– This anticipated edition of the festival sees new work from established auteurs like Olivier Assayas and Mati Diop, whilst Adam Sandler, Kristen Stewart and Renate Reinsve will light up the red carpet

The 2024 Berlinale arrives this winter amidst particularly turbulent times. The ongoing Israel-Hamas war has left festivals like Berlin stranded between their role as high-profile, state-funded public events, and the political loyalties of their artists and audiences. And the historical and local resonances of the German festival to this conflict go without saying.

On a far less consequential scale, the festival itself is gearing up for transition, with popular artistic director Carlo Chatrian enjoying his final edition after his contract was not renewed; he has responded by offering a line-up – one of the festival’s most impressive “on paper” for years – that highlights his celebrated taste and pursuit of artistic risk. Past heroes of former Chatrian-helmed events stud the competition sections, not forgetting the jury choices, where Albert Serra should be an opinionated contributor as the prizes are weighed up. Tricia Tuttle, the former head of the BFI London Festival, will take charge for the 2025 edition and beyond, where a move away from its Potsdamer Platz hub is also being assessed for the future.

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Cineuropa will be offering its customary extended coverage of the fortnight; here are ten standouts from the line-up that caught our eye. See you at the Palast, where we fully expect the festival to make good on its promise, amidst troubling world events, to open a “sincere dialogue”.

A FamilyChristine Angot

(France – Encounters)

Autofiction becomes auto-cinema in the great French novelist’s cinematic debut. Returning to the territory of her novels like Incest and An Impossible Love, Angot travels to Strasbourg to interview the family of her father, who sexually assaulted her as a teenager. Rumoured to have explosive contents and revelations, this official directorial debut finds her fully occupying the cinema space, following adaptations of her work by Claire Denis and Catherine Corsini.
Premieres 12:30, Sunday 18 February, at Akademie der Künste.

Suspended TimeOlivier Assayas

(France – Competition)

This is technically a “period” film, being set but not shot in the lockdown era, and is apparently a real return to form from the veteran French auteur. Vincent Macaigne is the Assayas-like director, self-isolating with his music-journalist brother (played by Micha Lescot) in their deceased parents’ plush country home. That may not be strictly “relatable” for many audiences, but there should be some great, neurotic gab.
Premieres 22:00, Saturday 17 February, at Berlinale Palast.

PepeNelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias

(Dominican Republic/Namibia/Germany/France – Competition)

Set to be the true, left-field oddity of the Berlinale Competition, Colombian director de Los Santos Arias takes us into the consciousness of the titular hippo, shifted from its homeland of Africa to live on the grounds of drug lord Pablo Escobar’s estate. Pepe encounters many individuals and stories, as it awaits death as the “first and last of its kind to be slain in the Americas”. The filmmaker is one of a few from this line-up to have achieved notice at past editions of Locarno, when Chatrian was previously artistic director.
Premieres 15:30, Tuesday 20 February, at Berlinale Palast.

DahomeyMati Diop

(France/Senegal – Competition)

The royal statues and figures from Dahomey, an ancient kingdom within present-day Benin, have been repatriated to their home from France, and the Cannes Grand Prix winner was on call to document their journey. Expect a vibrant, boundary-defying blend of non-fiction and fiction, with the statues themselves voicing inner monologues, plus deconstructed club scoring by Dean Blunt and Wally Badarou.
Premieres 15:45, Sunday 18 February, at Berlinale Palast.

The Empire [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
Bruno Dumont

(France/Italy/Germany/Belgium – Competition)

A key publicity still from The Empire says it all: what in English slang would be called a “regular bloke” is standing in front of Dune [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
-like intergalactic vessels docking on a beach. Is Dumont capable of truly surprising us with another bold left turn – this time into convoluted space opera – or will this just be an amusing divertissement?
Premieres 22:00, Sunday 18 February, at Berlinale Palast.

Love Lies BleedingRose Glass

(USA/UK – Berlinale Special)

When Kristen Stewart took up the Competition jury president role last year, observers noted that she didn’t have a strong previous association with the Berlinale. But here she is again, ready for the red carpet, leading alongside Katy O’Brian in Rose Glass’s female-bodybuilding thriller. With apparently shocking and titillating content in store, an amusing tweet following its Sundance premiere mentioned that it was brave for the director to proverbially show off her search-engine history.
Internationally premieres 21:00, Sunday 18 February, at Verti Music Hall.

ArchitectonViktor Kossakovsky

(Germany/France/USA – Competition)

Kossakovsky has progressed closer to being a true documentary “name” with Aquarela [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Victor Kossakovsky
film profile
]
and especially the porcine tragedy Gunda [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
. Now, he bows in competition at a big-three festival for the first time, with this ambitious-sounding study of no less than “rocks and stone”. Or, to be more specific, classical and ancient architecture, what endures of it and what lies in ruin.
Premieres 15:30, Monday 19 February, at Berlinale Palast.

I Saw the TV GlowJane Schoenbrun

(USA – Panorama)

This list-maker has seen this one, and it’s simply a great film. It’s undoubtedly not for everyone, though: a colleague sitting behind me at the screening assessed it as just “drivel”. It’s the anticipated sophomore feature of trans director Jane Schoenbrun, following two American teens in a suburban backwater in 1996, dangerously obsessed with a Buffy-like show invented for the film entitled The Pink Opaque. But this rich and powerful work expands into a universally applicable reckoning with trans issues, and the odd connections we form to beloved media that make us feel seen.
Internationally premieres 21:00, Tuesday 20 February, at Zoo Palast 1.

IvoEva Trobisch

(Germany – Encounters)

Festival watchers from the past half-decade or so were pleased to see the long-awaited second feature by Eva Trobisch in the Encounters section. The director impressed at Chatrian’s Locarno in 2018 (to cite a strong motif) with All Good [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, a drama on the aftermath of a young woman’s sexual assault. Ivo is also a close-to-the-bone character portrait, focusing on a palliative care nurse forced to confront tough end-of-life decisions – a synopsis not far removed from Michel Franco’s Cannes winner Chronic [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
.
Premieres 16:15, Tuesday 20 February, at Akademie der Künste.

Sleep with Your Eyes OpenNele Wohlatz

(Brazil/Taiwan/Argentina/Germany – Encounters)

Wohlatz’s excellent The Future Perfect travelled quite far for such a modest, if intellectual, rigorous work. The German-born director – who studied and has conducted her career in Latin America – returns with another subtly shaded look at cross-cultural connections, as it tracks various young Chinese expats in Recife, Brazil (the city made famous to international audiences by filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho). Its placing early in the schedule promises a well-realised piece that can withstand the critical corps’ scrutiny.
Premieres 12:30, Saturday 17 February, at Akademie der Künste.

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