What to look out for at the Berlin Film Festival


Courtesy of IMDB

“First Cow.”

Now that the Sundance Film Festival has come and gone with immense grace and excitement towards what 2020 has to bring us cinematically, it is officially time for the International Festival circuit to boot up with the 70th Berlin International Film Festival. The first of many big European  fests to debut the newest works from the World’s best and brightest. Last year saw the debut of such hits as Nadav Lapid’s Golden Bear winning “Synonyms,” Angela Schlanelec’s masterful “I Was At Home, But…” (set to play at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Feb. 28th), Agnes Varda’s final documentary feature “Varda by Agnes,” and the stunning decades-in-the-making Aretha Franklin concert doc “Amazing Grace.” 

This year sees a grand jury at the forefront of the festival headed by Jeremy Irons with fantastic seasoned names like “Manchester by the Sea” filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, French actress Berenice Bejo (most well known for “The Artists”), Italian actor Luca Marinelli (fresh off acclaim for his performance in last year’s “Martin Eden”), and Brazillian filmmaker behind the buzzy upcoming “Bacurau” Kleber Mendoca Filho.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the biggest and most note-worthy films playing at the festival:

“Berlin Alexanderplatz” (Dir. Burhan Qurbani)

The most important and well-regarded book of the Weimar Republic about a murderer who is fresh out of prison who tries desperately not to succumb to the harshness of living in Berlin in the wake of Nazism gets a modern day update. The last time this film adapted for the silver screen was with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s masterful 1980 miniseries. While that may be hard to top, there is no doubt that Qurbani’s update will be just as relevant if not also just as masterful.

“First Cow” (Dir. Kelly Reichardt)

Kelly Reichardt’s small-scale and sensitive portrait of a blossoming friendship and business on the Oregon trail garnered universal acclaim at the Telluride Film Festival last August. It is poised to be a break out hit when it debuts in the United States on March 6th, which would be amazing for Reichardt who has been working as one of America’s best underground filmmakers.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Dir. Eliza Hittman)

One of Sundance’s biggest hits was this timely and very important portrait of two cousins on an impromptu road trip following an unplanned pregnancy. It opens in the United States on March 13th.

“The Roads Not Taken” (Dir. Sally Potter)

Another specialty release planned for a March bow is Sally Potter’s audacious and emotional tale about a father and daughter bonded by his deteriorating mental state as they both consider their past and potential futures. Potter has been one my favorite under-the-radar filmmakers with her experimental period piece “Orlando” being one of the most underrated films of its time. Hopefully this film strikes a chord and lands her on the map in a more substantial way.

“Siberia” (Dir. Abel Ferrara)

World renowned and controversial provocateur Abel Ferrara is back with his 6th collaboration with Willem Dafoe. Much of this film is under wraps though it is described on the website as “An exploration into the language of dreams.” Sounds like we’re all in for a delightfully idiosyncratic and twisty film. There’s really nothing more one could ask for out these two working together again.

“Undine” (Dir. Christian Petzold)

Famed German auteur Christian Petzold returns to the festival where he debuted his best film yet, “Transit,” in 2018. Now he re-teams with his two leads from that film for this modern take on the Undine myth centered around a water nymph who falls in love with a man. But if the man leaves her, she must kill him and return to the sea. It sounds every bit as thrilling and singular as what we’ve come to expect with Petzold.