Berlinale 2019: The lesser known films to watch out for, from Ghost Town Anthology to Talking About Trees
Ever heard of Sudanese cinema? The fact that you probably have not is the subject of the intriguing documentary Talking About Trees, that won big at the Berlinale.
With the doldrums of January out of the way, the movie season has officially begun with the Berlin Film Festival. Berlinale, for those who do not keep track is the most significant fest if you are into pure no-nonsense cinema discovery and discussion, minus the glam of Sundance and Cannes.
The festival this year did in fact come with a bit of drama when prolific Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s new film One Second was scrapped from screening because of technical reasons, but it has been widely accepted that this was done because the film is critical of the authoritarian Chinese government.
Back to the fest, India’s Gully Boy scored good reviews, while Nadav Lapid’s drama Synonyms won the Golden Bear at the fest. François Ozon’s By the Grace of God collected the Silver Bear Grand Jury trophy, 15 years after Ozon’s terrific 8 Femmes lost the competition. The fest also received some turkeys like Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers, which was widely panned, but on the other side of the spectrum was Varda by Agnes, which received universal acclaim as the film puts the legendary Agnes Varda in front of an autobiographical lens. Frame artist Prune Nourry made a splashy debut with Serendipity, an arthouse docu non fiction about her experiences with breast cancer.
Some of the other most buzzed-about titles include the films below.
The documentary by Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter puts large scale mining in the spotlight as it unfurls with its expressionist imagery as a full blown horror movie about a man-made ecological disaster. It is an especially timely film with the coral reef-murdering Adani mine being discussed to be initiated in Australia.
A group of young folks embedded deep in the Amazonian rainforest, who are a part of a cult that partakes in hallucinogenic mushrooms and hedonistic adventures, and are also trained with guns and other weapons as bandits. Colombian filmmaker Alejandro Landes’ new movie sure seems like a nice companion piece to the psychedelic thrills of Embrace of the Serpent, with the theme of lost innocence juxtaposed to terrifying survival thriller.
The Golden Glove
German-Turkish Fatih Akin, widely regarded as one of the most festival friendly modern filmmakers has churned out a ridiculously divisive movie — something he has never done before. The Golden Glove has been regarded by some critics as a thrilling film about a serial killer, and by others as a deeply abhorrent pile of garbage with no redeeming values. Both camps, however, agree that there is a busload of shock value, which makes us interested right away.
If you have ever visited a small town where the locals do not give you warm welcome, Mark Jenkins’ black and white arthouse film promises to offer a potentially fascinating perspective. Told from the point of view of a disgruntled fisherman upset about tourists ruining his industry, the film promises bizarre visuals and a darkly comedic tone in the vein of The Forbidden Room.
Narcos and Elite Squad (which won the Golden Bear in 2008) star Wagner Moura directs a thriller about Carlos Marighella, the revolutionary who led the uprising against Brazil’s dictatorship in the 1960s, which eerily comes at a time when Brazil has elected its own Donald Trump. The makers of the film have already expressed concerns about a release in Brazil considering how thin its new president Jair Bolsanaro’s skin is. A bit of trivia — this was the first time that the Brazilian Embassy did not hold a reception to commemorate Brazilian filmmakers at Berlinale, and there were 12 of them.
Ghost Town Anthology
There is nothing more mentally comforting than watching well-crafted horror films. Good horror coming out of fests is always an exciting topic to mash into. The title of Ghost Town Anthology speaks for itself. Shot in 16 mm stock, there is a classic charm to be found in the slow burn creeper that it ultimately is. There have been comparisons to episodes of The Twilight Zone, expect this one to travel to more fests and grab more eyeballs.
Agnieszka Holland makes some visually arresting films and her latest seems to continue the tradition — Mr. Jones chronicles the journey of a real life journalist who uncovers horrors committed by the Soviets in 1930s Ukraine. Needless to say, the historical documentation of fascist atrocities has never been more necessary. The fact that this bit of history inspired George Orwell to write Animal Farm makes it all the more interesting. James Noton has won praise for his performance as the journalist Gareth Jones who once had the dubious opportunity to interview Adolf Hitler.
Talking About Trees
Ever heard of Sudanese cinema? The fact that you probably have not is the subject of this intriguing documentary by Suhaib Gasmelbari, which revolves around the Sudanese Film Club, a group of rag tag filmmakers who try to reopen a once famous theater. As the club members reminisce about the old times and bemoan the Islamic uprising that forbids art from thriving, we are given a glimpse of Sudan’s cultural history and the fact that the world missed out on something significant from the country. The film won the Glashütte Original Documentary Prize at the fest.
All images from Twitter.
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