'BlackBerry', 'The Teacher's Lounge', 'Reality', '20,000 Species Of Bees'

Source: Berlinale

‘BlackBerry’, ‘The Teacher’s Lounge’, ‘Reality’, ‘20,000 Species Of Bees’

This year’s Berlinale was slow to start, getting into its stride somewhere around the mid-way point in the Competition when strong reviews started to hit.

The Competition Jury, led by Kristen Stewart, certainly had a lot to choose from by the time all the films had played out. One wonders as to the nature of the debate, though: omitting Celine Song’s rapturously-received Past Lives  from any mention at all was certainly not the result anyone expected.  

More importantly, it led to a field of laureates who, to a last man, hailed from traditional French, Spanish, Portuguese and German film-making sectors, and re-establishing the sense of Berlin being a solidly European arthouse affair. The breakouts, though should go beyond the winner’s enclosure.

Compiled by Screen International executive editor, reviews and new talent Fionnuala Halligan.

20,000 Species Of Bees

Dir: Estibaliz Urresola Solagruen
Our critic said: “An assured fictional feature debut about an eight-year-old transgender girl… Arthouse audiences worldwide should respond to the pathos, breadth and humanity of a film that takes a while to build but, when it does, never loses its grip.”

On The Adamant

Dir: Nicolas Philibert
Our critic said: “This engaging and affirmative documentary about a floating Parisian day centre will be warmly appreciated at festivals and on adventurous outlets. Winner of the Golden Bear for best film.”


Dir:  Christian Petzold 
Our critic said: “A wry comedy of manners with many more laughs than a Petzold film has ever afforded, but of a wry, sophisticated sort in which the ironies of misunderstanding are beautifully orchestrated through looks, silences and subliminal cringes.”


Dir: Matt Johnson
Our critic said: “A high-energy ride through the rise and spectacular fall of the first smartphone. Johnson and co-writer Matthew Miller turn the story of RIM into a kind of breathless tech fever dream.”


Dir: Bas Devos
Our critic said: “Two solitary souls find comfort in the natural world in Bas Devos’ remarkable Encounters-winning feature. Hardly a conventional love story, but achingly tender nonetheless, Here is fully present and dazzlingly alive.”


Dir: Vasilis Katsoupis
Our critic said: “Katsoupis’ feature debut is set up as a psychological thriller/escape movie, but evolves into something rather more intriguing: a philosophical interrogation of the value of art to a dying man, played by Willem Dafoe.”

The Klezmer Project

Dir: Leandro Koch and Paloma Schachmann
Our critic said: “Winner of the first feature award at Berlin, this docu-fiction exploring the enduring legacy of Yiddish klezmer music is a playful but poignant full-length debut for Koch and Schachmann.”

Kokomo City (also at Sundance)

Dir: D. Smith
Our critic said: “With her debut film, Grammy-nominated producer and singer/songwriter turned documentarian D. Smith opens a window into the lives of black transgender women sex workers in the US.”


Dir: Ivan Sen
Our critic said: “The ’opal capital of the world’ is the uncanny setting for Sen’s brooding black-and-white Australian noir. This is a bleakly impressive work from multi-hyphenate Indigenous filmmaker.”

Mutt (also at Sundance)

Dir: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz
Our critic said: “A day in the life of a New York trans man is both fraught and funny in Lungulov-Klotz’s debut. The film’s easy warmth and gregariousness of Mutt should extend its appeal.”

Passages (also at Sundance)

Dir: Ira Sachs
Our critic said: “Its dramatic heft and its stars’ (Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw and Adèle Exarchopoulos) upfront audacity make this three-way tangle of desire and confusion a sexy proposition in every respect.”

Past Lives (also at Sundance)

Dir: Celine Song
Our critic said: “This beautiful romance immediately draws comparisons to Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy… Anyone who falls under the spell of this devastating film will feel altered from the experience.”


Dir: Tina Satter
Our critic said: “Sydney Sweeney gives a deeply empathetic performance as the title character who spends the entirety of this film being interrogated by two male FBI agents.”

The Teachers’ Lounge

Dir:  Ilker Catak
Our critic said: “A keenly observed and richly detailed study of the seismic repercussions that can come from the seemingly smallest of decisions.”


Dir:  Lila Avilés
Our critic said: “This thematically rich piece about a family in crisis offers a set of vivid character studies, while musing on life, death and time.”