This year, a grand total of 18 films will be vying for Golden and Silver Bears in the Berlinale Competition. Here’s our guide to the hottest tickets in town.
Nana (Before, Now and Then)
D: Kamila Andini, Indonesia
After previous outings in the Generations and Talents sections, Indonesian director Kamila Andini finally enters the Berlinale Competition with the story of a woman in a relationship with a patriarchal philanderer. Our prediction to win the Golden Bear.
D: Carla Simón, Spain
Catalonian-Spanish director Carla Simón had to delay the shoot for her second feature due to the pandemic. Set in sun-drenched southern Catalonia, Simón tells a tale of family life and loss during what is set to be the final harvest of perfectly ripe peaches from the family farm.
Both Sides of the Blade
D: Claire Denis, France
After My Beautiful Inner Sun, the always audacious French filmmaker Claire Denis again teams up with equally unremitting writer Christine Angot for this romantic drama on love, passion and de- sire. Juliette Binoche seems to like the challenge of working with Denis.
D: Phyllis Nagy, United States
The Jane Collective was a feminist underground abortion service active in Chicago from 1969-73 and Phyllis Nagy secured a formidable cast for her period piece on an alarmingly topical issue: Elizabeth Banks, Kate Mara, Aida Turturro and Berlinale regular Sigourney Weaver star.
A Piece of Sky
D: Michael Koch, Switzerland
Swiss director Michael Koch took inspiration from a real-life story for his drama of an encounter that has extreme repercussions. A small Alpine village becomes the site of a seemingly untenable love story caught in the ramifications of a man’s life-changing illness.
Everything Will Be Ok
D: Rithy Panh, Cambodia, France
Rithy Panh is one of the great thinkers of cinema. The difficult history of his country Cambodia, ravaged by extremist totalitarian violence under the Khmer Rouge, infuses this essayist-experimental film about animals ruling over man.
D: Ursula Meier, France, Belgium, Switzerland
A restraining order is meant to resolve a family drama in Ursula Meier’s second entry into a Berlinale Competition, but instead cracks the fissures in a deeply conflicted family wide open. From one of the most important Swiss auteurs, expect a subtle, layered drama.
D: Paolo Taviani, Italy
When Vittorio Taviani died four years ago, the legendary directing partnership of the Taviani brothers was no more. But Paolo continues to work: Leonora addio is about the murder of a boy in Brooklyn, a homage to the great Sicilian writer Luigi Pirandello.
D: Ulrich Seidl, Austria, Germany, France
Austrian super auteur Ulrich Seidl is famous for his trademark aesthetics and this time around he enters into Fellini territory. The famous coastal city serves as a backdrop for an Austrian family drama that in Seidl’s hands should be both grim and absurd in equal measure.
Passengers of the Night
D: Mikhaël Hers, France
Charlotte Gainsbourg stars in this Parisian drama about Elisabeth, a newly single mother of two teenage kids who takes on a night job to support her family. Life becomes unsettled when Elisabeth adopts a free- spirited outsider named Talulah.
Peter von Kant
D: François Ozon, France
François Ozon is probably one of the most versatile directors in world cinema. His talent stretches in all directions, in this case back to Fassbinder, one of his long-standing interests. The Berlinale’s opening film is a pastiche of the classic The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush
D: Andreas Dresen, Germany
Andreas Dresen offers a throwback to the era after 9/11, when random people from all over the world ended up in US extraterritorial prison camp Guantanamo. With the familiar partnership of Dresen and scriptwriter Laila Stieler, expect a satirical subversion of the war on terror.
A E I O U – A Quick Alphabet of Love
D: Nicolette Krebitz, Germany
Lexicon of Love was once a great album by the British band ABC. In the hands of Nicolette Krebitz we can expect a 21st century reboot: Sophie Rois falls for her one-time assailant, newcomer Milan Herms, in this take on the messiness of young love.
The Novelist’s Film
D: Hong Sang-soo, South Korea
Even for veteran Korean director Hong Sang-soo, famous for his intricately reflective films, this entry’s title alone is promising. Cinematic and literary storytelling rolled into one, the film begins with a portentous visit to a bookstore.
That Kind of Summer
D: Denis Côté, Canada
This drama by French-Canadian director Denis Côté, a Berlinale veteran, follows three women as they explore the complexities of sexuality in a countryside retreat. German actor Anne Ratte-Polle plays the therapist.
Robe of Gems
D: Natalia López Gallardo, Mexico, Argentina, United States
Newcomer Natalia López Gallardo from Mexico gets her Berlinale debut straight into the Competition: a drama (or should we hope for a thriller?) about three women who get sucked into the drug trafficking trade in Mexico.
One Year, One Night
D: Isaki Lacuesta, Spain, France
The story of a young couple who survived the Bataclan terrorist attack in 2015, Lacuesta’s film is based on an autobiographical book published in Spain. Look out for Noémie Merlant from Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire.
Return to Dust
D: Li Ruijun, China
Li Ruijun has established himself as an important storyteller from rural China. His Competition entry tells the story of a couple trying to cope with an arranged marriage in what might turn out to be more of a loving tribute to the landscape.