Berlin films to watch

Source: Best Friend Forever @ Vivid Reels / Lilles Films / Sarah Blum / Reiner Bajo

[Clockwise from top left]: ‘Souad’, ‘Petite Maman’, ‘We’, ‘Next Door’

It’s an unusual year at the Berlinale – to put it mildly. With no domestic releases tied to the festival, many titles holding back, and a smaller line-up overall, it’s an opportunity for artistic director Carlo Chatrian and managing director Mariette Rissenbeek to elevate some new talents and spotlight some others.

There may be an ostensibly esoteric tone to some of the selections, but the neighbouring EFM will be looking for titles with sales and commercial potential, arthouse and festival futures. Here are a few of the films they should be looking at: while Competition documentary A Cop Movie is a Netflix title and off the open market, it seems set to be a conversation piece for the year.


A Cop Movie (Mex)

Dir. Alonso Ruizpalacios
Mexican filmmaker Ruizpalacios returns to the Berlinale after sharing the best screenplay award for Competition entry Museum in 2018 and winning best first feature for Panorama selection Gueros in 2014. His latest centres on two rookie cops in Mexico City whose idealism is crushed by a dysfunctional system. Mixing fiction with documentary, it is produced by Mexico’s No Ficcion, with support from the Sundance Institute, among others. World rights have been acquired by Netflix. Contact: Netflix

I’m Your Man (Ger)

Dir. Maria Schrader
Maren Eggert, Sandra Hüller and Dan Stevens star in this comic romance about a scientist who takes part in an unusual study in which she lives with a humanoid robot programmed to fulfil her needs. Based on a short story by Emma Braslavsky, it is a third solo feature for actress/filmmaker Schrader, who won a Primetime Emmy last year for her work directing Netflix miniseries Unorthodox. Shot in Berlin and Denmark and produced by Lisa Blumberg for Letterbox Filmproduktion, I’m Your Man was originally conceived as a TV movie for German channel SWR before Berlin came calling. Schrader’s previous feature, Stefan Zweig: Farewell To Europe, won the people’s choice award at the 2017 European Film Awards. Contact: Beta Cinema

Mr Bachmann And His Class (Ger)

Dir. Maria Speth
Filmed and edited over the course of a decade, this sensitive documentary explores the close bond between elementary teacher Dieter Bachmann and his students, as the former’s unconventional methods clash with the norms in their provincial German industrial town. German filmmaker Speth has established herself in both documentary and fiction filmmaking, winning Rotterdam’s Tiger Award with her 2001 debut feature The Days Between. Subsequent dramas Madonnas and Daughters premiered at the Berlinale in 2007 and 2014 respectively. Speth’s latest is produced through her own Madonnen Film banner. Contact: Films Boutique

Next Door (Ger)

Dir. Daniel Brühl
Brühl makes his directing debut — and also stars alongside Peter Kurth and Vicky Krieps — with this black comedy centred on a film star and his troublesome neighbour. Based on an original idea by the Spanish-German actor and exploring issues of gentrification and inequality in Berlin, the script was written by Daniel Kehlmann, with whom Brühl collaborated on a 2015 adaptation of the writer’s novel Me And Kaminski. Brühl also produces with his Amusement Park Film partner Malte Grunert (Land Of Mine), with backing from the DFFF, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Creative Europe MEDIA and Warner Bros Germany, which will release in German-speaking territories. Contact: Beta Cinema

Petite Maman (Fr)

Dir. Céline Sciamma
After period drama Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, Sciamma returns to the contemporary world of children and adolescents that has characterised her previous work. Little has been revealed about the storyline apart from the fact it involves two eight-year-old children. The film was conceived during France’s first Covid-19 lockdown in early 2020 and shot late last year. It reunites Sciamma with producer Bénédicte Couvreur at Lilies Films and cinematographer Claire Mathon, who won awards for Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. Sciamma was last at Berlin with Tomboy, which played in Panorama in 2011 and won the Teddy jury award. Contact: mk2 films



Source: Christopher Aoun / Razor Film


Brother’s Keeper (Turkey-Rom)

Dir. Ferit Karahan
Turkish writer/director Karahan’s drama explores the microcosm of an authoritarian boarding school in the Anatolian mountains. When one of two young friends falls mysteriously ill, the tutors realise the seriousness of the situation too late as the school becomes isolated under a heavy snowfall. Turkey’s Asteros Film made the feature in co-production with Romania’s Flama Booking. Karahan’s debut was 2014 drama The Fall From Heaven, which he followed with comedy Eski Köye Yeni Adet in 2018. Contact: Intramovies

Copilot (Ger-Fr)

Dir. Anne Zohra Berrached
German writer/director Berrached is back at the Berlinale after her debut Two Mothers screened in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino sidebar in 2013, while her second feature 24 Weeks played in Competition in 2016. Her latest feature is initially set in the mid-1990s and centres on Asli, a woman whose world is shaken when her lover Saeed disappears. Producers are Germany’s Razor Film Produktion, France’s Haut et Court and Germany’s Zero One Film. Contact: The Match Factory

Souad (Egy-Tun-Ger)

Dir. Ayten Amin
It has been nine months since this long-awaited drama — the second fiction feature by Egypt’s Amin — received a Cannes 2020 label. The story revolves around two teenage sisters, one of whom lives a secret life in the virtual world of social networks. Amin made her inter­national debut as one of the directors on the portmanteau feature Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad, And The Politician, which premiered at Venice, and followed this with her 2013 debut feature Villa 69. The producers of Souad include Egypt’s Vivid Reels with co-producers including Wim Wenders through Germany’s Road Movies and Mohamed Hefzy of Cairo-based Film Clinic. Contact: Martin Gondre, Best Friend Forever



Source: Berlinale


Azor (Switz-Fr-Arg)

Dir. Andreas Fontana
The feature debut of Swiss writer/director Fontana centres on a private banker from Geneva who travels to Argentina during its military dictatorship to replace his partner, who has disappeared. The lead role is taken by Belgium’s Fabrizio Rongione, known for his performances in the Dardenne brothers’ films including Two Days, One Night and The Kid With A Bike. Producers are Switzerland’s Alina Film, France’s Local Films and Argentina’s Ruda Cine. Contact: Be For Films

We (Fr)

Dir. Alice Diop
French filmmaker Diop broke out with her 2016 documentary On Call, which travelled to festivals including IDFA, BFI London, Karlovy Vary and Cinéma du Réel. We explores the diversity of the French capital through a trip on its suburban trainline, crossing the greater Paris region from east to west. Athénaïse’s Sophie Salbot produces. Contact: Totem Films

Screen’s guide to the Berlin line-up

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