As the city of Berlin bursts with an influx of filmmakers, film lovers and gold and silver bears, we’re busy devouring the Berlinale 2017 schedule and deciding what we’re going to see over the coming week of movie madness. However, it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully Jack Howard, the founder of the Berlin Film Society and the Berlin Film Journal, has given us his top 5 Berlinale films to watch to give us a head start.
If you don’t have tickets to the Berlinale opening party however, you can attend the Berlin Film Society’s fifth birthday party where they’ll be screening F.W.Murnau’s masterpiece, Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans in the stunning Delphi cinema.
This timely documentary explores the history of racism in the US through James Baldwin’s reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. – with none other than Samuel L. Jackson lending his voice for the narration. Although it’ll no doubt get a good theatrical run, due to its recent Oscar nomination, I’m impatient and will certainly be queuing up for this as a much-needed cutting antidote to Trumpism.
Tiger Girl – Jakob Lass, Germany 2017
Jakob Lass is certainly a director worth watching. Lass first caught my attention with his low-budget second feature, Love Steaks, where his two lead actors were thrown into an actual hotel environment, with the establishment’s real personnel in all the supporting roles. In his follow up film, Lass continues to develop his own unique approach to filmmaking, with the lead actors again improvising many of the scenes, resulting in a fast-paced, docu-style that stands out.
Casting JonBenet – Kitty Green, USA / Australia 2017
The unsolved death of six year old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey is the starting point for this somewhat experimental documentary, which invites everyone in the girl’s Colorado home town community who had contact with the Ramsey family to explore their interpretations of what happened. Provocative in nature, the film digs deep into the conspiracies that surround JonBenet’s murder whilst resisting the traditional documentary format, confusing reality, fiction and drama.
Fluidø – Shu Lea Cheang, Germany 2017
The Berlinale is a great way to uncover rare new indie films that might struggle to get mainstream distribution. Fluidø might be one of those films – a dystopian adventure set in the post-AIDS future of 2060, where young men are hooked up to a system of cables and ordered to produce sperm for the production of pharmaceuticals that will dominate the market. Sounds wacky and, if nothing else, this Taiwanese filmmaker can at least boast the most original and intriguing synopsis of the festival.
Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman) – Sebastián Lelio, Chile / USA / Germany / Spain 2017
Chilean filmmaker, Sebastián Lelio, returns to the Berlinale with this striking film about a transgender woman whose lover, Orlando, suddenly dies one night. Orlando’s family feel threatened and struggle with her sexual identity, sidelining her in the aftermath of Orlando’s death. Lelio’s previous film, Gloria (2013), made waves at the 2014 Berlinale, winning a Silver Bear for actress Paulina Garcia and a nomination for Lelio himself. Una Mujer Fantástica will no doubt cause a similar stir in this year’s Competition section.