Feb 08, 2021
Berlinale Generation 2021: Whispering Softly, Shouting Loudly
With seven world premieres and six debuts among the 15 selected films, Generation offers significant artistic diversity in the two competitions Kplus and 14plus, even with this year’s reduced selection. The programme celebrates the power of the imagination in feature films, animated and documentary forms.
"The 15 films in this year’s Generation selection are an open invitation to go beyond the obvious, the dominant, and the loud and to take a closer look what’s beneath the surface. They offer space and time to reflect upon the grandeur radiating from the diverse worlds young people are experiencing, which is often signified by the little things that mark their paths. The films offer a break to life as we know it right now,” says section head Maryanne Redpath.
Films from 17 countries reflect the cultural and geographical breadth that is also characteristic of Generation. With four contributions each, productions from the Asian and Scandinavian countries are particularly well represented this year.
Notably, many of the Generation films are made by women, the proportion of female directors is 60%, in the Kplus competition even 75%.
The Generation international jury will decide on their awards during the Berlinale Industry Event in early March. The Crystal Bears of the Children’s and Youth Jury along with the prizes of the Generation international jury will be awarded during the Berlinale Summer Special.
Generation Kplus: On the Bridge to New Terrain
Strong-willed heroines set the tone in six of the eight films in the Generation Kplus competition. In the Korean debut film Jong chak yeok (Short Vacation) by the directing duo Kwon Min-pyo and Seo Hansol, four school friends armed with analogue cameras set out for the end of the world to discover the beginning of something new. The film condenses their observations on the threshold from child to teenager into poetic moments.
In the German-Polish-Luxembourgish children's film Mission Ulja Funk, Barbara Kronenberg's heroine boldly throws herself into an adventure. Space fascinates the young researcher much more than her odd Russian-German family and their religious community. The fast-paced road movie emerged from the German initiative “Outstanding Films for Children (Der besondere Kinderfilm)”.
Young Nelly in Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent by Amanda Adolfsson is also funny, imaginative and fearless. Whether she has to protect the world from monsters, or rather the monsters from the world, the bigger questions for Nelly are about belonging and true friendship. A Scandinavian film for the whole family that succeeds in what is characteristic of many Generation films: being truthful and entertaining at the same time.
Several films that are quiet in their tonality and intense in their impact, portray young protagonists exploring the unfamiliar and thereby re-defining their own perceptions and interactions.
In Una escuela en Cerro Hueso (A School in Cerro Hueso), the Argentinian director Betania Cappato gives the development of a girl diagnosed on the autism spectrum a cinematic space that is on a par with the protagonist in its tenderness.
Reyboy, at the heart of the documentary Last Days at Sea, has a special sense for the beauty of the little things. Filmmaker Venice Atienza dives deeply into the young Philippine’s living space as he is confronted by an imminent farewell. On the beach, in the ocean, under the stars - together they exchange views on what constitutes home and childhood - and the meaning of life.
Hamy Ramezan's film Ensilumi (Any Day Now) is characterised by empathy and great warmth. Even if the asylum rejection notice for his family is on the table, this is not only the continuation of a refugee drama, but the story of a 13-year-old boy who tries to make the most of life in the here and now.
In Han Nan Xia Ri (Summer Blur), the Chinese director Han Shuai illustrates what it is like to find oneself without the solid base of real family support. Changing experiences of violence, sadness, tenderness and a grave secret shape the protagonist's emotional world and the aesthetics of the film.
For twelve-year-old Tekahentahkhwa, known as Beans, in the film of the same name, her affiliation, solidarity and the secure feeling of being home are also at stake. As a child, Indigenous filmmaker Tracey Deer saw for herself how the sovereignty of her Mohawk-First Nations people was threatened. Deer’s feature film is based on these experiences and includes archival material from the Oka crisis in Quebec during the 1990s.
Generation 14plus: Diving Into the Unknown
The directors of the seven films immerse themselves deeply in the worlds of young people - discoveries for everyone who expects more than the familiar from cinema.
In Tabija (The White Fortress), the Bosnian-Canadian director Igor Drljača (2019 with Kameni govornici in the Forum) portrays the life of a young man in Sarajevo in all its light and dark facets. A film that can be read as a love story, as a mystery thriller, as a social drama or as a fairy tale and thereby, in its very own, captivating atmosphere, travels far beyond any particular genre.
The debut film Stop-Zemlia by the Ukrainian director Kateryna Gornostai sleep-walks expertly on the fine line between experienced and imagined reality. The film navigates an intimate proximity to a group of young people whose attitude towards life will resound with audiences, regardless of how long ago one's own youth was.
At close quarters with life, director Fred Baillif and his protagonists co-created La Mif (The Fam). In a complex and compelling manner, Baillif stages the interplay of young women who temporarily discover a feeling of security with their new family at a youth-home. The duty of care and the responsibility society assumes towards young people is renegotiated there every day.
The protagonists of several Generation films are exposed to the ruthlessness of life and the struggle for self-determination. Fighter by Jéro Yun is a sensitive approach to a tough world. With a young, indomitable North Korean woman in exile, the South Korean director places an outsider at the centre of his film and explores with her the new rules she is faced by in the new land.
In Ninjababy, Rakel’s conflict is obvious: she is six months pregnant, but she doesn't want to become a mother. With a combination of live action and animated elements, director Yngvild Sve Flikke skilfully manages to steer the heroine light-footed through her life chaos.
The relationship between humans and animals is at the heart of the Danish documentary From the Wild Sea by Robin Petré. It is the power of the image that shows the audience the effects of climate change and human interference in nature. A 19-metre-long whale lying on the coast like a stranded ship, and a seal struggling for air that needs ventilation, speak volumes.
If you want to depict what we cannot see, you just have to draw it - that's the credo of the US comic book writer and filmmaker Dash Shaw for his new animated film Cryptozoo. Beings which apparently exist only in human dreams are fair game, and Shaw (already represented at Generation 14plus in 2017 with his debut My Entire Highschool Sinking into the Sea) initiates a wild rescue mission for them and the power of the imagination.
The Generation Films
* World premiere is used to indicate that these films have not been shown to an audience yet. Since they will be available in online screenings to a professional audience (industry and press) only, they will keep their status as world premiere until they will be presented publicly in cinemas or at festivals.
*International premiere is used to indicate that these films have not been shown outside their country of origin yet. Since they will be available in online screenings to a professional audience (industry and press) only, they will keep their status as international premiere until they will be presented publicly in cinemas or at festivals.
by Tracey Deer
with Kiawentiio, Rainbow Dickerson, Violah Beauvais, Paulina Alexis
All of a sudden, racism becomes a cruel reality in the life of twelve-year-old Beans, whose real name is Tekahentahkhwa. The Mohawk-First Nations community to which she belongs is being threatened by white supremacists. Beans learns valuable lessons about defending both her own and her people’s rights, from her family as well as some tough new friends. The film is based on the director's childhood memories of the 1990 Oka crisis in Québec.
Ensilumi (Any Day Now)
by Hamy Ramezan
with Aran–Sina Keshvari, Shahab Hosseini, Shabnam Ghorbani, Kimiya Eskandari
The asylum application of the Mehdipour family has been rejected; Ramin (13), his little sister and their parents can be deported by the Finnish authorities at any time. Despite their precarious situation as refugees, their everyday life is rich in loving family rituals, humour, and - for teenager Ramin - exciting discoveries along the way to growing up.
Han Nan Xia Ri (Summer Blur)
People’s Republic of China
by Han Shuai
with Gong Beibi, Huang Tian, Zhang Xinyuan, Yan Xingyue
Guo’s face is veiled in a delicate layer of wistfulness. She has to spend the summer alone in Wuhan with her aunt, who lives in poor conditions, while her mother leads a dazzling life in Shanghai. Being on the cusp of becoming a teenager, a terrible secret, the longing for love and safety and the fear of being abandoned are Guo’s constant companions.
Jong chak yeok (Short Vacation)
Republic of Korea
by Kwon Min-pyo, Seo Hansol
with Seol Si-yeon, Bae Yeon-woo, Park So-jung, Han Song-hee
*International premiere / Debut film
What do you look for when you are supposed to take a photo of the end of the world? Together, four school friends journey to explore the unknown outskirts of the big city of Seoul, equipped with an old-fashioned analogue camera and a film that only has 27 pictures. The task sharpens their view of the familiar and opens their eyes to themselves and each other.
Last Days at Sea
Philippines / Taiwan
by Venice Atienza
*World premiere / Documentary form / Debut film
Reyboy's world is the sparkling ocean, the hidden treasures on the long coast, the taste of honey rice. The filmmaker accompanies the Filipino boy in his fishing village by the sea as his life is about to change forever. A profound dialogue in thoughts and images about the beauty of the little things and saying goodbye.
Mission Ulja Funk
Germany / Luxemburg / Poland
by Barbara Kronenberg
with Romy Lou Janinhoff, Jonas Oeßel, Hildegard Schroedter, Luc Feit
*World premiere / Debut film
Ulja (12) is an energetic, clever researcher who is never at a loss for a good saying. She does not want to miss the arrival of the asteroid she discovered. With her parents' hearse, her accomplice Henk of the same age as the driver and her Russian-German grandmother in the back, a fast-paced road movie towards Belarus starts - always following the stars.
Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent
by Amanda Adolfsson
with Matilda Gross, Lily Wahlsteen, Marianne Mörck, Johan Rheborg
Nelly wants to follow in her mother's footsteps, as a monster agent. When she visits her uncle Hannibal, the door opens up to a hidden parallel world full of ghosts, monsters and Frankensteiners. But who should actually be regarded as a monster and which side will Nelly decide to take as an agent? The film is based on the successful Swedish children's book series by the author Martin Widmark.
Una escuela en Cerro Hueso (A School in Cerro Hueso)
by Betania Cappato
with Mara Bestelli, Pablo Seijo, Clementina Folmer, Irene Zequin
After numerous rejections, Ema's parents finally find a safe place for their daughter who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. In the loving community of the new primary school in the small town on the river, Ema can silently observe and explore the world at her own pace. The film gently follows Ema's small steps that evolve into magical moments.
by Dash Shaw
with Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Zoe Kazan, Louisa Krause, Angeliki Papoulia
*International premiere / Animation
In an opulent fantasy world, humans fight for the existence of threatened and threatening creatures. In the style of psychedelic underground comics, filmmaker and comic artist Dash Shaw has designed a wild trip in which marginalisation, social diversity, species protection and the power of the imagination all play a role.
Republic of Korea
by Jéro Yun
with Lim Seong-mi, Baek Seo-bin, Oh Kwang-rok, Lee Seung-yeon
As a North Korean in exile, Jina has no choice but to literally box her way through. With gentle force, she begins to stubbornly rebel against the everyday injustices which she experiences as an outsider from a disreputable country. While she has become accustomed to harshness, feelings such as tenderness or security are new to her. Her personal struggle on the way to recognition goes far beyond the boxing ring.
From the Wild Sea
by Robin Petré
*World premiere / Documentary form / Debut film
Weather conditions are becoming more extreme. A giant, stranded whale, seals with plastic in their bodies, oil-coated swans and dolphins that have been rammed by ships – these patients require emergency medical care. The director portrays the critical relationship between humans and wild animals and the consequences of climate change, in profound documental images which are more impactful than any explanation.
La Mif (The Fam)
by Fred Baillif
with Claudia Grob, Anaïs Uldry, Kassia Da Costa, Joyce Esther Ndayisenga, Charlie Areddy, Amélie Tonsi, Amandine Golay, Sara Tulu
Told episodically and bordering between the fictional and the documental, the film intimately interweaves the life stories of young women who no longer have a real home with their own families. They are given refuge in a temporary youth home, where they and their carers bond to form a new family. The Fam is a safe haven for wounded protagonists who do not spare themselves or others.
by Yngvild Sve Flikke
with Kristine Kujath Thorp, Arthur Berning, Nader Khademi, Tora Dietrichson
A baby has lodged itself unnoticed in her stomach, and if there’s one thing that Rakel knows: She doesn't want it. The life-hungry young woman has a blooming imagination and spends time illustrating her everyday life. Hence, the Ninjababy appears as a comic figure which accompanies Rakel through the madness that is called growing up.
by Kateryna Gornostai
with Maria Fedorchenko, Arsenii Markov, Yana Isaienko, Oleksandr Ivanov
*World premiere / Debut film
Hanging out with friends, smoking a lot, spinning bottles and kissing, making mistakes, playing, refusing to accept, dreaming with open eyes - life as a teenager can be overwhelmingly beautiful and difficult at the same time. In her debut, the Ukrainian director composes a deeply emotional and multi-layered portrait of a generation whilst seamlessly flowing between the fictional and the documental.
Tabija (The White Fortress)
Canada / Bosnia and Herzegovina
by Igor Drljača
with Pavle Čemerikić, Sumeja Dardagan, Jasmin Geljo, Kerim Čutuna
What could be a beautiful fairy tale for some - boy meets girl - could also be the beginning of a horror film for Faruk. The young man is crushed between the dark world of his criminal cousins in Sarajevo and the discovery of love. The film powerfully visualises and contrasts a harshness and tenderness experienced and dreamed.
February 8, 2021