The Berlinale introduced its Best First Feature Award in 2006 and today, the festival’s announced the names of the three jury members who’ll watch debut features in five sections (Competition, Panorama, Forum, Generation or Perspektive Deutsches Kino) before selecting the winner of the 50K euro award: Fernando Eimbcke, Olga Kurylenko and Joshua Oppenheimer.
The Forum has now completed its full lineup “with a series of special screenings dedicated to historical films and re-discoveries as well as new films that grapple with cinema and film history.” With notes from the festival:
FORUM SPECIAL SCREENINGS
Tatiana Brandrup’s Cinema: A Public Affair. World premiere. “What are films and the cinema capable of accomplishing in the best case? There’s no one able to give a wiser answer to this complex question than Naum Kleiman. The Russian film historian and head of the legendary Eisenstein archive used to be the head of the Musey Kino in Moscow, which was closed in 2005.” This film “reconstructs the events leading up to Kleiman’s scandalous dismissal in summer 2014.” For more on all this, see the open letter to Dmitry Medvedev signed last fall by Mark Cousins, Tilda Swinton, Thierry Fremaux and many others.
Alejandro Galindo’s Cuatro contra el mundo (Four Against the World, 1950). “Regarded as the prototype for Mexican film noir,” the film “tells the story of group of gangsters forced to hide out in the attic flat of the girlfriend of one of their number following a hijack on a money transporter that ends violently. The burgeoning liaison between the femme fatale and the most cold-hearted and unapproachable of the crooks ultimately breaks with film noir convention and moves towards the realm of the melodrama.”
Dominik Graf’s Was heißt hier Ende? Der Filmkritiker Michael Althen (Then is It the End? The Film Critic Michael Althen). World premiere. A “tender portrait” of a friend. “Art and fairground, documentary and fantasy, everyday life and ecstasy—it was these contrasts that drew Michael Althen into the cinema.”
Leo Hurwitz’s Strange Victory (1948). “What did the victory over Hitler mean for the social harmony of US society?… A collage of documentary materials, newsreel footage, and re-enacted scenes, the film establishes that anti-Semitism and racism have very much survived in post-war America…. This seldom shown work put its director on Hollywood’s black list; after an original negative of the film was found, it is now ripe for rediscovery.”
Ha’makah ha’shmonim ve’ahat (The 81st Blow) by David Bergman, Haim Gouri, Jacques Ehrlich, Miriam Novitch and Zvi Shner. “The documentary consists of archival images and sound recordings of witness statements given during the Eichmann trial in 1961.” A shorter version was screened in the Forum in 1977.
Me’kivun ha’yaar (Out of the Forest) by Limor Pinhasov Ben Yosef, Yaron Kaftori Ben Yosef. “Reconstructs the events surrounding a series of mass shootings carried out in a forest in Lithuania, which took the lives of more than 100,000 largely Jewish victims between 1941 and 1944.” Screened in the Forum in 2004.
Louis de Witt’s Joe Bullet (1973). “Inspired in equal measure by the black pop culture of the time and the American Blaxploitation genre, Louis de Witt’s action-packed film about a manipulated cup final was one of the first to be shot with an all-black cast. Joe Bullet offered its audiences a vision of life that did not correspond to the reality of most black South Africans under Apartheid. Although the film was not overtly political, it was swiftly banned and not screened for an extended period of time. Now this unique work has been restored and can be shown once again.”
Tonie van der Merwe’s Umbango (The Feud, 1986). One of the “numerous so-called B-Scheme films, which were shot by mainly white producers for black audiences” and “one of the few Westerns still in existence from this period, a typical Wild West story about the battle between good and evil. With the exception of one solitary gringo (who is shot dead at the very beginning), this hugely entertaining film was also shot with an entirely black cast.”
Kon Ichikawa: Restorations
Enjo (Conflagration, 1958). Based on a novel by Yukio Mishima, it “tells of how a novice at a Kyoto monastery despairs at the priests’ double standards.”
Ototo (Her Brother, 1960). “Makes sophisticated use of color to give dramatic shape to this portrait of a young woman at risk of being crushed by her dysfunctional family.”
Yukinojo henge (An Actor’s Revenge, 1963). A “revenge drama set in the Kabuki milieu in which Ichikawa plays around with illusion and reality, weaving them together into a delirious widescreen work full of vivid colors.”
Generation Kplus has added “Sonthar Gyal’s touching story of a family,” Gtsngbo (River), “set in the Tibetan steppe,” to its lineup.
Generation 14plus will be presenting a drama series for the first time, Natasha Arthy’s Heartless. “An age-old curse lies over the siblings Sebastian and Sofie. Their search to solve the mystery of the curse leads them to Ottmannsgård, a gloomy old boarding school.”
Also added is Levan Akin’s Cirkeln (The Circle). “After a mysterious suicide at a high school, some of the girl students discover they have magical powers. This Swedish film, which was adapted from the first book in the successful Engelsfors Trilogy, was co-produced by Benny Andersson, of ABBA fame.”
Damon Gameau’s documentary That Sugar Film “shows the fatal consequences of consuming sugar, in an entertaining way.”
And: “For the 60th anniversary of DEFA Animated Films, Generation is screening a selection of beautifully crafted short films: cartoons, puppet and silhouette animations, all made at the DEFA studios in Dresden.”