Star-studded line-up unveiled for this year’s Berlinale film fest

New movies starring Diane Kruger, Martin Freeman and Catherine Deneuve and features directed by Hollywood actors Jonah Hill and Casey Affleck will take the spotlight at next month's Berlin film festival.

Star-studded line-up unveiled for this year's Berlinale film fest
Festival director Dieter Kosslick introducing the Berlinale line-up on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

The 11-day Berlinale, now in its 69th year, figures along with Cannes and Venice among Europe's A-list festivals. It will present some 400 movies from around the world before wrapping up on February 17.

This year's edition, which runs in the German capital from February 7th to 17th, will be the last led by Dieter Kosslick, who is handing over the reins after 18 years.

SEE ALSO: Juliette Binoche to head Berlin Film Festival jury

“The audio-visual world is in major, major turmoil and we'll have to see where the journey takes us,” Kosslick, 70, told reporters, referring to competition from streaming giants such as Netflix.

“But I think in future, film festivals will be more important than ever because you will see movies that you can't see anywhere else (on a big screen). I think they (streaming and festivals) will co-exist.”

Seventeen films will vie for the Berlinale's Golden and Silver Bear prizes, including a record seven by female directors such as Polish veteran Agnieszka Holland and Denmark's Lone Scherfig (“An Education”).

Scherfig will open the festival on February 7 with the bittersweet drama “The Kindness of Strangers” set in New York and starring Zoe Kazan, Andreas Riseborough and Bill Nighy.

French star Juliette Binoche will lead a jury including fellow Oscar winner Sebastian Lelio of Chile (“A Fantastic Woman”), British actress/director/producer Trudie Styler, Museum of Modern Art curator Rajendra Roy, German actress Sandra Hueller (“Toni Erdmann”) and US critic Justin Chang.

Kruger and Freeman are expected on Berlin's red carpet for the premiere of Israeli spy thriller “The Operative” by Yuval Adler.

Diane Kruger. Photo: DPA

Society without women 

Outside the main showcase, Affleck will premiere “Light of My Life”, a dystopian drama starring Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid's Tale”) and set in a society without women.

SEE ALSO: Movie directors call for drastic overhaul of Berlinale film festival 

Hill's directorial debut “Mid90s” will also screen in the Panorama sidebar section alongside “Skin”, starring Jamie Bell, about the US neo-Nazi scene and “The Souvenir” featuring Tilda Swinton and her real-life daughter Honor Swinton Byrne.  

Deneuve leads the cast of “Farewell to the Night” directed by Andre Techine and screening out of competition.

Turkish-German director Fatih Akin, who won a Golden Globe last year for his terrorism drama “In the Fade” starring Kruger, will premiere “The Golden Glove” about a killer in his hometown Hamburg.

China will be represented in competition with two features, “One Second” by Zhang Yimou and “So Long, My Son” by festival favourite Wang Xiaoshuai.

After winning the Golden Lion top prize at the Venice film festival in September with “Roma”, Netflix will enter the fray in Berlin for the first time with “Elisa and Marcela” by Spain's Isabel Coixet.  

Last year's Golden Bear winner was the sex docudrama “Touch Me Not” by Romania's Adina Pintilie. 

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7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers

To celebrate the works of women in the German film industry, and at the conclusion of this year's special outdoor Berlinale, we have compiled a list of seven must-watch German films directed by women. 

7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers
A scene from System Crasher. credit: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Peter Hartwig

This year’s Oscars marked the first time in its almost 100-year history that two female filmmakers – Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell – were nominated in the Best Director category. Only five women have ever been nominated for this award. Zhao took home the gong, becoming just the second woman ever to do so.

In 2021’s Berlinale Festival, 60 percent of the films in the Generation category were directed by women — with 75 percent of female filmmakers making up the Kplus selection (a category for younger audiences).

Here is a look at seven films by some of the most influential female directors in German cinema.

Never Sleep Again (1992) — Pia Frankenberg

Featured in Berlinale’s Retrospective series, meant to showcase female filmmakers, this film is written, directed and produced by Cologne-born filmmaker, Pia Frankenberg.

The film follows three female friends through post-unification Berlin, who are making their way to a wedding when their car breaks down. They wander through the streets of former East Berlin, roaming in and out of bars meeting men. 

The dilapidated sites of the former Cold War frontier city, still scarred by World War II, become a place for sheer endless personal experimentation where the women begin to reconfigure their lives and loves.

Frankenberg’s impressionistic portrait of three women in the city reflects on the state of the newly unified Germany, where for a moment all possibilities seemed radically open. (Available on Mubi, Binged)

The German Sisters (1981) — Margarethe Von Trotta 

Considered one of the classics of the New German Cinema movement, The German Sisters tells an intimate story of Germany. 

Based on the real-life story of the Enslein sisters, it is an expression of director Margarethe Von Trotta’s combination of the personal and the political. It’s the story of Juliane, a feminist journalist and her sister, Marianne, who is a terrorist revolutionary. The film, which won six awards at the Venice Film Festival including the Golden Lion, was Margarethe Von Trotta’s third film and first collaboration with Barbara Sukowa. The director-actor duo went on to do six more films together. (Available on Mubi, Prime)

Margarethe Von Trotta on set in 1975. Photo: dpa | Bertram

Toni Erdmann (2016) — Maren Ade 

Toni Erdmann is a German-Austrian comedy which was directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. The film, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, was named the best film of 2016. 

Meant to showcase the intricacies of a father-daughter relationship, the film pairs carefully constructed, three-dimensional characters in a tenderly funny character study. A hard-working woman reluctantly agrees to spend time with her estranged father when he unexpectedly arrives.

As a practical joker, the father does his best to reconnect by pretending to be her CEO’s life coach. (Available on Mubi, Kanopy, Prime, Vudu)

I Was at Home, But (2019) — Angela Schanelec 

I was at home, but (Ich war zuhause, aber) is a 2019 German drama film directed by Angela Schanelec. At the Berlinale that year, Schanelec won the Silver Bear for Best Director. 

The film is a story about a 13-year-old student, Phillip, who disappears without a trace for a week and suddenly reappears. 

It maps the existential crises his mother and teachers are confronted with that change their whole view of life. The film features several plots, which tell the stories of several people who are all connected to Phillip in some way. It has scenes with long silences, to contrast ones with heavy dialogue, which critics believe makes this film a cinematic masterpiece. (Available on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, or rent on YouTube).

The Audition (2019) — Ina Weisse

This film has been described as a symphonic study of human behaviour. It’s the story of a violin teacher, who takes great interest in mentoring a student for an audition. Anna, the violinist and teacher played by Nina Hoss, shows plenty of compassion toward the boy at first, but their relationship becomes much more strained as the date of Alexander’s audition nears and Anna begins to put him through musical torture. Come the day of the exam, events take a tragic turn. (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

Pelican Blood (2019) — Katrin Gebbe 

Pelican Blood is written and directed by Katrin Gebbe, who won the 2014 Preis der Deutschen Filmkritik (German Film Critics’ Prize) for her first film.

It tells the story of a woman who trains police horses. She adopts her second child, a severely traumatised five-year-old girl. When the girl shows violent and anti-social behaviour, her new mother becomes determined to help her.

The film has been described as raising fascinating questions – how do you draw boundaries for a child who seems to ignore them or even takes a perverse pleasure in overstepping them? What can you do as a parent when you realize that your love and protection aren’t enough? (Available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime)

System Crasher (2019) — Nora Fingscheidt

Another film about a rebellious child, System Crasher picked up a whopping eight German Film Awards after its release in 2019.

The film has a powerful political message about the inadequacies of the universal child care system. The protagonist, Benni, is a violent nine-year-old girl who suffers from psychotic episodes. Her key social worker, Frau Bafané, tries to get Benni into special schools or facilities; dozens turn her down and Benni is too young to be effectively sectioned as an inpatient.

In an interview with The Guardian, Fingscheidt says, “There’s a very German dimension to the film in the obsession with bureaucracy, with rules that need to be adhered to. Rules like, ‘this child cannot stay in this home because they are getting too emotionally attached,’ when that institution may be the first place where a child has begun to open up.”

The film has received an incredible amount of international recognition, garnering 45 international awards. (Available on Netflix)