New Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian presents his debut selections — and introduces a new competitive section. Screen profiles the world and international premieres in Competition, Specials, Panorama and Encounters at this year’s festival (February 20-29).
All The Dead Ones (Bra-Fr)
Dirs. Marco Dutra, Caetano Gotardo
Gotardo, who edited Brazilian filmmaker Dutra’s features Hard Labor (Cannes’ Un Certain Regard 2011) and Good Manners (Locarno 2017), now joins him as co-director of this late-19th-century drama set in Sao Paolo shortly after the abolition of slavery. The film revolves around three women from a family of once-wealthy coffee plantation owners. Sao Paolo-based Dezenove Som e Imogens produces alongside Paris-based Good Fortune Films.
Contact: Indie Sales
Bad Tales (It-Swi)
Dirs. Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo
Italy’s D’Innocenzo twins return to Berlin two years after their feature debut Boys Cry premiered in Panorama. The self-taught pair now present an ensemble drama, set over the course of one summer, revealing the secrets and lies behind closed doors of a seemingly idyllic Rome suburb: “American Beauty, without America or the beauty,” as the brothers describe it. Like Boys Cry, Bad Tales (Favolacce) is produced by Rome-based Pepito Produzioni, in co-production with Rai Cinema and Switzerland’s Amka Films. The D’Innocenzos served as collaborating writers on Matteo Garrone’s 2018 Cannes hit Dogman.
Contact: The Match Factory
Berlin Alexanderplatz (Ger-Neth)
Dir. Burhan Qurbani
Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel — one of the key literary works of Germany’s Weimar Republic era — has been adapted twice before, as the 1931 Phil Jutzi film and a 1980 TV series. This modern-day reworking follows a refugee from Guinea-Bissau struggling to survive in Berlin after illegally crossing by boat from Africa to Europe. Last in Berlin with 2010 Competition entry Shahada, Germany-born Qurbani returns following a 2014 Rome bow for his We Are Young. We Are Strong. Jochen Laube and Fabian Maubach produce for Sommerhaus Filmproduktionen, alongside regular Qurbani collaborator Leif Alexis.
Contact: Beta Cinema
DAU. Natasha (Ger-Ukr-UK-Rus)
Dirs. Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Jekaterina Oertel
The ultra-ambitious Dau art project has already yielded one epic, 330-minute screen work, simply titled Dau, which premiered in Paris in January 2019 as part of an immersive art installation, following a failed attempt to mount the project in Berlin in 2018. This latest exploitation of the material — which is based on the life of Soviet scientist Lev Landau and filmed in Ukraine over a two-year period involving hundreds of participants — is accompanied by DAU. Degeneration, playing in Berlinale Special.
Contact: Coproduction Office
Dir. Tsai Ming-liang
Malaysian-Taiwanese maverick Tsai, who has focused on documentaries and VR films in recent years, is back in Competition after an absence of 15 years. His new film, which was shot over four years, follows his regular actor Lee Kang-sheng and Cambodian newcomer Anong Houngheuangsy as they meet, strike up a relationship and share each other’s loneliness. Tsai won the Berlin Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution with The Wayward Cloud in 2005 and the Silver Bear special jury prize for The River in 1997.
Contact: Homegreen Films
Delete History (Fr-Bel)
Dirs. Benoit Delépine, Gustave Kervern
Kervern and Delépine return to the Berlinale having premiered comedy-dramas Mammuth in Competition and Saint Amour out of competition in 2010 and 2016 respectively. Their new timely work stars Blanche Gardin, Denis Podalydes and Corinne Masiero as three neighbours who team with a hacker to tap into the servers of their social-media accounts and alter personally inconvenient data. Cult French writer Michel Houellebecq and the directors’ longtime collaborator Benoit Poelvoorde make special guest appearances. Kervern and Delépine produce the feature under their No Money Productions banner with Sylvie Pialat’s Les Films du Worso.
Contact: Antoine Guilhem, Wild Bunch
First Cow (US)
Dir. Kelly Reichardt
Following berths at the 2019 Telluride and New York film festivals, the latest from Reichardt (Certain Women) lands in Berlin. Adapted from the 1820s-set segment of Jon Raymond’s twin-timeline 2004 novel The Half-Life, First Cow returns Reichardt to the pioneer western terrain of her 2010 film Meek’s Cutoff. John Magaro stars as a cook who signs on to serve a party of fur trappers in the Pacific Northwest, forming a friendship with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee). Filmscience, A24 and IAC Films produce.
Hidden Away (It)
Dir. Giorgio Diritti
Diritti, who moves between fiction and documentary, premiered his last narrative feature There Will Come A Day at Sundance in 2013. Hidden Away (Volevo Nascondermi) tells the story of Switzerland-born artist Antonio Ligabue (1899-1965), known for his wild animal paintings, who lived a lonely and often-mocked life by Italy’s River Po. Elio Germano, who is also in the D’Innocenzo brothers’ Competition entry Bad Tales, stars as Ligabue. Palomar (Berlinale 2019 entry Piranhas) produces in collaboration with Rai Cinema.
Contact: Cristina Cavaliere, Rai Com
The Intruder (Arg-Mex)
Dir. Natalia Meta
Arguably the hit of the recent Ventana Sur market in Buenos Aires, Meta’s thriller stars Erica Rivas from Wild Tales, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart from 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) and Cecilia Roth from Pain And Glory in the tale of a traumatised woman who meets a seemingly perfect man, only for him to turn out to be quite the opposite. Argentina’s Rei Cine (Zama) produces.
Contact: Vicente Canales, Film Factory Entertainment
Dir. Rithy Panh
French-Cambodian Panh, a survivor of the 1970s Khmer Rouge genocide, makes his Competition debut with Irradiated. His latest documentary is about people who have survived the horrors of war. French producer Catherine Dussart of CDP previously collaborated with Panh on 2013’s The Missing Picture, which won the Un Certain Regard award in Cannes and was nominated for the Academy Awards’ best foreign-language film; 2016’s Exile, which premiered as a special screening in Cannes; and 2018’s Graves Without A Name, which opened Venice Days.
My Little Sister (Swi)
Dirs. Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond
Nearly a decade after their debut feature The Little Bedroom (2010) premiered at Locarno, and with TV and documentary work in the interim, Swiss writer/director duo Chuat and Reymond present their sophomore fiction feature My Little Sister (Schwesterlein). A Berlin playwright follows her husband to Switzerland, where he manages a private school, but when her twin brother develops leukaemia, she returns to be with him. The cast includes Christian Petzold regular Nina Hoss, alongside Lars Eidinger (TV’s SS-GB). Zurich-based Vega Film produces.
Contact: Beta Cinema
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (US)
Dir. Eliza Hittman
Having played to acclaim in the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance, Hittman’s third feature — after It Felt Like Love and Beach Rats — comes to Berlin. The drama follows a pregnant 17-year-old who, as a minor, is unable to have an abortion in her home state of Pennsylvania; she travels to New York City with a cousin, seeking a termination without her family finding out. Focus Features and BBC Films backed the Pastel production, made in association with Tango Entertainment, Mutressa Movies and Cinereach.
Contact: Focus Features
The Roads Not Taken (UK)
Dir. Sally Potter
Potter returns three years after The Party premiered in Berlin’s Competition. Javier Bardem and Elle Fanning star as a father and daughter dealing with the parent’s troubled mental state one hallucinatory day in New York City. Potter’s longtime collaborator Christopher Sheppard produces through Adventure Pictures. The film was co-developed by BBC Films and the BFI, which likewise funded alongside HanWay Films, Bleecker Street, Ingenious Media, Chimney Pot Sverige AB and Film i Väst. Bleecker Street has US rights. The cast also includes Salma Hayek and Laura Linney.
Contact: HanWay Films
The Salt Of Tears (Fr-Swi)
Dir. Philippe Garrel
Cannes and Venice habitué Garrel breaks his festival habits to premiere a film at the Berlinale for the first time in his 55-year career. The French director revisits the love-triangle dynamic at the heart of many of his previous works. Theatre actor Logan Antuofermo makes his big-screen debut opposite Oulaya Amamra (Divines) and Louise Chevillotte, as a young carpentry apprentice torn between two women, one in Paris, the other in his provincial hometown. In the backdrop, he is also desperate to please his father. The film is lead produced by Paris-based Rectangle Productions.
Contact: Antoine Guilhem, Wild Bunch
Dir. Abel Ferrara
Following a Cannes special screening launch for Tommaso last May, the veteran US director is already back on the festival trail with his latest drama. Frequent Ferrara collaborator Willem Dafoe stars as a man who has retreated to a remote, wintry mountain cabin seeking serenity; he then begins a journey by dogsled to the world he once knew. Marta Donzelli and Gregorio Paonessa for Italy’s Vivo Film produce alongside Philipp Kreuzer and Jörg Schulze for Germany’s Maze Pictures, Julio Chavezmontes for Mexico’s Piano, and Rai Cinema.
Contact: The Match Factory
There Is No Evil (Ger-Cze-Iran)
Dir. Mohammad Rasoulof
Rasoulof has faced censorship challenges in Iran since his second feature Iron Island (2005), and has been sentenced to prison twice for filmmaking activities. But that has not stopped him winning three Cannes’ Un Certain Regard prizes for Goodbye (2011), Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013) and Man Of Integrity (2017). There Is No Evil presents four interconnected stories, involving a young man serving his military service, a soldier on leave, a beekeeping married couple and a family living with a secret.
Contact: Films Boutique
Dir. Christian Petzold
Berlinale regular Petzold, last in the festival two years ago with Transit, reunites with that film’s co-stars Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski for this modern-day retelling of a myth relating to the titular water nymph. In this version, Undine is a young tour leader in Berlin who connects with an industrial driver. Schramm Film produces, in co-production with Les Films du Losange. Backers include Canal+, Ciné+ and French and German national and regional film bodies.
Contact: The Match Factory
The Woman Who Ran (S Kor)
Dir. Hong Sang-soo
Hong returns to the Berlinale for the third year in a row with his seventh film starring muse Kim Min-hee, who won a Silver Bear as best actress for On The Beach At Night Alone in 2017. The pair also appeared in Forum last year with Grass. In their latest film, Kim plays a married woman who visits two friends at their homes and runs into a third one at a theatre, but their seemingly friendly conversations contain undercurrents that suggest all might not be well.