The biggest problem with the 63rd Berlinale, Berlin’s international film festival, is knowing where to go and what to see. With over twenty venues and hundreds of events and screenings to choose from, the choice is bewildering. Here’s Berlin & I’s pick of what you should be watching and doing over the eleven-day festival.
Going for Gold
Among the films competing for this year’s Golden Bear, are the aptly-titled Gold, about German settlers in 19th-century Canada (Feb 9,10, 15 & 17); The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, with Shia LaBeouf and Til Schweiger (Feb 9, 10 & 17); and Matt Damon in Gus Van Zandt’s Promised Land. Showing out of competition are Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (the sequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Feb 11, 12 & 16); and Night Train to Lisbon, a thriller starring Jeremy Irons (Feb 13 & 14). All of them are more or less unmissable.
River Phoenix’s final film
The actor River Phoenix died too young, in 1993, leaving only a handful of films to showcase his brilliant talent. Now, nearly twenty years later, filmgoers are getting a chance to see his final film, incomplete at the time of his death, Dark Blood, a strange desert-set thriller. Director George Sluizier tried to enlist the help of Joaquin Phoenix to voice the scenes his brother didn’t finish, but the Phoenix family declined any involvement with the film. (Feb 14, 15 & 17)
An arthouse gem
The world premiere of the third in Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s highly-acclaimed interconnected trilogy, that have thus far covered the topics of ‘Love’ and ‘Faith’. Paradise: Hope is set in a fat camp in the Austrian mountains, where 13-year-old Melanie falls in love with the camp director, forty years her senior (Feb 8 & 9). Around 60 stills from Seidl’s trilogy are currently on display at c/o Berlin, alongside a fantastic retrospective of “the grandfather of modern Swedish photography” Christer Strömholm – the last exhibition at their home in the Postfuhramt in Mitte before they relocate to the Amerika-Haus in Charlottenburg.
If you despair at not being able to get a decent Indian curry in Berlin, here is the next best thing – Jadoo, a British comedy film about two feuding brothers who run rival curry houses in Leicester, showing as part of the ‘Culinary Cinema’ strand. Up-and-coming director Amit Gupta’s film is one of only three British entries at this year’s festival. (Feb 14)
Screenings at Friedrichstadt-Palast
Berlin has some of the best cinemas on the planet, but for Berlinale it adds one more to the list – the Friederichstadt Palast usually plays host to razzle-dazzle stage shows, but for the festival is converted into a gigantic cinema that seats nearly two thousand people. It’s an extraordinary space, where you get a fantastic view of the screen from just about any of the steeply-raked seats.
The red carpet
Keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks, and you might spot the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage, James Franco, Amanda Seyfried and Isabella Rossellini (who will be picking up a Berlinale camera award as well as presenting a retrospective screening of Casablanca, starring her mother Ingrid Bergman), all in town for the festival. If celebs on the red carpet isn’t your thing, then instead track down the Berlinale’s ‘Flying Red Carpet’, which will tour various arthouse cinemas during the festival, for special screenings with cast and crew in attendance of films from this year’s programme.
Full details at berlinale.de
– by David Hayles