke Westphal wrote in the Berliner Zeitung: “How these two people, both marked with tragedy by fate, gradually come closer together, at first in their nightly dreams when they meet as deer in a wintery forest, and then in their apparent real lives, counts among the most beautiful, tender and truthful experiences that cinema can create” (February 20, 2017). Poetry and humour dominated the 67th Berlinale Competition. And while Testről és lélekről excelled at poetry, doyen Aki Kaurismäki, who won the Silver Bear for Best Director with Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope), provided the requisite irony. And not just with his film: asked at the Press Conference for his opinion about the danger of the Islamisation of Europe, he first made the journalist repeat her question three times and then, with the deepest of deadpan, replied that no, he had no fears about the Icelandisation of Europe – even though that country sensationally made it as far as the quarter finals before being eliminated from the 2016 European Football Championship.

Happy winners: Festival Director Dieter Kosslick with Kim Minhee, Ildikó Enyedi and Jury President Paul Verhoeven.

The International Jury continued the trend of previous years by chiefly presenting awards to films not at the centre of global attention. Alain Gomis won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize with Félicité, a co-production between France, Senegal, Belgium, Germany and Lebanon. Polish director Agnieszka Holland won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for Pokot (Spoor). South Korean Kim Minhee took home the Silver Bear for Best Actress for her role in Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja (On the Beach at Night Alone) by Hong Sangsoo. The Chilean film Una mujer fantástica (A Fantastic Woman) by Sébastian Lelio won the award for Best Screenplay and Romanian editor Dana Bunescu (Ana, mon amour by Călin Peter Netzer) was visibly overcome as she was presented with the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution. This courage to give centre stage to the seemingly marginal was also honoured by the critics: “The Competition [assembled] art-house works, offering the kind of platform to small, powerful films which is unavailable to them during the rest of the year’s blockbuster-dominated film glut” (Christiane Peitz, Der Tagesspiegel, February 20, 2017).

Dieter Kosslick at the Award Ceremony of the Independent Juries

Diversity and Hope

The 2017 program was controversial and never played it safe. At times its immense diversity seemed to leave critics overwhelmed. Some commentators missed a clear unifying theme in the program. That this could be down to the fact that, as Andreas Busche wrote, the world itself had lost its unifying theme, was only infrequently acknowledged: “The eschewal of an official programming agenda benefits the films which, like all good art, must be measured against their own standards. And perhaps the social discourses accruing from the invisible connections between individual films are much more complex than a political slogan could ever be” (Der Tagesspiegel, February 8, 2017).

For years the Cold War and the balance of power between the USSR and the USA was the organizing principle which provided the world with clear meaning and an overriding narrative. The Berlin Wall became the ultimate symbol of this dichotomy. Where else but in Berlin should a Festival Director have hope in spite of the current tense situation? Thus Dieter Kosslick’s exhortation at the end of his speech at the prize-giving ceremony of the Independent Juries: “Don’t lose your courage, we will win.”

(Source: berlinale.de)