Today begins the 60th iteration of this most impressive of fests. I leave Helsinki tomorrow for Berlin and will be covering the event for Hammer to Nail. Am I a bit overwhelmed at the prospect? Yes. But also very excited.
Throughout the following ten days, the festival will present films from around the world in a truly staggering program. The fest officially opens tonight with the world premiere of Wang Quan'an's Tuan Yuan (Apart Together) in the Berlinale Palast. The film program is divided into seven sections: Competition (major international films made for the big screen), Panorama (independent and art-house cinema with a deeply personal point-of-view), Forum (considered to be the most experimental section, offering a chance to discover highly original, provocative pieces), Generation (cinema aimed at young audiences), Perspektive Deutsches Kino (thematic and stylistic trends in German cinema), Berlinale Shorts and Retrospective (rediscovered classics in a program run and curated by the Filmmuseum Berlin - German Cinematheque). I'm happy to say that documentaries have now moved into areas once dominated by narratives and documentary film is becoming increasingly important in the Panorama and Forum sections, according to the festival directors. There are also numerous lectures and special presentations, the Berlinale Talent Campus, the European Film Market, the Berlinale Co-Production Market and the World Cinema Fund. Dizzying. So, on the advice of many, I will be exploring as many different sections, genres and events as possible and also taking in the city of Berlin, itself, since I'm a first-time visitor there.
The Panorama section, directed by Wieland Speck, will prove to be the most interesting for those of us who want to find and celebrate pieces of cinema that toy with boundaries between fiction and reality. The Generation program, in particular, highlights this effort to showcase how documentary and fiction, fantasy and reality transcend storytelling boundaries and genre. You can read an interview with programmers, Maryanne Redpath and Florian Weghorn, here.
As well, the Berlinale Shorts program, with 30 films, also sheds the conventional language of film with a diversity of forms and mixed media to tell short-form stories in fresh ways. You can read what section curator, Maike Mia Höhne, has to say about this year's program here.
The Berlinale Forum celebrates its 40th year and its retrospective is, well, spectacular. Retrospective was curated by film critic, David Thomson, and section head, Rainer Rother, says that, "Worldwide, he [Thomson] is considered to be one of the most respected film critics, not only among cinephile readers, but also amongst his fellow critics. . . . We knew that he was up to the task and would still make unique decisions."
More on SIM and HTN from Berlin soon. If anyone out there has any suggestions for me on not-to-be-missed films, I welcome that, too.