73ª Berlinale, Screening The Cutting Edge

In Film & Series 14 February, 2023

Eva Peydró

Eva Peydró


From February 16 to 26, the 73rd Berlinale will be presenting a program as characteristic as the city that hosts it. If each festival has its own personality (some more than others), in the case of Berlin we can speak of a selection with very few concessions and an ever-increasing willingness to take risks. If this is not the case, what is the point of a festival, if not to give a screen to the avant-garde and to the trends that will end up changing cinema forever.

The international jury of the present edition, chaired by Kristen Stewart, is composed of Carla Simón, who returns to the festival that consecrated her a year ago by awarding Alcarràs with the Golden Bear; the Iranian actress based in France Golshifteh Farahani, unforgettable in About Elly or Paterson; the German director Valeska Grisebach (Western, 2017); Romanian Radu Jude, one of our essential directors and another winner at this festival, whose Bad Luck Banging or Looney Porn further marked that peculiarity we were talking about at the beginning and which also awarded a Golden Bear to this jury member in 2021; American producer and casting director Francine Maisler (12 Years a Slave, Marriage Story) and Hong Kong director Johnnie To (Election).

The festival directed by Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian will have this year a Hispanic accent that runs through different sections and in all of them we can find those surprises that compensate both the cold and the risk taken when choosing among a sometimes overwhelming offer. As the festival’s executive director says, the public of this festival is particularly curious and open to new proposals and exchange of ideas, so the feast is served.

berlinale Disco Boy

Disco Boy (Giacomo Abbruzzese, 2023).

However, the big names who will present their films in Berlin are not to be missed either, and among them stands out Steven Spielberg, the director who renewed the cinematographic language, the young prodigy who shot Duel, and blew up genre cinema, making us believe that it was no longer possible to go back. The Festival is scheduling a retrospective of the director and on Tuesday 21 will present him with an honorary Golden Bear at a ceremony that includes a screening of The Fabelmans at the Berlinale Palast.

La Sección oficial proyectará 19 películas, tanto de ficción como de animación y documental, algunas de ellas opera prima, como Disco Boy, de Giacomo Abbruzzese, protagonizada por Franz Rogowski, el carismático actor fetiche de Christian Petzold, que también tiene película en esta sección: Roter Himmeluna tragicomedia sobre un grupo de  amigos veraneando en la costa del Báltico. Entre los consagrados, está también la directora Margarette Von Trotta, quien estrena Ingeborg Bachmann-Journey into the Desert, otra incursión en las biografías femeninas, esta vez sobre la escritora y su relación con Max Frisch en 1958.

The Official Selection will show 19 films, both fiction, animation and documentary, some of them first works, such as Disco Boy, by Giacomo Abbruzzese, starring Franz Rogowski, the charismatic actor fetish of Christian Petzold, who also has a film in this section: Roter Himmel, a tragicomedy about a group of friends vacationing on the Baltic coast. Among the established directors, there is also Margarette Von Trotta, who premieres Ingeborg Bachmann-Journey into the Desert, another foray into female biographies, this time about the writer and her relationship with Max Frisch in 1958.

The Spanish director Estíbaliz Urresola Solaguren with her 20,000 Species of Bees will also compete in the Official Selection with two Chinese films, the animated Art College 1994, by Liu Jian -which will not be the only one in this genre, as Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume was also selected-, and The Shadowless Tower, by Zhang Lu. Romanticism, sensuality and summer, against the backdrop of German reunification, will arrive with Someday We’ll Teach Each Other Everything, by Emily Atef, while Korean Celine Song with Past Lives tells another story of love and permanence that transcends time and space, and Christoph Hochhäusler directs Till the End of the Night, a thriller that combines genre and authorship, where an infiltrator among drug traffickers finds love at work.

With a cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody, we will see John Trengove‘s Manodrome, a reflection on masculinity and the protagonist’s loss of contact with reality when he enters a cult that offers him answers to his personal crisis. On the other hand, the documentary genre is represented in the competition by the Canadian film BlackBerry, by Matt Johnson, adapting the bestseller Losing the Signal, which tells the story of the brilliant success and no less resounding failure of the first smartphone in history, as well as On the Adamant, by Nicolas Philibert, about the peculiar floating day center that, in the heart of Paris, takes in adults with mental disorders.

In addition to Philippe Garrel‘s The Plough, starring his own children, Angela Schanelec is competing with Music, revisiting the Oedipus myth, as well as another film shot in Spanish and one in Portuguese, Mexican Lila AvilésTótem, an intimate co-production of Mexico, Denmark and France, and Joao Canijo’s Bad Living, a drama starring five women who run a hotel.

The Survival of Kindness

The Survival of Kindness (Rolf de Heer, 2023).

It is worth noting the presence of two Australian films in competition, which explore the First Nation issue with a feminine slant, either in a thriller style, as in the case of Ivan Sen‘s Limbo, about the reopening of a murder case of an Aboriginal woman 20 years ago, or in a more imaginative style, in Rolf de Heer‘s The Survival of Kindness, about a black woman, abandoned in a cage in the middle of the desert, who does not lose hope, despite everything.

The festival opens with Rebecca Miller‘s She Came to Me, a director who never quite achieves her goal in any of her works. In this case, she has counted on Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway to accompany her in the endeavor. The Berlinale Special section also welcomes the controversial Golda, by Guy Nattiv, to which the Woke critics launched a preemptive attack because of not having a Jewish actress, instead of Helen Mirren, to play the legendary leader of Israel. The Berlinale’s acting recital will not be able to ignore John Malkovich, who in Seneca plays the philosopher, confronted with tyranny.

We look forward to the premiere of Infinity Pool, the second feature film by Brandon Cronenberg, David’s offspring, and we expect to be unsurprised by Superpower, the documentary by Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman, who were caught by the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, while filming in Kiev and tell us about it in their film. Two other biopic documentaries in the section are Love to Love You, Donna Sumer, by Roger Ross Williams and Brooklyn Sudano and Laggiù qualcuno mi ama by Mario Martone, who edits unpublished documents about the prematurely deceased actor Massimo Troisi, exploring his work and personality.

Infinity Pool Berlinale

Infinity Pool (Brandon Cronenberg, 2023).

The Berlinale Series section will premiere several productions, including the series signed by Adina Sadeanu, entitled Spy/Master, with an espionage plot set in 1978, where the CIA, the Securitate, the KGB and the Stasi intertwine, as well as two Nordic series, the Norwegian The Architect (Kerren Lumer-Klabbers) where satire is used for social criticism, following a surprising idea to solve the housing crisis, or the female boarding school stories of the Australian Bad Behaviour, by Corrie Chen.

As for the Encounters section, it presents 16 titles, including Samsara, a story of reincarnation by Lois Patiño, shot in Laos; the documentary The Walls of Bergamo, by Stefano Savona, about the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the reflection on the root of all non-binary bodies, through a symbolic figure of cinema and literature, Orlando, My Political Biography, signed by Paul B. Preciado.

Through the films selected in the Panorama section, we will have the opportunity to stroll through the nightlife of queer Berlin, the techno clubs of Paris in The Beast in the Jungle (Patric Chiha) with Anaïs Demoustier, Drifter (Hannes Hirsch) or After (Anthony Lapia), the brutality of patriarchy in Yemen (The Burdened, by Amr Gamal), the methods of Russian propaganda or violence in Syria (Under the Sky of Damascus, Heba Khaled, Talal Derki, Ali Wajeeh).

This section will also screen Inside, the debut feature by Vasilis Katsoupis, starring Willem Dafoe in a solo role, and the highly anticipated Matria, by Álvaro Gago, a vibrant portrait of Ramona, a Galician fisherwoman. Ira Sachs will be present at the Berlinale with Passages, also starring Franz Rogowski, who is at the festival twice, as well as Adèle Exarchopoulos and Ben Whishaw. The figure of Elizabeth Empress of Austria continues to fascinate in fiction and, after the series and the film by Maria Kreutz, comes Frauke Finsterwalder’s Sisi and I, a co-production between Switzerland, Germany and Austria, the umpteenth reinterpretation of the, by now, myth of Sissy, this time focusing on her relationship with her lady-in-waiting, Countess von Sztáray.

The other sections (Retrospective, Forum and Forum Expanded, Generation, Perspektive Deutsches Kino and Berlinale Classics) as well as the one inaugurated in 2010, Berlinale Goes Kiez, which recognizes the enormous role of arthouse cinemas in promoting film culture, promise us discoveries and many more reasons to love cinema and remain faithful to our annual appointment in Berlin’s increasingly warm February.

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