As we are ever expanding, our most recent stop on the International film stage is the 66th Berlinale in the great city of Berlin, Germany. As usual, we have put together 10 films we consider to be must watch cinema, with 2016’s slate being particularly strong.
Drawing from the spectrum of the festival’s offering, our list features new films from a heavyweight trifecta of Joel & Ethan Coen, Wayne Wang and Spike Lee, alongside indie favorites Mia Hanse-Love, Jeff Nichols and Thomas Vinterberg. Film’s featured on this list are in no specific order, although ‘Hail,Caeasar‘ is awfully tempting to deem a “must watch.”
So, check out our list, tell us if you agree or if you have something you are particularly looking forward too. As usual, if you see us around, come over and say hi!
The 2016 Berlin International Film Festival takes place February 11-21, 2015 around Berlin, Germany.
In his new film Jeff Nichols may have changed genres but he remains true to himself. Midnight Special is an idiosyncratic mixture of science-fiction and family saga; at the same time, Nichols continues to explore the structures of violence and paranoia in small-town America, showing us both the influence wielded by arch-conservative sects and the powerlessness of the individual in the face of an aggressive state apparatus. The longer their flight continues, the more fantastical it becomes as we observe a loving father undertaking everything in his power to lead his son to his destiny a destiny that could also decide the fate of the entire world.
The Coen brothers’ alliance with George Clooney has already produced several zany comedies such as O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Burn After Reading. After True Grit (2011), the four-time Academy Award-winning directors are opening the Berlinale for the second time. Having mercilessly amused themselves at Hollywood’s expense once before in Barton Fink, their new work takes another unsparing look behind the scenes. Bringing together an impressive line-up of stars in front of the camera and with scenes from musicals, westerns and film noir, Hail, Caesar! is the ultimate tribute to the golden age of the studio system.
In America’s hip-hop scene Chicago has long been dubbed ‘Chi-Raq’ – a name that refers to the infamous South Side’s reputation as murder capital of the USA. Between 2001 and 2015, 7,356 people died here as a result of gun violence – a ‘national emergency’ as director Spike Lee tells us in big red letters. However, Chi-Raq is no naturalistic drama of fate but a big, bold, witty, satirical version of Greek poet Aristophanes’ classical comedy ‘Lysistrata’, enriched by plenty of music.
Genius is based on A. Scott Berg’s award-winning biography ‘Max Perkins: Editor of Genius’ which has been adapted for the screen by renowned scriptwriter John Logan (Skyfall). Making his cinematic debut with this journey back through time to the New York of the Roaring Twenties is successful London theatre director Michael Grandage.
After Submarino, which screened in Competition at the Berlinale in 2010, Thomas Vinterberg returns to Berlin with Kollektivet (The Commune). Loosely based on his own childhood experiences, the director depicts a private experiment from the 1970s in which community and individuality, freedom and tradition and the promise of happiness also harbour dangers.
War On Everyone
Irish director John Michael McDonagh will be familiar to Berlinale audiences through his sarcastic portrait of small-town cops The Guard and his quick-witted drama about sexual abuse in the church, Calvary. His latest film is a bitter, hyperactive, tragicomic trip against a crazy backdrop of references to cop films and crime series, with great music and two male leads who really take it to the limit.
A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery
Director Lav Diaz examines this myth and undertakes another expedition into the eventful history of his native land. The film’s various loosely interwoven narrative threads are held together by an exploration of the role of the individual in history and their involvement in political and social developments. The film’s high-contrast black-and-white photography makes the journey into the past abstract. Mythology, facts and a vibrant sense of history merge.
While The Women Are Sleeping
At night, while the women are asleep, the men sit by the pool and discuss Miki’s life and death. Kenji feels uneasy about pursuing his curiosity but is also beset by the fear of leaving the mysterious Miki to her own devices and is filled with the shame of being a prisoner of his fatal fantasies – notions of reality and possibility begin to shift within him and the carefree summer atmosphere becomes increasingly threatening. Seduction, betrayal, murder, insomnia and apparitions are the elements at play in Wayne Wang’s tense and masterful version of the eponymous short story by Spanish writer Javier Marías, which takes a bewitching look at the meaning of love.
After many years in Hollywood, Lee Tamahori returns to his native New Zealand to direct this adaptation of ‘Whale Rider’ author Witi Ihimaera’s novel. With Once Were Warriors star Temuera Morrison in the role of the family patriarch, Tamahori presents a stirring family drama set in a rural community governed by nature. The younger generation may be starting to part from an outdated old order but they still find a bedrock of support in the traditions and rituals of their Maori culture.
Mia Hansen-Løve’s fifth feature marks a departure from the topic of youth; instead she has chosen to explore the onset of age in a powerful yet also ironic portrait of a woman. The film revolves around questions of happiness, of having a vocation and the value or folly of established ways of living. It depicts not only one individual’s search for new avenues, it also asks if – and to what extent – philosophy can be applied to our everyday life.
– Steve Rickinson, with additional words by Berlinale programming staff