Tickets for this year’s Berlinale go on sale today. Tickets for the 2022 edition can be booked exclusively online and are available three days in advance, always from 10am. Everyday, you can head over to the programme, click on a ticket button and be forwarded to the ticketing partner Eventim in order to book your tickets.
Navigating the expansive and somewhat labyrinthine Berlinale programme can often feel like wading through treacle, and this three-day-in-advance ticketing system isn’t making things any easier, so allow us to give you a head start for the sidebar films of this 72nd edition.
Here are our favourite titles we’ve already had the pleasure of seeing and that you shouldn’t miss.
UNE FLEUR A LA BOUCHE (Forum)
Curatively independent and part of the Arsenal (Institute for Film and Video Art), the Forum section boast experimental and risk-taking fare. It’s traditionally a harder sell compared to other sections, but one of this year’s standouts is Éric Baudelaire’s Une Fleur à la Bouche (A Flower in the Mouth). Very much a film of two mesmeric halves, the first is a documentary observation of a Dutch flower market. We witness how flowers are sorted, bunched into machines and transported in trolleys through warehouses, progressively aware without being told explicitly of the dichotomy between the natural beauty of flowers and the act of giving them, and industrial exploitation linked to their consumption.
The second half is a freely adapted scenario based on Luigi Pirandello’s 1923 play about the man with the flower in his mouth, played here by Malian-French hip-hop artist Oxmo Puccino, who observes Parisian life and engages in a conversation with a stranger at a bar. Themes regarding the absurdity of life, the importance of stopping and staring, and the question of the individual when faced with mortality are explored. While all this may seem like it’s erring dangerously close to pretentious, the end result is anything but. Une Fleur à la Bouche is a beautifully experimental and gently compelling film that should be top of your bookings list.
Screenings on Feb 12, 13, 18, 20.
BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER (Panorama)
Based on her lecture ‘Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Oppression’, Nina Menkes’ Panorama documentary posits that we’re drowning in “a powerful vortex that is difficult to escape”, that of the male gaze in cinema. Through a wealth of footage ranging from Hitchcock to Lynch and various interviews with filmmakers, academics and psychoanalysts, Menkes explores the objectification and sexualisation of the female body on screen and how a global hypnosis acts like propaganda for the patriarchy. Its TED Talk structure and style can often feel a bit clumsy – a more disembodied narrator and the full embracing of film clips, as seen in Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, could have elevated this well-researched documentary to the ranks of vital.
However, Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power does what it sets out to do. It crams a lot into its 107-minute runtime and the way it delves into a wider culture of misogyny is important: connections are established between film language and the #MeToo movement, the industry’s failings in equal employment opportunity, and the normalisation of rape culture. These wider issues mean that the documentary will stay with you, especially when digesting the output of so many filmmakers in the context of a film festival.
Screenings on Feb 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20.
ALLONS ENFANTS (ROOKIES) (Generation)
Unique on the festival circuit and at times unfairly dismissed by some as the “kids section”, Generation champions films that are youth-centric, but definitely not just for kids. The opening film of this year’s programme is Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai’s Allons Enfants (Rookies). Set in Paris, this documentary sees students trained to become professional dancers while preparing for their A-levels. “The Turgot is not a country club”, warns the principle. “Here, we don’t give in and we don’t give up.”
It’s a fascinating story that focuses on the lives of the students, their backstories, dreams and struggles in social environments and school, and interrogates the masculinity inherent to hip-hop. Demaizière and Teurlai deftly intertwine moments of energy with more introspective beats, and the way the camera films the dance sequences is wonderfully immersive, plunging you at the heart of their lives and passion. Hip-hop is here both a language and an outlet. It’s a very strong start to the Generation section and not one to miss.
Screenings on Feb 10, 11, 14, 18, 19.
MILLIE LIES LOW (Generation)
Sticking with the Generation section, one of the strongest entries this year is Berlinale Talents alumna Michelle Savill’s debut film, Millie Lies Low, which follows a recent architecture graduate who is about to start a new chapter in her life by leaving Wellington for New York, where a prestigious internship awaits her. Except she has a panic attack right before take-off and gets off the plane. Unwilling to admit to her friends or family what’s happened, she starts to lie and constantly struggles to stay one step ahead of the truth. Millie’s absurd and increasingly tragic spiralling keeps you glued to the screen and her story benefits in no small part from the script’s terrific dry humour. It also subtly injects a commentary on the role of social media in our daily deceptions and how we are all prone to self-sabotage when we lose sight of the privileges we have and frequently forget. It’s everything you’d want from a smart coming-of-age story and without a doubt a must-see in the Generation section this year.
Screenings on Feb 13, 14, 17, 18, 20.
TA FARDA (UNTIL TOMORROW) (Panorama)
Directed by Ali Asgari, Ta Farda (Until Tomorrow) follows Fereshteh, who has a two-month-old baby her parents don’t know about. When they suddenly announce that they’re coming to visit, she has to find a place for her illegitimate child for one night. Backed by her friend Atefeh, the two women embark on an odyssey through Tehran and realise to what extent their options are limited, especially in a society that shuns women (in particular those who lead a life removed from traditional family structures) and makes finding allies difficult. Set over the course of a single day, Ta Farda is a taut, consistently engaging ride that never falls into didacticism; the social critique regarding the deeply entrenched patriarchal structures that shape Iranian society is present but never overpowers what is first and foremost a gripping story about a mother faced with increasingly impossible choices. Not one worth skipping.
Screenings on Feb 14, 15, 18, 19, 20.
BERDREYMI (BEAUTIFUL BEINGS) (Panorama)
This Icelandic coming-of-age drama is one of the best feature films in Panorama this year. It starts off as a bullying drama and ambitiously widens its focus to explore friendship, repressed anger, and the choices we make that may lead to our future undoing. Icelandic director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson depicts a group of fourteen-year-olds who either break from gender-normative codes or decide to adhere to the violence that may risk defining their lives. Unpredictable in some of its turns and totally engaging throughout, thanks to the efforts of a young cast who are note-perfect, Berdreymi never once betrays the complexity of adolescent messiness and beautifully punctuates painful moments with understated bursts of tenderness. An absolute highlight that’s bound to leave you shaken.
Screenings on Feb 11, 12, 17, 18, 20.
HAPPER’S COMET (Forum)
Another tantalizingly cryptic gem from the Forum section this year is a 62-minute-long reverie that dispenses with any kind of dialogue. Happer’s Comet is director Tyler Taormina’s second film after 2019’s Ham On Rye. It starts off with shades of Blue Velvet, teasing that we may be about to explore the rotting underbelly of picket fenced communities. What follows does plunge us into the private lives of a community, but minus the seediness. It is a night-time exploration of small-town suburban America, where not everyone is sleeping: some sneak about their houses, others do press-ups, a few go out roller-skating, and several head towards the cornfields…
Filmed during the pandemic, this beautiful mosaic explores isolation and the distances that paralyse lives in a gentle and enticingly obtuse way. The way the camera evocatively navigates spaces is haunting, borderline ominous, and instils a dirge-like feeling that truly stays with you. Much like the inhabitants of this suburban space who gravitate towards a same place at the end of the film, Happer’s Comet is a shared dream you’ll want to head to the cinema and share with others. It won’t be for everyone, but if you get on its wavelength, there are rewards aplenty here.
Screenings on Feb 13, 14, 17, 19.
GENERATION AFRICA DOCUMENTARIES: NOUS ETUDIANTS! – NO U-TURN – NO SIMPLE WAY HOME (Panorama)
Three documentaries this year in Panorama are part of the Generation Africa film project, a unique collection of documentaries which aims to produce a new narrative on migration through stories made by African filmmakers. These films explore the consequences of migration, the current changes in society, as well as the give a voice to the new generation of young Africans and how they see their future in their countries. All three are worth booking tickets for.
Nous, Étudiants! (We, Students!) is Rafiki Fariala’s insightful look at the everyday life of four economic students of Bangui University and explores what the realities of life in the Central African Republic look like once students have graduated, and if future generations can shape a system that demands so much of them.
No U-Turn is a soulful and thought-provoking look at migration that may surprise audiences due to the frequently poetic tone it strikes. It sees Nigerian director Ike Nnaebue retrace the steps of the journey he embarked on 21 years earlier, leaving Nigeria behind and heading to Europe, via Benin, Mali, Mauritania and Morocco. Through interviews and his very candid and self-reflexive narration, he explores what motivates young people to expose themselves to the dangers of such an ordeal. It’s an impressive, heartfelt and hopeful look at a topic that so often limits itself to news clips for Western audiences.
Possibly the strongest of the three, however, is No Simple Way Home, from South Sudanese filmmaker Akuol de Mabior. Her first feature-length documentary is a deeply personal and eye-opening look into her family, which is intimately connected to the history of Sudan. Her late father, John Garang de Mabior, was the founding father of South Sudan, and we see how her mother is sworn in as vice-president and her sister is engaged with distributing aid to flood victims. It’s a family story as well as one about the search for answers and a home in a country torn by civil war. No Simple Way Home is a remarkable achievement and one of the best documentaries you’re likely to see during the 72nd Berlinale.
TAKE A LETTER, DARLING (Retrospective)
This year’s Retrospective section – which was postponed last year due to the pandemic – is truly one of the highlights of the 72nd Berlinale and will no doubt serve as a soothing balm, especially when faced with the sprawling programme.
Curated by the Deutsche Kinemathek and entitled ‘No Angels – Mae West, Rosalind Russell & Carole Lombard’, the Retrospective is a selection of 27 films made during the heyday of the screwball comedy (from 1932 to 1943) and which show how these three leading comediennes of their era had the power to shape their own roles and make their mark in Hollywood’s studio system.
There are too many to recommend – from the 4K screening of the 1936 Gregory La Cava film My Man Godfrey, with Carole Lombard playing an heiress who stumbles upon true love during a scavenger hunt, to the world premiere of the recently restored version of the 1934 Mae West classic Belle of the Nineties, or even the Howard Hawks screwball masterpiece His Girl Friday, starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant.
However, choose to book tickets for the 35mm screening of the underseen Mitchell Leisen film, Take A Letter, Darling. Starring Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray, it sees Russell play a tough advertising executive who hires a struggling painter as her secretary / nocturnal escort to secure deals and calm suspicious wives of potential clients. Anyone can guess where it goes from there, but it’s a delightful comedy that subverts gender clichés and will make you want to go out and discover more from Hollywood’s golden era and Russell’s filmography.
Screenings on Feb 13 & 19
Frequently the most enlivening part of many festivals, short films are not worth overlooking. This year’s thematically and aesthetically eclectic selection of Berlinale Shorts is segmented into 5 programmes. Our favourites include:
STARFUCKERS (Programme I)
Antonio Marziale’s fantastic short film Starfuckers takes place in a Hollywood villa. There, an escort and his accomplice turn the tables on the film director customer, who promised to make him a star. It’s a uniquely playful revenge movie of the queer kind that wrestles with the film industry’s endemic issues and by flipping the power dynamics through a drag lip-synch that is one of the most memorable in the Shorts programme this year, manages to comment on the #MeToo era – and the abuse of privilege in a broader sense – in an empowering way.
HAULOUT (Programme IV)
Another highlight of this year’s Shorts selection is Haulout, a Russian-UK co-production by Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev that surprises and mesmerises in equal measure. We are faced with a man (who we discover to be a biologist) waiting in a hut in the desolate expanse of the Russian Arctic. There, he observes a natural event that you won’t see coming and that almost feels like a home invasion thriller. Haulout is an impressively filmed and powerful piece that sheds light on a consequence of climate change that few know about and even fewer have seen. It’s nothing short of unmissable.
WILL MY PARENTS COME TO SEE ME (Programme IV)
This short from Somalia, directed by Mo Harawe, is one of the most captivating entries this year. It sees a young inmate being described – and going through – the prescribed procedures on the day of his death. “Will my parents come to see me?”, he asks. It’s a quietly devastating short that has a destabilising gentleness to its rhythm for most of its runtime. The final shots, where POVs are switched, are gripping and only get more so once the film ends and the implications finally hit you.
There we have it. Get booking your tickets and stay tuned to our daily Berlinale coverage during the festival for more reviews and fresh takes from this year’s Competition. For further information on screening dates, times and locations, check out the Berlinale programme here.