Screen previews the Competition and Out of Competition titles from this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.
By The Grace Of God (Fr)
Dir. Francois Ozon
Ozon got his A-list festival Competition break at Berlin in 2000 with Water Drops On Burning Rocks but has not been in the running for the Golden Bear since 2009 when he attended with the fantasy tale Ricky. A decade later, he returns with a hard-hitting drama anchored in reality. Loosely inspired by the true stories of sexual-abuse victims of a Catholic priest in Lyon, the film stars Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet and Swann Arlaud as three men who band together to expose their abuser. Eric and Nicolas Altmayer at Mandarin Cinéma produce.
Contact: Frédérique Rouault, Playtime
Elisa & Marcela (Sp)
Dir. Isabel Coixet
Previously a three-time Berlinale Competition participant — for My Life Without Me, Elegy and Nobody Wants The Night — Coixet returns with her long-mooted biographical drama about Spain’s first same-sex marriage. The Netflix-backed black-and-white film depicts how in 1901 Marcela Ibeas (Greta Fernandez) took on an assumed male identity to wed her lover, Elisa Sanchez Loriga (Natalia de Molina). Rodar y Rodar, Zenit TV and Lanube Peliculas produce.
Ghost Town Anthology (Can)
Dir. Denis Coté
The French-Canadian filmmaker is a Berlinale regular, having won the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear for Vic And Flo Saw A Bear in 2013 and played in Competition again with Boris Without Béatrice in 2016. One of 10 Quebec-based features funded by Telefilm Canada in 2018, Ghost Town Anthology follows a grieving family who encounter a series of strangers in an isolated town in the wake of a fatal car crash.
Contact: Films Boutique
God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija (Mac-Bel-Slov-Cro-Fr)
Dir. Teona Strugar Mitevska
Previously in Berlin with features I Am From Titov Veles (2007), The Women Who Brushed Off Her Tears (2012) and When The Day Had No Name (2017), Macedonian filmmaker Mitevska returns with a drama about a woman who causes a ruckus when she joins in a traditionally male-only ceremony — diving into the river to retrieve a wooden cross thrown in by the local priest. Funding partners include Eurimages, France’s CNC and the film agencies for Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia and Wallonia-Brussels.
Contact: Pyramide International
The Golden Glove (Ger-Fr)
Dir. Fatih Akin
A Golden Bear winner for 2004’s Head-On, Hamburg-born Akin returns to Competition with his adaptation of Heinz Strunk’s bestselling 2016 novel telling the story of real-life serial killer Fritz Honka, who murdered four women in Hamburg’s red-light district in the 1970s. Jonas Dassler, who was in Berlin last year with Lars Kraume’s The Silent Revolution, stars as Honka. Warner Bros releases in Germany on February 21; Pathé has the film for France.
Contact: The Match Factory
The Ground Beneath My Feet (Austria)
Dir. Marie Kreutzer
Writer/director Kreutzer’s debut film The Fatherless premiered in Berlin’s Panorama section in 2011, where it won an honourable mention for best first feature. The Ground Beneath My Feet, her fourth feature, is the story of a successful professional woman whose sister attempts suicide, and stars Austrian actress Valerie Pachner, who will next be seen in Terrence Malick’s Radegund. Filmladen will release in Austria in March, and a German release via Salzberger will follow in May.
Contact: Picture Tree International
I Was At Home, But (Ger-Serb)
Dir. Angela Schanelec
Having premiered her most recent features in Locarno (The Dreamed Path, 2016) and Cannes (Bridges Of Sarajevo, 2014), and before that having played the Berlinale Forum with Orly (2010), actress/filmmaker Schanelec now makes her Berlin Competition debut. The drama follows the impact of a 13-year-old’s week-long disappearance on his mother (The Dreamed Path’s Maren Eggert) and teachers. Franz Rogowski (Victoria, Happy End) also stars. Schanelec’s Berlin-based Nachmittagfilm produces with Belgrade’s Dart Film.
Contact: Deutsche Kinemathek
The Kindness Of Strangers (Den-Can-Swe-Ger-Fr)
Dir. Lone Scherfig
Last in Berlin 10 years ago with Sundance premiere An Education, Scherfig returns with an ensemble drama in which a young mother (Zoe Kazan) heads to New York City with her two sons to escape her abusive police officer husband — and finds help from regular folk including an ER nurse (Andrea Riseborough) and an ex-con (Tahar Rahim). HanWay Films, Ingenious Media, Apollo Media and Entertainment One are backers on the Creative Alliance and Strada Films production, with the participation of the Danish Film Institute and Telefilm Canada among other partners.
Contact: HanWay Films
Mr Jones (Pol-UK-Ukr)
Dir. Agnieszka Holland
Celebrated Polish filmmaker Holland takes part in Competition for the third time, following 1981’s Fever and 2017’s Spoor, co-directed with Kasia Adamik, which won the Alfred Bauer Prize. Her latest feature is the true story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton), who broke the news of the deadly famine in Ukraine in the 1930s. Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard also star.
Contact: WestEnd Films
Dir. Wang Quan’an
Berlin regular Wang returns with Öndög (which means ‘eggs’ in Mongolian), a drama about life, death and love. The Mongolia-set story revolves around an 18-year-old police officer and a 35-year-old herdswoman who falls pregnant after spending one night with him guarding the crime scene of a naked woman found on the steppe. Wang won the Golden Bear for Tuya’s Marriage (also set in Mongolia) in 2007 and Silver Bears for Apart Together, which opened the 60th Berlinale in 2010, and White Deer Plain in 2012.
Contact: Greg Fleming, Archlight Films
One Second (China)
Dir. Zhang Yimou
Chinese auteur Zhang, who won the Golden Bear in 1987 for Red Sorghum and a Silver Bear in 2000 for The Road Home, sets his latest film in desolate northwestern China during the Cultural Revolution. Zhang Yi (Operation Red Sea) plays a labour camp escapee who sets off to a nearby cinema just to see his daughter in a film. Golden Horse best actor Fan Wei (Mr No Problem) co-stars. The film is produced by Huanxi Media’s Dong Ping and Edko Films’ Bill Kong, and shot by Zhang’s longtime DoP Zhao Xiaoding.
Contact: Huanxi Media
Out Stealing Horses (Nor-Swe-Den)
Dir. Hans Petter Moland
Out Stealing Horses is Norwegian filmmaker Moland’s fourth film to play in Berlin’s Competition, following 2004’s The Beautiful Country, 2010’s A Somewhat Gentle Man and 2014’s In Order Of Disappearance — the latter title having also just been remade in the English language by Moland as Cold Pursuit starring Liam Neeson. Out Stealing Horses is an adaptation of Per Petterson’s novel about a grieving widower (Stellan Skarsgard) confronting his past, and has been supported by the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian film institutes.
Dir. Claudio Giovannesi
Italian filmmaker Giovannesi’s previous film, 2016 drama Fiore, screened in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, and 2012’s Ali Blue Eyes won the special jury prize at that year’s Rome Film Festival. He makes his Berlin Competition debut with Piranhas, an adaptation of Roberto Saviano’s novel about a gun-toting gang of teenage boys who terrorise the streets of Naples, which will be released in Italy in February by Vision Distribution.
Contact: Elle Driver
So Long, My Son (China)
Dir. Wang Xiaoshuai
Berlin veteran Wang’s latest film traces the lives of two families over three decades of social and political upheaval in China. Their paths diverge following the loss of a child, but a common search for truth and reconciliation around the tragedy remains. The cast includes Wang Jingchun (11 Flowers), Yong Mei (The Assassin), Qi Xi (Mystery) and Roy Wang from popular boy band TFBoys. Wang has won two Silver Bear awards, for Beijing Bicycle in 2001 and In Love We Trust in 2008.
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. Nadav Lapid
Having screened shorts in Panorama in 2005 and 2015, Lapid makes his Competition debut with his third fiction feature starring big-screen debutant Tom Mercier as a young Israeli man who moves to Paris in a bid to escape the stressful political situation in his home country. The tale is loosely based on Lapid’s own Parisian experiences at the beginning of his film career. It is Lapid’s first fiction feature in five years since his much-feted The Kindergarten Teacher, which was remade in the US with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Saïd Ben Saïd at Paris-based SBS Productions and Michel Merkt are lead producers.
Contact: SBS International
System Crasher (Ger)
Dir. Nora Fingscheidt
The feature debut from short-film and documentary maker Fingscheidt (Without This World), System Crasher revolves around an aggressive nine-year-old girl placed in protective services by her frightened mother. The film received the TitraFilm Award, worth $11,400 (€10,000) in image and sound post-production, at Les Arcs’ Work In Progress session last year. It is produced by Germany’s Weydemann Bros and Kineo Filmproduktion, with co-production support from Oma Inge Film.
Contact: Beta Cinema
A Tale Of Three Sisters (Tur-Ger-Neth-Gr)
Dir. Emin Alper
Turkish filmmaker Alper premiered his debut feature, 2012’s Beyond The Hill, in Panorama, where it won the Caligari Prize. After playing in Venice’s Competition with his 2015 follow-up Frenzy, which won the special jury prize, Alper is back in Berlin with the story of three siblings returning to their father’s home in poverty-stricken Anatolia. The film is a co-production between Turkey’s Liman Film and NuLook Production, Germany’s Komplizen Film, Netherlands’ Circe Film and Greece’s Horsefly Productions.
Contact: The Match Factory
Out of Competition
Farewell To The Night (Fr-Ger)
Dir. André Téchiné
Téchiné has been a regular guest of the Berlinale throughout his career, competing with Changing Times (2004), The Witnesses (2007) and Being 17 (2016). His latest feature revolves around the subject of radicalisation and reunites the director with longtime collaborator Catherine Deneuve for the eighth time, as well as Swiss actor Kacey Mottet Klein, the star of Being 17. Deneuve plays a horse breeder who learns that her grandson is headed for Syria with his childhood sweetheart, played by Divines star Oulaya Amamra. Olivier Delbosc at Curiosa Films lead produced.
Contact: Julia Schulte, France TV Distribution
Dir. Wagner Moura
This is the first feature directed by actor Moura, best known for playing Captain Nascimento in Jose Padilha’s Elite Squad, which won the Golden Bear at the 2008 Berlinale. Produced by Fernando Meirelles’ O2 Filmes, it is the story of the Brazilian guerilla fighter Carlos Marighella (1911-69), who was assassinated during the country’s military dictatorship (1964-85). Seu Jorge, who appeared alongside Moura in 2010’s Elite Squad: The Enemy Within and also in Meirelles’ City Of God, plays the title role.
Contact: Alex Bonilha, O2 Filmes
The Operative (Ger-Isr-Fr-US)
Dir. Yuval Adler
Israeli filmmaker Adler makes his English-language and Berlinale debut with this spy thriller starring Diane Kruger as a Mossad agent specialising in undercover work in Iran. Martin Freeman co-stars as her handler who is trying to figure out her movements after she goes missing while attending a funeral in London. It is Adler’s second feature after his breakout drama Bethlehem, which won the Venice Days Fedeora Award in 2013. Producers are Eitan Mansuri at Spiro Films, Anne Carey at Archer Gray and Michael Weber and Viola Fügen of The Match Factory.
Contact: Endeavor Content
Varda By Agnes (Fr)
Dir. Agnes Varda
It is more than 50 years since Varda clinched Berlin’s jury grand prize for her third film Le Bonheur (1965). A regular visitor to the festival ever since, the iconic French filmmaker returns in her 90th year with this documentary in which she talks about her work and artistic vision. The filmmaker’s daughter and producer Rosalie Varda has described the film as an extended masterclass, with the director bringing personal insight to what she calls “cine-writing” during a journey that takes the viewer from Varda’s home in Rue Daguerre, Paris, to Los Angeles and beyond.
Contact: mk2 Films
Amazing Grace (US)
World premiere - DOC NYC, November 12, 2018
Dir Adam McKay
North America release - December 25, 2018