As the Berlinale and European Film Market return as in-person events, Screen profiles the Competition line-up which includes new films from Angela Schanelec, Christian Petzold, Margarethe von Trotta and Emily Atef.
20,000 Species Of Bees (Sp)
Dir. Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren
The debut feature from the Basque filmmaker follows an eight-year-old girl over one summer as she explores her identity alongside the other women in her family. Solaguren’s short Chords screened in Critics’ Week at Cannes in 2022. 20,000 Species Of Bees is produced by the Basque Country’s Gariza Films and Inicia Films, and participated in the Berlinale Co-production Market and Les Ateliers d’Angers Festival Premiers Plans. BTeam releases in Spain.
Dir. Christian Petzold
Petzold returns to the Berlinale with Afire, having also launched Undine (2020), Transit (2018), Barbara (2012), Yella (2007) and Gespenster (2005) in Competition. For Afire, Petzold reunites with Paula Beer, who won the best actress Silver Bear for Undine. This film follows a group of friends in a holiday house by the Baltic sea as emotions — and parched forests — ignite. Thomas Schubert, Langston Uibel, Enno Trebs and Matthias Brandt also star. Petzold’s collaborator Florian Koerner von Gustorf produced.
Contact: The Match Factory
Art College 1994 (China)
Dir. Liu Jian
Animated feature Art College 1994 marks Liu’s return to the Berlinale six years after Have A Nice Day became the first Chinese animation selected to play in Competition. His latest is a coming-of-age story following a group of college students caught between tradition and modernity as love and friendships are intertwined with their artistic pursuits, ideals and ambitions, and is set against the backdrop of reforms opening China to the West. An all-star Chinese voice cast includes director Jia Zhangke, a Cannes regular and Venice Golden Lion winner. Contact: Memento International
Bad Living (Port-Fr)
Dir. Joao Canijo
Festival favourite Canijo, whose credits include 2011 San Sebastian Fipresci winner Blood Of My Blood, brings a double feature to Berlin: Bad Living (Mal Viver) in main Competition, and Living Bad (Viver Mal) premiering in Encounters. Both films are set in a remote rundown hotel in Portugal but focus on a different set of characters. Bad Living is about the family of women who own and run the hotel and whose relationships are poisoned by festering secrets and lies. The ensemble cast features several Canijo regulars including Anabela Moreira, Rita Blanco and Vera Barreto, who all collaborated with Canijo on the dialogue and character development.
Contact: Portugal Film
Dir. Matt Johnson
Johnson’s drama charts the history of the ill-fated smartphone, which became the must-have business device of the early 2000s, before its Canadian parent company Research In Motion succumbed to legal disputes and lost its market advantage. Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton and Cary Elwes lead the ensemble cast. The Rhombus Media and Zapruder Films production was made with the participation of Telefilm Canada and Ontario Creates, in association with CBC Films, IPR.VC and XYZ Films. The latter co-financed and also serves as executive producer. Johnson and Matthew Miller adapted the screenplay from 2015 non-fiction book Losing The Signal: The Untold Story Behind The Extraordinary Rise And Spectacular Fall Of BlackBerry by journalists Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. IFC Films will distribute in the US this year.
Contact: Priya Malhi, XYZ Films
Disco Boy (Fr-It-Pol-Belg)
Dir. Giacomo Abbruzzese
This debut feature from Italy-born, Paris-based Abbruzzese follows the intertwining stories of a French Foreign Legion fighter (Franz Rogowski) and a man (newcomer Morr Ndiaye) trying to save his village in the Niger Delta from oil companies. Abbruzzese’s short films have won numerous festival and other awards, and he picked up a César nomination for 2020 documentary America. He wrote and developed Disco Boy through Cannes’ Cinefondation residency and it is produced by Films Grand Huit alongside Dugong Films, Panache Productions and La Compagnie Cinématographique. Electronic music star Vitalic provides the score.
Ingeborg Bachmann — Journey Into The Desert (Switz-Aust-Ger-Lux)
Dir. Margarethe von Trotta
This is von Trotta’s first film to play in Berlinale Competition since Heller Wahn in 1983. A leading figure of New German Cinema, her films including Rosa Luxemburg (1986) and Hannah Arendt (2012) traditionally feature strong female protagonists. That is also the case with Ingeborg Bachmann — Journey Into The Desert, which sees Vicky Krieps play the Austrian poet who becomes embroiled in a stormy affair with Swiss writer Max Frisch (played by Ronald Zehrfeld). The film is produced by Switzerland’s tellfilm, Austria’s Amour Fou Vienna, Germany’s Heimatfilm and Luxembourg’s Amour Fou Luxembourg.
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. Ivan Sen
It is 20 years since Sen’s debut Beneath Clouds won the Berlinale award for a first movie. His latest feature Limbo stars Simon Baker as a detective looking into a cold-case murder, set against the backdrop of outback mining town Coober Pedy. As is usual for Sen and Bunya Productions, the filmmaking outfit he part-owns, the drama explores what life is like for First Nations people in regional Australia. Financiers include broadcaster ABC, Screen Queensland and the South Australian Film Corporation.
Contact: David Jowsey, Dark Matter
Dir. John Trengove
Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody star in South African director Trengove’s English-language debut. Conflicted about his girlfriend’s pregnancy, a man’s life spirals out of control when he meets a mysterious family of men. Riley Keough produces with Gina Gammell and Ryan Zacarias through Felix Culpa, alongside Ben Giladi. Trengove’s feature debut, Xhosa-language The Wound, premiered at Sundance ahead of Berlin in 2017 and was shortlisted for the international feature Oscar.
Contact: Capstone Global (international); CAA Media Finance (US)
Dir. Angela Schanelec
Germany’s Schanelec, who won a Silver Bear in 2019 for directing I Was at Home, But…, returns to the Berlinale’s Competition with Music, which recasts the myth of Oedipus in a contemporary setting. It is produced by Kirill Krasovski of faktura film as a co‑production with WDR/Arte, Les Films de l’Après-Midi and dart.film. Aliocha Schneider, Agathe Bonitzer and Argyris Xafis star. Schanelec’s credits include Cannes Un Certain Regard titles Places In Cities (1998) and Marseille (2004), Berlin title Orly (2010) and Cannes Special Screening Bridges Of Sarajevo (2014).
On The Adamant (Fr-Jap)
Dir. Nicolas Philibert
Philibert returns to the Berlinale following his 2013 Panorama title La Maison De La Radio. On The Adamant follows the daily lives of patients and caregivers at a central Paris psychiatric centre, which has a unique structure floating in the Seine river. The film is a co-production between France’s TS Productions and Japan’s Longride; Les Films du Losange releases in France and also handles worldwide sales. Philibert’s To Be And To Have premiered at Cannes in 2002 and Each And Every Moment at Locarno in 2018.
Contact: Tess Massé, Les Films du Losange
Past Lives (US)
Dir. Celine Song
Song, a staff writer on Amazon series The Wheel Of Time, makes her feature-directing debut on this romantic drama, which premiered at Sundance and became one of the most critically lauded selections in the festival. Past Lives centres on childhood friends who reunite in New York two decades after one family emigrated from South Korea. CJ ENM produced the Korean and English-language film with Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler, David Hinojosa’s production label 2AM, and A24. CJ ENM’s Miky Lee and Jerry Kyoungboum Ko are executive producers and Khan Kwon is co-producer. A24 handles domestic and worldwide distribution excluding CJ’s territories of South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Turkey.
The Plough (Fr-Switz)
Dir. Philippe Garrel
This family affair unites prolific French filmmaker Garrel with his three real-life children Louis, Esther and Lena all together for the first time on screen. Written by Garrel alongside writers Jean-Claude Carrière, Arlette Langmann and Caroline Deruas Peano, The Plough follows a family of puppeteers including a trio of siblings, their troupe leader father and grandmother. After the father dies during a performance, the family rallies to keep his legacy alive. The film marks the director’s return to the Berlinale’s Competition following The Salt Of Tears in 2020.
Contact: Flavien Eripret, Wild Bunch
The Shadowless Tower (China)
Dir. Zhang Lu
Following 2007’s Desert Dream, Zhang returns to Competition with this China-set drama. A middle-aged single parent and food critic, with a young daughter and a long-lost father, drifts through Beijing’s local eateries with his photographer while looking for a new perspective on life. The cast is led by Xin Baiqing from Zhang’s Yanagawa, along with Huang Yao (The Crossing) and renowned director Tian Zhuangzhuang. Zhang, who was born in China of Korean descent, has directed more than 10 feature films in both Chinese and Korean, including Fukuoka, which premiered in Forum in 2019, and Dooman River from Generation Kplus in 2010.
Contact: Films Boutique
Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything (Ger)
Dir. Emily Atef
German-French-Iranian director Atef returns to Berlin with this tale of a 19-year-old girl who falls in love with a charismatic man twice her age. Marlene Burow, whose credits include In A Land That No Longer Exists, stars alongside Felix Kramer from German hit series Dark. Atef was last in Berlinale Competition with 2018 drama 3 Days In Quiberon, while her previous feature More Than Ever starring Vicky Krieps premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last year. Someday… is produced by Germany’s ROW Pictures.
Contact: The Match Factory
The Survival Of Kindness (Australia)
Dir. Rolf de Heer
This road movie on foot will be prolific writer/director de Heer’s second time in Berlin’s Competition, two decades after Alexandra’s Project. Featuring non-professional actress Mwajemi Hussein, the film was shot on a small budget, in isolated and unfriendly outback terrain, with many first-time heads of department, half of whom were Indigenous. De Heer’s company Vertigo Productions joined forces with producer Julie Byrne and her Triptych Pictures for the film, while financing came from government agencies and Adelaide Film Festival, where it premiered last October.
Contact: Raffaella di Giulio, Fandango Sales
Dir. Makoto Shinkai
Following international blockbuster hits Your Name and Weathering With You, Shinkai has written and directed this animated feature about the titular teenage girl, who travels around Japan closing mysterious doors to prevent disasters. It marks the first anime film to feature in Competition at Berlin since 2002, when Spirited Away won the Golden Bear (tied with Bloody Sunday). Suzume was the third-biggest box-office title in Japan last year and since its release in November has pulled in around $100m. Crunchyroll has teamed with Sony Pictures and Wild Bunch International to distribute to audiences outside of Asia in April.
Till The End Of The Night (Ger)
Dir. Christoph Hochhäusler
A contemporary film noir, Till The End Of The Night sees an undercover investigator infiltrate a drugs gang as the partner of a trans woman who has links to its boss. The film marks Hochhäusler’s fifth collaboration with Bettina Brokemper’s Cologne-based production outfit Heimatfilm. It began with his second feature I Am Guilty, which premiered in Un Certain Regard in 2005, and includes 2010’s The City Below, which bowed in the same Cannes section. His 2014 film The Lies Of The Victors world premiered at Rome Film Festival.
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. Lila Avilés
Avilés burst onto the global filmmaking scene back in 2018 with The Chambermaid (La Camarista), which ended up being Mexico’s submission for the 2020 international feature Academy Award. Her latest film Tótem follows a seven-year-old girl helping her family to prepare a surprise party for her father as chaos ensues and the bonds holding them all together begin to break. Avilés wrote and directed the co‑production between Mexico, Denmark and France.
Contact: Alpha Violet
Profiles by Ellie Calnan, Tim Dams, Patricia Dobson, Sandy George, Jeremy Kay, Rebecca Leffler, Wendy Mitchell, Jean Noh, Michael Rosser, Mona Tabbara, Silvia Wong
No comments yet