The Berlinale’s back! Whether you’re into celeb-spotting, trend-chasing or seeing indie masterpieces before everyone else, here’s what you need to know about the 67th Berlin Film Festival.
While Potsdamer Platz in February will never give Cannes or Venice a run for their money in the glamour stakes, there’s no better way to see out this most miserable of months than by holing up in the womb-like warmth of a packed screening room and gorging on 11 days’ worth of the very best in world cinema. And the greatest thing about the Berlinale is that anyone can do it: with affordable ticket prices and venues all across town taking part, there’s no excuse not to get involved.
Among the Golden Bear contenders in the official competition are eagerly awaited new works from old favourites. The Other Side Of Hope sees irreverent Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismaki tackling the refugee crisis with the second instalment in a planned trilogy about port cities, which kicked off with 2011’s Le Havre. The inconsistent but always fascinating British filmmaker Sally Potter presents The Party, starring Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz and Emily Mortimer and described by producers as “a celebration [that] ends with blood on the floor”. And the ever-dependable Korean maestro Hong Sang-soo returns with On the Beach at Night Alone, as do the stars of his 2015 Locarno Golden Leopard winner Right Now, Wrong Then. Also sure to be a hot ticket is Call Me By Your Name (P), Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to the widely praised A Bigger Splash. This Italian Riviera-set gay love story, starring Armie Hammer, was scooped up for worldwide distribution by Sony Pictures Classics ahead of its world premiere at Sundance. Another Sundance debut, Golden Exits (F), is the latest acerbic offering from up-and-coming American indie director Alex Ross Perry – we’ve heard it’s a return to the misanthropic humour of Listen Up Phillip, after the creepy psychodrama of last year’s Queen of Earth.
Film nerd favourites aside, 2017’s shindig might not offer as many celeb-spotting opportunities as previous editions. Contrast last year’s opening night selection, the A-listerpacked Coen brothers comedy Hail, Caesar!, with this year’s pick Django, a biopic of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt starring Reda Kateb and Cécile De France – respected talents, sure, but unlikely to send tourists into a selfie-snapping frenzy. That’s not to say there’ll be no big names gracing the red carpet. Eagerly anticipated competition title The Dinner, from director Oren Moverman, boasts an impressive cast that includes Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan and Rebecca Hall.
And the organisers have landed something of a coup in securing the international premiere of T2: Trainspotting, Danny Boyle’s sequel to his1996 cult classic, which reunites him with Ewan McGregor, Kelly Mc-Donald and Robert Carlyle. But the festival’s most star-studded event is likely to be the world premiere of comic-book blockbuster Logan, which sees Hugh Jackman play Wolverine for what we’re assured will be the last time, with supporting turns from Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant.
China on screen
While it would be premature to declare 2017 a banner year for Chinese cinema, some of the festival’s most exciting and enthralling films do happen to hail from the world’s most populous nation. Hu Jia’s The Taste of Betel Nut (P) is a gloriously off beat tale of a young gay couple –one works in a sea life park; the other operates a mobile karaoke boot hand bears a striking resemblance to the late Cantopop heartthrob Leslie Cheung. Thrillingly sexy and irreverent, the film’s exuberant swagger at times calls to mind Nouvelle Vague classics like Jules et Jim and A Bout de Souffle. If there’s a drawback, it’s that things swiftly turn sour once the pair become romantically embroiled with a beautiful young girl, and it feels a little like the trio are being punished for their queerness and polyamory. Nevertheless, this is arthouse cinema at its most energetic and accessible. Meanwhile, with Ghost in the Mountains (P),Yang Heng continues his rise as on eof China’s foremost proponents of slow cinema. This mysterious, meditative drama opens with a chilling, lingering shot of a dead man whose head appears to have been brutally smashed in. As the film meticulously traces the victim’s last days, we gradually learn more about this enigmatic individual’s estrangement from his family, and the damage that this has wrought. It’s likely to test the patience of some viewers, but fans of Apichatpong Weerasethakul or Lav Diaz are in for a real treat. Less formally daring, but engrossing nevertheless, Xiang Zhao’s Stonehead (G) is a cinema vérité influenced portrait of a rural village where children are raised by their elderly grandparents, while their parents seek work elsewhere as migrant labourers. Focusing on the everyday tribulations and moral dilemmas of a 10-year-old boy, the film is commendable for taking the concerns of its young protagonist seriously.
Also, take a look at our guide to our insiders’ picks, a perspective on the representation of African film at the Berlinale, as well as the best queer movies at this years’ edition of the festival.
P: Panorama: Arthouse gems by international auteurs, curated by auteur in-his-own-right Wieland Speck.
F: Forum: Experimental, avant-garde and otherwise risky flicks from little-known upand comers.
G: Generation: Films that might be youth-centric, but definitely aren’t just for kids.
HOW TO GET TICKETS
Berlinale is a festival for the people – there’s no excuse not to take part. Booking tickets online will save you a lot of time and stress, but you’ll have to do a little strategising. Starting 10am on February 6, you can hit berlinale.de for tickets to screenings at Friedrichstadt-Palast, HAU and the Volksbühne, as well as the Berlinale Goes Kiez and Culinary Cinema programmes and the post-awards Publikumstag (Feb 19). Tickets for all other films go on sale three days before they’re screened (or four days for repeats of competition titles); find out dates and times on Berlinale’s “Programme Planner” page and get an Eventim account ahead of time if you’re planning on going for the hot screenings. Only a limited number of tickets are sold online, so don’t give up if your choice appears sold out! You can try in person at Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, Kino International, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Audi City Berlin, or, for a €2 surcharge, at Eventim ticket offices like KOKA36. On the day of the screening, tickets are available only at the venue box office, where savvy students can get theirs for half-price.