Golda Meir was the first woman to become head of government in Israel, and although she shattered that glass ceiling, she was also a problematic leader. Although she strongly identified with Judaism culturally, but was an atheist in religious belief which didn't prevent her from being a fervent Zionist. Yet, as the head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, Meir called the mass exodus of Arabs (the "Nakba") before the War of Independence in 1948 "dreadful", and she likened it to what had befallen the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Israeli US based filmmaker Guy Nattiv has made a UK-backed biopic about Meir, simply titled Golda, which stars the great Helen Mirren as the late leader with a supporting cast that includes Liev Schreiber. The film screens as part of the Berlinale Special program and is great company, with Mario Martone's ode to the late great Italian actor and director Massimo Troisi titled Laggiù qualcuno mi ama (Massimo Troisi: Somebody Down There Likes Me) and L'ultima notte di Amore (Last Night of Amore) by Andrea Di Stefano, starring Pierfrancesco Favino also in the lineup. Nattiv previously directed the 2018 Oscar winning live action short film Skin.
The shorts, which are usually filled with great MENA titles, this year feature stories from the Levant, but produced in Europe. Such is the case with the Netherlands backed Back (pardon the pun) by Yazan Rabee. The synopsis for it reads: "He has left his Syrian homeland, but he cannot escape from a recurring nightmare where state security forces are pursuing him whilethe home that can save him seems beyond his grasp. How deep into the past do the roots of a trauma reach?"
As well as the French backed Les chenilles by Michelle Keserwany, Noel Keserwany. This film's synopsis reads: "Two women meet as waitresses and tentatively become friends. They are both from the Levant and are now living in exile in France. Afilm about the historical, geographical and economic impact of silk production, about exploitation and female solidarity."
In the Forum Special section, a newly restored feature-length work which explores Black culture. The Harvard Film Archive has restored Dick Fontaine’s 1982 documentary I Heard It through the Grapevine. With James Baldwin by his side, the filmmaker travels through the southern states of the USA to find out what has become of the promises of the civil rights movement.
Also in the Forum Special program is Korhan Yurtsever’s 1979 feature Kara Kafa (Black Head) which was shot in Germany and banned for a long time in Turkey. The censorship board were of the opinion that it damaged “the honour of Germany, the nation to which we are bound in friendship”. Now the restored version of the film is receiving its premiere. Yurtsever observes how married couple Cafer and Hacer from Turkey develop different interests almost as soon as they arrive in Germany. While Cafer gradually loses his bearings, Hacer gets involved in a migrant women’s group and tries out the promise of intersectionality way before the concept had become established.
A man also loses his bearings in Sohrab Shahid Saless’ black-and-white Ordnung (All in Order) from 1980, although Saless is concerned with exploring the rigidities and neuroses of the Germans. Born in Iran, the director created an oeuvre that is one of the most radical produced by German cinema in the 1970s and 1980s: Ordnung (All in Order) is a vivisection, with the camera as the scalpel.
For the full list of films announced so far, check out the Berlinale website. The complete list will be announced on February 7th.
Header image from 'Golda', photograph by © Jasper Wolf, used with permission.