Forum & Forum Expanded

Dec 13, 2023
The First Films of the 54th Forum: Women, Communes, Generations

Yoseli Arias and Ignacio Amador Rodriguez in Reas by Lola Arias

The 54th Forum is blazing new trails. The first eight films selected set their sights on history and the present, on women and different generations. Whether in rebellious biopics, hybrid musicals, intimate observations or rousing road movies: exploring a wide range of genres and cultural spaces, the Forum selection is open to the world and is audience friendly; it brings afore “heroes of a different kind”.

The selection and advisory team, appointed by new Forum head Barbara Wurm, started working in October. Diverse with respect to age, ethnicity and cinematic focus, the team has been cooperating closely with the other sections of the Berlinale and is putting together an exciting film selection in socially and politically challenging times.

As Barbara Wurm puts it, there was a consensus that films can work against the spirals of violence that are unfolding worldwide. “By being open and resolute in dealing with cinematic forms, we want to bridge the gap between the real worlds we live in and a cinema aware of its public impact.” One focus of the selection lies on regions outside the centres of the Western film industry. “We are looking for worldly films beyond self-referentiality – but those that get involved.”

The Tamil feature Kottukkaali (The Adamant Girl) demonstrates how the seismographic observation of patriarchal rule and misogynistic convention can become entertaining cinema at the same time, exploring how a family takes out its insane desire for exorcism on a young woman; an intelligently constructed firework display of staging and social critique by Vinothraj PS. Argentinian director Lola Arias brings post-dramatic theatre to the screen in playful, accessible fashion with her prison musical Reas. A collective made up of both cis- and trans*- people process their individual experiences by way of re-enactment.

Ideas of community are also the driving force for Republic, a punky production from Singapore and China that takes a look at the Beijing underground. A group of young people spend their time in a sort of private club for like-minded people that is barely six square metres in size, thus countering the impositions of Chinese turbocapitalism with creativity and ample chilling. For its part, Macu Machíns’s poetic debut La hojarasca (The Undergrowth) is about sisterhood. At times with considerable staging, at others by reconstructing real life and occasionally by just watching it unfold, the film reveals the female gaze of three aging sisters on paradoxical questions of inheritance, care work, burdens of all kinds and existential security in the world.

A total of three films from the selection are biopics, all of which stand in stark contrast to the classical ideas of heroism familiar to the canon. Abdenour Zahzah’s feature is about Frantz Fanon, the central theorist of colonialisation: his film shines a light on the period between 1953 and 1956 when Fanon was working as a psychiatrist at the Blida-Joinville clinic and developed his critique of racism and colonialism in connection with the “École psychiatrique d'Alger”. The life and work of Austrian painter Maria Lassnig are orchestrated by Anja Salomonowitz, who is premiering a film at the Forum once again: Mit einem Tiger schlafen (Sleeping with a Tiger) draws on fascinatingly fragmented montage and the talents of actress Birgit Minichmayr, who embodies Lassnig’s existential struggles in a man’s world at all ages of her life. And finally, Dāvis Sīmani’s historical allegory Marijas klusums (Maria‘s Silence) depicts the career of Maria Leiko, an actress less known abroad who became a victim of the totalitarian regime in 1930s Moscow, like so many other artists of the time.

The eighth film selected is also the central film of the 2024 Forum Special, dedicated to questions of relations and resistance from a feminist perspective; more information about this programme will be announced in January. In Deda-Shvili an rame ar aris arasodes bolomde bneli (Mother and Daughter, or the Night is Never Complete), 93-year-old Lana Gogoberidze remembers her mother Nutsa, Georgia’s first female director: a transgenerational (self-)portrait as a legacy to the world.

Overview of the eight Forum titles confirmed thus far

The full programme will be announced mid-January.

Press Office
December 13, 2023