As Europe’s first major cinema exhibition of the year, the Berlin Film Festival opens this Thursday with the starriest lineup since the epidemic and an emphasis on the fight for freedom in Ukraine and Iran.
Coinciding with the first anniversary of the beginning of the Russian invasion is the 73rd Berlinale, traditionally the most politically concerned of the three major European festivals. A total of nine brand new films, mostly documentaries, will be shown at the event, all of which focus on life in Ukraine during the conflict.
Among them is ‘Superpower,’ a film shot by two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn in Kyiv in February. Independent filmmakers from Iran, who have been under attack since rights rallies began in September, will also be featured prominently with several premieres and panel discussions focusing on the country.
Carlo Chatrian, the festival’s artistic director, said that the event was “standing shoulder to shoulder with those who battle to voice their beliefs” throughout the 11-day event. His films will “convey the narrative of the earth with all its wounds as well as its sad beauty,” he said.
We have Spielberg, Mirren, and Krieps
The 32-year-old Hollywood star Kristen Stewart will preside over the festival as its youngest president in its history, and the French-Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani (“Paterson”) will serve on the jury for the Golden and Silver Bear top prizes.
The main competition includes 19 films from all around the world, including “Manodrome,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody in a thriller about a man in crisis. Three editions were impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, the Berlinale is back with “huge star power” and “gala red carpet bonanzas,” as described by Scott Roxborough, European bureau chief of The Hollywood Reporter, to AFP.
Steven Spielberg, winner of three Academy Awards, will be in Berlin to accept a Golden Bear in recognition of his career’s achievements, which will be included in a retrospective. The highly anticipated “Golda,” starring British actress Helen Mirren as Israel’s first and only female prime minister Golda Meir, will have its world premiere on March 16.
Also, in a biopic directed by the seasoned German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta, the Luxembourg-born actor Vicky Krieps, who made her debut opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in “Phantom Thread,” will debut her performance as the celebrated Austrian author Ingeborg Bachmann.
After lauded operas about giants like philosopher Hannah Arendt and revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, Roxborough predicted that von Trotta “would be adding to her list of amazing feminist figures of the last two centuries.”
The Manga Explosion
About 40% of this year’s Berlinale participants are female directors, making it the festival with a better track record than Cannes or Venice for including female directors. She Came to Me, directed by Rebecca Miller and starring Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones,” Anne Hathaway, and Marisa Tomei, is the opening night picture.
John Malkovich’s “Seneca—On the Creation of Earthquakes” is a fantastical take on the mentor of the Roman emperor Nero. include “Boom! Boom!” The World vs. Boris Becker, an upcoming documentary by Oscar-winning American filmmaker Alex Gibney, will examine the struggles of the former German tennis champion.
According to Roxborough, the Berlinale is known for “identifying new voices” and serving as a platform for emerging artists. The selection committees in Berlin are “very good at identifying items neglected by other festivals,” he said, making Berlin “the center for discoveries.”
Roxborough said he was looking forward to films by Korean-Canadian director Celine Song, whose semi-autobiographical drama “Past Lives” generated a sensation at last month’s Sundance film festival, and Brandon Cronenberg, son of horror king David.
The fantasy animation ‘Suzume’ by Makoto Shinkai, which has already been a huge success in Japan, was named by him as “the biggest picture to come out of Berlin this year,” predicting that the rising popularity of Japanese animation would only increase its international profile.