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  • Berlinale 2021 Talents: What not to miss this year


Berlinale 2021 Talents: What not to miss this year

Our film editor leads us through the must-see talks, panels and workshops hosted digitally by Berlinale's biggest stars.

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Welket Bungué in Mudança © Kussa Productions

While the first part of this year’s Berlinale (March 1-5) will go online for industry professionals, don’t think that Berlin’s famous film festival has shut out the public completely. Several online events are open to all and will more than quell audience hunger for cinematic immersion until the summer event in June.

Leading the festivities is the Berlinale Talents section, which offers encounters between artists and the film-loving public in its public programme, including a series of talks, panels and workshops. As highlighted in the press statement for this year’s 19th edition, regarding the important possibilities for active audience participation: “Cinema theatres across the world may be closed, but filmmakers still need to be heard and seen.”

Indeed, from March 1 to 5, Berlinale Talents will host approximately 50 virtual events led by 205 ‘Talents’: directors, producers, actors, screenwriters, cinematographers, editors, sound designers and film critics from 68 countries. Some of this year’s biggest names include prominent international filmmakers like Céline Sciamma (Girlhood, Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Thai filmmaker and Berlinale regular Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Cemetery of Splendour), and Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th, When They See Us). Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson, Dick Johnson Is Dead) is guiding Berlinale Talents this year throughout as a mentor in the Camera Studio. We recently interviewed her about her Oscar-shortlisted Netflix documentary and her upcoming role in this year’s Talents section.

All events will take place virtually – live and cost-free – with streaming at berlinale-talents.de and via social media platforms.

Here are the 6 dates that have piqued our interest, and that you absolutely shouldn’t miss (with the whole programme presented in the opening ceremony on Feb 28 at 17:00):

March 1: “Dream On: New Cinema, New Voices!”

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Ava DuVernay © Danielle Levitt / Glamour UK

For over an hour, panellists Ava DuVernay (13th, When They See Us), Takeshi Fukunaga (whose first feature, Out Of My Hand, premiered in the Panorama section of the 65th Berlinale) and directors Hepi Mita and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (whose film The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open premiered at the Berlinale in 2019) talk about how powerful cinema can be when art is endowed with political intent. Pressing issues like the underrepresentation of people of colour, women filmmakers and varied voices in American and global cinema will be discussed. (Starts at 16:00)

March 1: “Dream On: Kirsten Johnson”

American documentary filmmaker and cinematographer Kirsten Johnson is best known for her camera work on documentaries such as Citizenfour and The Oath. Her 2016 collage-style doc Cameraperson chronicled her work as a cinematographer and was praised for its themes of documentary ethics. Her third documentary, Dick Johnson Is Dead, premiered in 2020 at Sundance, where it received a special award for innovation in nonfiction storytelling. It is currently on Netflix and has been shortlisted for the 2021 Oscars for Best Documentary. In this special session, she will talk about “the detailed dreams that surface in the depths of her documentarian mind”. Make sure to read our interview with Johnson. (Starts at 18:30)

March 2: “In Contact: The Politics of Moving Bodies”

Join Portuguese-Guinean actor and director Welket Bungué (Berlin Alexanderplatz), whose latest work Mudança is part of this year’s Forum Expanded, for an hour-and-a-half long talk with Natascha Noack, a “traveller between the realms of dance, movement, language and film”. The chat will touch upon the incursion of the digital reality into our physical lives and how this pushes us to rethink the relationship to our bodies and those of others. (Starts at 13:00)

March 2: “Ears Wide Open: A Global Sound Journey”

The first half of this webinar gives audiences a chance to give their Zoom-eroded eyes a break, and focuses instead on their ears. It’s an “acoustic journey” composed of live field recordings from 62 countries, collected by sound enthusiasts during the pandemic. Beyond the visual break, it invites participants to “actively question what we hear when we listen with intent”. The second half will feature sound designers from around the globe – including Rana Eid (sound designer and sound editor of You Will Die At 20 and Honeyland), Tim Nielsen (best known for his work on Avatar and Vaiana) and Alastair Sirkett (sound designer for Macbeth and Les Misérables) – who will discuss their craft, as well as the social and political aspects of their work. (Starts at 18:30)

March 3: “Dream On: Golden Bear Jury”

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Adina Pintilie © Dirk Michael Deckbar – Berlinale 2018

This year’s International Jury, composed of Ildikó Enyedi, Nadav Lapid, Adina Pintilie, Mohammad Rasoulof and Jasmila Žbanić, are joined by the festival’s Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian for a roundtable that will address “the dreamlike dimensions of their work, whether poetic or political”. Tune in, but don’t expect any insider scoops regarding the upcoming awards, which will be announced on March 4 for Shorts and Generation, and March 5 for Encounters and Competition. (Starts at 18:30)

March 5: “Talents Talk: Céline Sciamma”

French writer-director Céline Sciamma, whose eagerly-awaited fifth feature film Petite Maman is in this year’s Competition section, continues to explore the evolving facets of gender expression and self-discovery in her films. Her previous film, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, was our favourite film of 2019, a deeply beautiful and emotionally refined evocation of deep human connection that took these themes of friendship and desire to new heights. She treats Talents with her presence this year, talking about the realities of writing and directing: the disparate notes that lead to a story, then to a screenplay, and ultimately a film. It’s certainly not one we’ll be missing out on. (Starts at 18:30)

There you have it. Make sure to tune in and check out the full programme for Berlinale Talents here, and don’t miss out on our interview with Berlinale’s Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian, as well as our full rundown of this year’s festival programme.