Jan 17, 2024
Bridges Between Lived Experiences and Cinematic Possibilities

Mzia Arabuli in Levan Akin’s Crossing

The world around us is shaped by global crises, wars and social divisions. Communication and language are becoming restricted and coarsened. The filmmakers in this year’s Panorama programme use their stories to send an audible and, above all, visible signal of protest against these developments. “Essentially, it’s about communicating experiences and realities of life, history, understanding and empathy. Whether rigorously stark and unadorned or innovative in image, structure and across all filmmaking crafts: the films in this year’s programme express their attitudes in many voices, building bridges between lived experiences and cinematic possibilities that inspire us to look to the future”, says section head Michael Stütz.

In Crossing, the programme’s opening film, an unlikely duo travels from Batumi, Georgia to the urban, labyrinthine Istanbul in search of a young trans* woman named Tekla. In this, his fourth feature, Levan Akin creates a topography of places that offer queer people comfort and solidarity while movingly connecting reality with imagination. In Les gens d’à côté (My New Friends) by French master André Téchiné with Isabelle Huppert in the leading role, neighbours with opposing world views risk taking significant steps towards conciliation.

US independent cinema features prominently this year: Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker is coming to Berlin with her acclaimed debut film Janet Planet, an intimate mother-daughter story. In Between the Temples, Nathan Silver plunges the Jewish cantor Ben into a severe and existential crisis of faith. Jason Schwartzman, in the role of the cantor, and Carol Kane lead the film’s cast with chaotic humour and a large dose of humanity.

German feature film also proves its strength in the 2024 Panorama. With Verbrannte Erde (Scorched Earth), Thomas Arslan delivers the second part of his Trojan trilogy and returns to genre cinema with style and verve. Michael Fetter Nathansky is also inspiring with his second feature Alle die Du bist (Every You Every Me): a wise, sensitive film about the fragility of love and work relationships in the everyday life of a factory worker.

Two works of activism from the Middle East are important humanistic and political records of our time: No Other Land by Basel Adra, Hamdan Ballal, Yuval Abraham and Rachel Szor takes us to Masafer Yatta in the West Bank. The documentary focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli alliance of co-directors Adra and Abraham as they fight together against the forced displacement of the Palestinian civilian population by the Israeli military. The film is a plea for human rights and self-determination in the hope for a peaceful future. In Diaries from Lebanon, Myriam El Hajj follows three generations in their quest to rewrite Lebanon’s national narrative. This urgent portrait of a crisis-ridden country and its courageous population is an expression of its anger against a corrupt and entrenched political elite.

Central Africa is also represented this year by two impressive documentaries. In À quand l’Afrique? (Which Way Africa?) by David-Pierre Fila, the established director takes us on a philosophical-meditative journey through the Central African Republic. In this personal ode to the nation and its people, Fila reflects on impressions of art, culture and colonial history inside and beyond the country’s borders. In Tongo Saa (Rising Up at Night) by Nelson Makengo, parts of Kinshasa are being plagued by power cuts for months after flooding. An audio-visually overwhelming film that unfolds its narrative not only via spoken word but also as oral history through song.

The feminist-cinematic space between memory, coming to terms with the past and finding a possible new beginning is explored in three films. In Sayyareye dozdide shodeye man (My Stolen Planet), director Sharifi Farahnaz uses found footage and self-shot material to create an alternative reality for her home country Iran. Four generations of Ukrainian women are portrayed in A Bit of a Stranger by Svitlana Lishchynska in which the director uses her own home videos to explore questions about individual and national identity, belonging and political attitudes in the midst of the Russian war of aggression. And in Memorias de un cuerpo que arde (Memories of a Burning Body) by Antonella Sudasassi Furniss, three women look back on their lives. From mid-life trauma to later-life liberation and self-determined pleasure, their stories figuratively merge into a single narrative that exemplifies those of generations of women worldwide.

Two of the cinematically most powerful films in this year’s programme also dealing with memory and coming to terms with the past are Afterwar and Cu Li Không Bao Giờ Khóc (Cu Li Never Cries). In Afterwar, Birgitte Stærmose enters into a long-term close collaboration with her cast to look at a Kosovo still held in a headlock by the past war: a stylistically impressive hybrid film ranging between harsh reality and performative self-determination. The debut film Cu Li Không Bao Giờ Khóc (Cu Li Never Cries) follows the main character, a quiet heroine who has just returned to Hanoi from Germany with a pygmy slow loris in her luggage and who is now looking uncertainly to the future from amidst the ghosts of her past.

Two documentary portraits of artists connected to Berlin also fascinate: Baldiga – Entsichertes Herz (Baldiga – Unlocked Heart) by Markus Stein is about the photographer Jürgen Baldiga who died of AIDS in 1993. Using diary entries and photographs, the film looks back in fascinating ways at the gay subculture of West Berlin in the 1980s and early 1990s. At the same time, Baldiga’s merciless chronicling of his disease makes the illness painfully tangible even in 2024. There is also a celebration of another international queer feminist icon: in Teaches of Peaches, Philipp Fussenegger and Judy Landkammer mix interviews, superb archive material and footage from her most recent world tour to create an electrifying portrait of the Canadian musician and performance artist Peaches.

Queer sexuality as liberation for everyone from the petit-bourgeoisie to the upper classes is also the topic in two further films: Bruce LaBruce’s The Visitor, a provocative remake of the Pasolini classic Teorema (1968), and Dag Johan Haugerud’s humorous feature film Sex both joyfully dismantle social norms.

The 2024 Panorama programme comprises 31 titles including one series and 25 world premieres.

The films of Panorama 2024

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January 17, 2024