In its 40th year, the Berlinale Forum features a selection of films that capture the mood of the times in a sensitive way. Rarely have there been, in feature films and documentaries alike, as many people caught in insolvable conflicts, faced with essential decisions or staring into the abyss as in this year’s selection of films.
Domestic filmmaking makes its presence felt in the programme in a manner exciting, varied and surprising in its strength. In Orly, Angela Schanelec succeeds in staging an intimate chamber piece in a setting known for its hectic pace. The hall of departures at Orly airport in Paris serves as the backdrop for a mosaic of personal stories, small dramas and existential conflicts. Tatjana Turanskyj’s feature debut The Drifter has a feel for subtle comedy, creating a portrait of a woman in her early forties who, despite losing her job as an architect, is not willing to bow to the pressures of the workfare society.
Dominik Graf’s Im Angesicht des Verbrechens deals with the Russian underworld, albeit right in the middle of the former West Berlin. Conceived as a television series, this eight-hour mammoth work is above all a bold epic about obligation, guilt and the difficulty of holding one’s own in a world where everyone’s place is determined by their origin. The protagonist of Thomas Arslan’s new feature In the Shadows is just as incapable of changing his spots; the film tells the story of a robber released from prison who is preparing one last job whilst trying to evade a police officer who is corrupt through and through.
By appropriating classic elements of the gangster drama, Arslan and Graf represent the trend for using the rules of genre cinema in an unconventional way. In a similar manner, the French feature Eastern Drift by Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas tells the story of a gangster who sets off on an odyssey across Europe in an attempt to save his skin. The chase across a continent full of contrasts turns into a dark vision of the future. In Haze, Turkish director Tayfun Pirselimoglu alludes to a criminal plot surrounding a contract killing, in whose shadow he situates a laconic drama about life and death on the periphery of Istanbul.
The documentary works in this year’s Forum cover a broad spectrum of filmic forms and subjects. The Swiss contribution Aisheen [Still Alive in Gaza] by Nicolas Wadimoff paints an unadorned picture of life in a place sealed off from the outside. In The Oath, American director Laura Poitras gains an extraordinary inside view of militant Islamism. And in La belle visite, Canadian Jean-François Caissy observes life in a former motel converted into an old people’s home.
In the essayistic Head Cold, Berlin director Gamma Bak shows great courage in making herself and her psychosis the subject of her film. Philip Scheffner’s The Day of the Sparrow deals with the deceptive peace in a country that is conducting a war elsewhere. In Sunny Land, Aljoscha Weskott and Marietta Kesting are also concerned with looking beyond a deceptive surface. Their documentary film essay travels back in time to South Africa under Apartheid, to the “Sun City” entertainment complex, which emerges as a global metaphor.
A total of four directorial debuts from Korea and Taiwan offers enjoyable takes on a generation about to take over the reins for the future, for better or worse. In Au revoir Taipei, director Arvin Chen focuses on a young man who is eagerly yet unsuccessfully swotting up on French in order to follow his beloved to Paris, embroiling him in a gangster story full of absurd situation comedy. In I’m in Trouble!, So Sang-min is equally interested in the peculiarities of men in love, pushing an unsuccessful poet from one faux pas to the next.
The 40th Berlinale Forum will be showing a total of 34 films in the main programme, 19 of which are world premieres and 12 of which are international premieres. As part of its special screenings, the section will be showing a three film homage to director Shimazu Yasujiro, a director who is still largely unknown in this part of the world and who is seen as one of the modernisers of Japanese pre-war cinema.
A separate press release will be made for the “Four Decades of the Forum” anniversary programme.
The films to be shown in the 40th Forum as part of the official programme of the 60th Berlin International Film Festival:
A Crowd of Three (Kenta to Jun to Kayo chan no kuni) by Omori Tatsushi, Japan (IP)
Aisheen [Still Alive in Gaza] by Nicolas Wadimoff, Switzerland/Qatar (WP)
Au revoir Taipei (Yi yè Tái bei) by Arvin Chen, Taiwan/USA/Germany (WP)
La belle visite by Jean-François Caissy, Canada (IP)
Bibliothèque Pascal by Szabolcs Hajdu, Hungary/Germany (IP)
Black Bus (Soreret) by Anat Yuta Zuria, Israel (IP)
La bocca del lupo by Pietro Marcello, Italy (IP)
Congo in Four Acts by Dieudo Hamadi, Divita Wa Lusala, Patrick Ken Kalala, Kiripi Katembo Siku, Democratic Republic of Congo/South Africa (WP)
Crossing the Mountain (Fan shan) by Yang Rui, People’s Republic of China (WP)
Double Tide by Sharon Lockhart, USA/Austria (IP)
Eine flexible Frau (The Drifter) by Tatjana Turanskyj, Germany (WP)
El recuento de los daños (The Counting of the Damages) by Inés de Oliveira Cézar, Argentina (WP)
El vuelco del cangrejo (Crab Trap) by Oscar Ruíz Navia, Colombia/France (EP)
Fin (End) by Luis Sampieri, Spain (WP)
Im Schatten (In the Shadows) by Thomas Arslan, Germany (WP)
I’m in Trouble! (Na-neun gon-kyeong-e cheo-haet-da!) by So Sang-min, Republic of Korea (IP)
Imani by Caroline Kamya, Uganda/Sweden (WP)
Indigène d’Eurasie (Eastern Drift) by Sharunas Bartas, France/Lithuania/Russian Federation (WP)
Kanikosen by Sabu, Japan (EP)
The Man Beyond the Bridge (Paltadacho Munis) by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar, India (EP)
The Oath by Laura Poitras, USA (IP)
One Day (You yi tian) by Hou Chi-Jan, Taiwan (WP)
Orly by Angela Schanelec, Germany/France (WP)
Our Fantastic 21st Century (Neo-wa na-eui i-shib-il-seki) by Ryu Hyung-ki, Republic of Korea (IP)
Portrait of the Fighter as a Young Man (Portretul luptatorului la tinerete) by Constantin Popescu, Romania (WP)
Pus (Haze) by Tayfun Pirselimoglu, Turkey/Greece (IP)
Putty Hill by Matt Porterfield, USA (WP)
Sawako Decides (Kawa no soko kara konnichi wa) by Ishii Yuya, Japan (IP)
Schnupfen im Kopf (Head Cold) by Gamma Bak, Germany/Hungary (WP)
Sona, the Other Myself (Sona, mo hitori no watashi) by Yang Yonghi, Japan/Republic of Korea (WP)
Sunny Land by Aljoscha Weskott, Marietta Kesting, Germany/South Africa (WP)
Der Tag des Spatzen (The Day of the Sparrow) by Philip Scheffner, Germany (WP)
Winter’s Bone by Debra Granik, USA (IP)
Ya (I am) by Igor Voloshin, Russian Federation (IP)
Antonio das Mortes (O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro) by Glauber Rocha, Brasil
Boris Lehman et ses amis – Three short films by Boris Lehman
Retouches et réparations by Boris Lehman, Belgium (WP)
Choses qui me rattachent aux êtres by Boris Lehman, Belgium (WP)
Un peintre sous surveillance by Boris Lehman, Belgium
Im Angesicht des Verbrechens by Dominik Graf, Germany (WP)
Kyoto Story (Kyoto Uzumasa monogatari) by Yoji Yamada, Tsutomu Abe, Japan (WP)
Nénette by Nicolas Philibert, France (WP)
Word is Out – Stories of Some of Our Lives by Mariposa Film Group (Peter Adair, Nancy Adair, Rob Epstein, Andrew Brown, Lucy Massie Phenix, Veronica Selver), USA
The Lights of Asakusa (Asakusa no tomoshibi) by Shimazu Yasujiro, Japan
So Goes My Love (Ai yori ai e) by Shimazu Yasujiro, Japan
The Trio’s Engagement (Konyaku sanbagarasu) by Shimazu Yasujiro, Japan
January 19, 2010