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2018 in Film – Berlin and beyond: Our editor’s picks

Our film editor Paul O'Callaghan rounds up the best film had to offer this year, including what's been happening in the Berlin cinema scene.

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Illustration by Claude-Max Lochu (CC BY-SA 4.0)

TRENDS

Babylon reborn The iconic Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz venue was once an epicentre of GDR cultural life, but in recent years it’s become embroiled in controversy (much like the neighbouring Volksbühne), with questionable management practices and pay disputes making national headlines. But 2018 has seen the contentious Kino up its curatorial game, with blockbuster retrospectives (Bergman, Hitchcock, Welles) giving the programme at state-funded cinematheque Arsenal a run for its money, and outward-looking festivals (Anime Berlin, Korea Independent) catering to underserved audiences.

Women on top Adina Pintilie’s Touch Me Not proved a controversial Golden Bear winner at this year’s Berlinale, but it was somewhat heartening, in the midst of the Me Too movement, that the top prize should be awarded to a female-centric study of marginalised people exploring sexuality on their own terms. In June, it was announced that Mariette Rissenbeek will become the festival’s first female executive director in 2020. She joins an ever-growing list of women taking charge of the city’s film scene – we profiled 12 others in our February film issue. This year the likes of the Pornfilmfestival and the Shebeen Flick Irish film festival achieved gender parity in their core programmes, while the new Berlin Lesbian Non-Binary Filmfest took its place alongside established femme-focused events like the Final Girls Berlin horror festival. It’s been a strong year for women behind the camera too – Eva Trobisch’s nuanced rape drama Alles ist Gut, Lynne Ramsay’s formally radical hitman thriller You Were Never Really Here and Chloé Zhao’s wrenching docudrama The Rider were among the year’s finest new releases.

TOP 5 FILMS

Phantom Thread (Feb 1)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s meticulous portrait of a narcissistic couturier (Daniel Day-Lewis) in 1950s London gradually reveals itself as something altogether more sly and subversive.

Call Me By Your Name (Mar 1)

Some of us caught Luca Guadagnino’s simmering gay romance way back in February 2017 at the Berlinale, but it finally hit local cinemas this March, and later proved a Freiluftkino favourite, with sold-out screenings throughout the summer.

Visages, Villages (May 31)

Nonagenarian Nouvelle Vague legend Agnès Varda and self-conscious 30-something street artist JR make for quite the odd couple in this life-affirming doc, in which the pair reflect on life and art whilst touring rural France.

Leave No Trace (Sep 13)

Ben Foster plays a traumatised veteran raising a teenage daughter on his own uncompromising terms in Debra Granik’s haunting, heart-wrenching follow-up to Winter’s Bone.

Roma (Dec 6)

Alfonso Cuarón’s magnum opus is a deeply poignant family saga, sumptuously shot in crisp black-and-white, and powered by an electrifying lead performance from newcomer Yalitza Aparicio.