Since 10am, Feb 6, Berlin has been whipping itself into a ticket-buying frenzy for the fast approaching Berlinale. With the sheer volume of films, here are a lucky 13 choice picks from the Exberliner film crew – screened and approved to help you maximise your own luck during the festival mayhem.
Check Berlinale website for language versions.
Fon Tok Kuen Fah (Headshot) | D: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, with Nopachai Jayanama (France, Thailand 2011)
Film noir doesn’t get much darker than this tale of good cop who turns good hit-man, taking out the corrupt on behalf of a secretive puller of strings until his world is turned upside down when he himself takes a hit. An admirable, philosophically loaded attempt to sort through the good, the bad and the very ugly.
Premiere: Sat, Feb 11, 17:45 (PANORAMA). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
The Connection | D: Shirley Clarke (USA 1961) with Warren Finnerty, Jerome Raphel
Take a trip down a hazy memory lane, both in terms of the film’s original release date and its content. The premiere of this new restoration is the first opportunity for many to catch this gem of US independent cinema by one of its unsung heroes, Shirley Clarke. A mockumentary-cum-chamber drama of a day in the lives of a group of heroin-addled jazz musicians as they idle around their apartment, waiting for their man. Full of avant-garde experimentation and New York bohemian street-speak, it’s both a commentary on cinéma vérité and a romantic ode to a Kerouac kind of wretched subculture.
Premiere: Sat, Feb 11, 22:30 (FORUM). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Gegen Morgen | D: Joachim Schoenfeld, with Axel Buchholz, Axel Sichrovsky (Germany 2011)
Scene: bleak Berlin winter. Two cops sit in a car keeping an eye out for reprisals against a known murderer, released on legal technicalities. One garrulous, the other a taciturn fan of Wagnerian opera, they spend days bypassing each other’s needs until a storm of Wagnerian guilt and redemption forces mutual acknowledgement. Heavy on symbolism, but remarkably entertaining.
Premiere: Sat, Feb 11, 19:30 (PERSPEKTIVE DEUTSCHES KINO). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Hemel | D: Sacha Polak (Netherlands/Spain 2012) with Hannah Hoekstra, Hans Dagelet
Those dying for Shame (2011) to be released next month should check out this one in the meantime. A gorgeous twenty-something throws herself at countless men, unable to find the emotional gratification she so desperately seeks. This feature debut for both its director and lead actress provides a thought-provoking portrait of a young mind in a difficult stage of transition.
Premiere: Sun, Feb 12, 21:30 (FORUM). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Unter Männern – Schwul in der DDR | D: Markus Stein, Ringo Rösener (Germany 2011)
Ever wondered what it was like to be gay in the GDR? Only one film, Heiner Carow’s Coming Out, was ever made dealing with the subject and that premiered on November 9 – the day the Wall fell. While homosexuality wasn’t illegal, it was considered a remnant of decadent bourgeois mentality, making life very difficult for homosexuals in a state that prided itself on socialist uniformity. Six gay men recount their personal experiences, giving a fascinating if often tragic account of a seldom-discussed aspect of the oppressive regime.
Premiere: Mon, Feb 13, 17:00 (PANORAMA DOKUMENTE). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
L'âge atomique | D: Héléna Klotz, with Eliott Paquet, Dominik Wojcik (France 2012)
Two young men drifting through the urban glow of suburban Paris for one night fall in and out with each other and their divergent desires. Disaffected youth has found a champion in Klotz and her little masterpiece of unexpected quietude and tender solidarity.
Premiere: Mon, Feb 13, 21:30 (PANORAMA). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Kashi (Choked) | D: Kim Joong-hyun, with Um Tae-goo, Park Se-jin, Kil Hae-Yeon, Yoon Chae-Young (South Korea 2012)
A quartet of characters struggle with fallout from overextending themselves financially in a differentiated look at social pressures exerted in Asian economies. Beautifully shot in greys and browns, the desolate urban settings are a perfect metaphor for the very limited—and all the more admirable—efforts at companionship and comfort ventured under these conditions.
Premiere: Tue, Feb 14, 19:00 (FORUM). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Rentaneko (Rent-a-Cat) | D: Naoko Ogigami (Japan 2012) with Mikako Ichikawa, Reiko Kusamura
Haven’t had your fill of cute kitten pics on the internet? Rentaneko was made for the kitty-lover in you: a film about a woman walking around with a cart full of cats, renting them out to lonely people. Adorable in the way only the Japanese can manage, this is basically Tampopo (1985) with cats replacing the food.
Premiere: Tue, Feb 14, 19:00 (PANORAMA). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Zavtra (Tomorrow) | D: Andrey Gryazev (Russia 2012)
Russian radical art renegades Voina (“War”) enjoy global notoriety for their phallic bridge art, vaginal chicken shoplifting and police car flipping (earning some of their members an international arrest warrant). The leading trio are now the unwilling stars of a documentary, Zavtra (Tomorrow) by director Andrey Gryazev. The film’s selection in the Berlinale's Forum section was shrouded with conspiratorial secrecy until the last minute; so secret in fact that its protagonists were unaware of the film's very existence. They have been pleading for its withdrawal, claiming it is unauthorised and contains stolen footage. Where does a director’s license end and a person's right to their own image (the film is rather private) start – we'll let you judge for yourselves. While this ‘documentary’ is interesting in itself (murky production ethics aside), it obviously raises plenty of issues beyond the life of a bunch of anarchists and their political action – Gryazev will surely be grilled with questions at the film's premier.
Premiere: Wed, Feb 15, 19:15 (FORUM). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Words of Witness | D: Mai Iskander (USA 2012)
In the Shadow of a Man | D: Hanan Abdalla (Egypt 2011)
Shown in a double block, these two one-hour documentaries provide a much-needed inside perspective to happenings in Egypt most of us only know about from the news. Words of Witness follows Heba Afify, a 22-year-old journalist, as she reports on the ongoing transition to democracy. In the Shadow of a Man reflects on the role of women through a series of intimate, highly varied accounts of personal experiences by Egyptian women.
Premiere: Sun, Feb 17, 17:00 (PANORAMA DOKUMENTE). Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
For the kids: GENERATION KPLUS and GENERATION 14PLUS
Arcadia | D: Olivia Silver, with John Hawkes, Ryan Simpkins (USA 2012)
When low-budget films take on low-budget lives the results can be irritating or absolutely on the mark as in this road movie. Struggling to keep himself and his family together, a father drives his three kids westwards in search of the pot of gold (employment). Few wrongs, fewer rights: just an honestly and scrupulously observed messy situation.
Premiere: Mon, Feb 13, 12:30. Click here for all showtimes and tickets.
Orchim le-rega (Off White Lies) | D: Maya Kenig with Elya Inbar, Gur Bentvich (France, Israel 2012)
Road movie meets sentimental education when teenage daughter Libby comes from the US to spend time with her Dad in Israel. Who’s the adult, who the child? Examining this question, Maya Kenig shines a perceptive light onto the unfamiliar context of Israel’s tense social, familial, and political structures.
Premiere: Sun, Feb 12, 15:00. Click here for all showtimes and tickets.