Berlin Film Festival unveils competition line-up

Photo: EPA

The 71st Berlin Film Festival opens online next month with a competition line-up shaped by the coronavirus crisis and including movies from award-winning directors such as Celine Sciamma, Xavier Beauvois and Hong Sangsoo, dpa reported.

The movies in the race for the Golden Bear - the Berlinale top prize for best picture - are also a celebration of European cinema, with only a handful of the 15 competition movies from non-European directors.

Announcing the line-up, Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian said the films had all been produced against the backdrop of the pandemic and demonstrated "a sense of apprehension" about the world. Chatrian said that "the disruption of the events of 2020 has led filmmakers to make the most of this situation and to create deeply personal films."

Along with French director Sciamma's "Petite Maman," five of the competition films are from female directors and co-directors.

A total of 16 countries are represented in the 15 competition movies' production, including Iran, Japan, Mexico, Germany, France, Georgia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Qatar and Canada.

But Chatrian has once again not included any Hollywood directors as part of the competition line-up.

The films are to be screened at a five-day industry event, which is largely open only to film industry professionals and opens on 1 March.

There are also no US independent filmmakers in the battle for the festival's main prizes, which are to be announced by a six- member jury during the industry event.

However, the movies selected feature several European stars such as Victor Belmondo, the grandson of legendary French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, as well as Germany's Tom Schilling and Sandra Huller.

Romania's Radu Jude also returns to Berlin six years after winning the festival's best director award for "Aferim," with his new film "Babardeala cu buclucsau porno balamuc" (Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn). Radu's film is about the consequences faced by a young school teacher after she inadvertently posts a sex clip online.

Germany's Daniel Bruehl, who shot to international fame with his starring role in "Goodbye, Lenin!" in 2003, makes his directorial debut with "Nebenan" (Next Door), which Chatrian said seeks to explore the contradictions of Berlin life.

A major international film festival would not be complete without an entry from Iran. The honour at this year's Berlinale falls to Behtash Sanaeehaand and Maryam Moghaddam for their story of turbulent family life in "Ghasideyeh gave sefid" (Ballad of a White Cow).

The Berlinale's coveted prizes are to be handed out at an award ceremony at what the festival calls its June summer special, which is to be open to a wider film-going public.

Launched in 1951, the Berlinale was forced to abandon its traditional February slot and to seek out digital alternatives due to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Berlin's decision followed similar moves by other film festivals.

Berlinale executive director Mariette Rissenbeek said on Thursday that after a year of the pandemic the festival recognized that both the industry and filmmakers were urgently looking for a platform to pursue their work.

"This was a major reason why it wasn't an option for us simply to cancel this year's festival," Rissenbeek said.

Movies to be screened in the festival's other sections - such as encounters, panorama and forum - have already been announced and are to be screened at the industry event alongside the competition films.

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