As the Berlinale's latest press release states "The features showing at the 53rd Berlinale Forum can be loosely divided into two groups: films that pare down their narratives, avoid big dramatic shifts and give a key role to the composure of camerawork and montage on the one hand and those with a penchant for the absurd on the other." On the former side is an Iranian title by Paris-based Iranian filmmaker Mehran Tamadon who asks acquaintances of his, that served time in Iranian prisons, to reconstruct their experiences in an empty warehouse; Jaii keh khoda nist (Where God Is Not) allows him to take a profound look at the workings of a repressive regime.
Another documentary title with MENA roots is Anqa by Helin Çelik, which tells the story of three Jordanian women who have barely survived the violence inflicted on them by men. Çelik films them from as up close as possible in their flats, which they barely leave, listening to them speak with the opaque logic of trauma. The film screens in the Forum section.
Algerian born filmmaker Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche also has a title in Forum, Le Gang des Bois du Temple (The Temple Woods Gang). In this international premiere the story goes: "Two neighbours, each as overwhelmed as the other: an ex-soldier grieves for his mother alone, while a family father leads his criminal gang into a heist with fatal consequences. French genre cinema in the desaturated colours of a banlieue façade."
Între revoluții (Between Revolutions / Intre revolutii) by Vlad Petri boasts Qatar's DFI as part of the financing and is a "semi-fictional correspondence between two women: one goes to Iran in 1979 to topple the Shah; the other experiences the onerous years of Ceaușescu’s Romania. Their biographies run in parallel via images of everyday life and videograms of revolution." The film is a world premiere in Forum.
Unutma Biçimleri (Forms of Forgetting) by Burak Çevik is a world premiere from Turkey, in Forum. The narrative feature deals with the following story: "Nesrin and Erdem talk about their relationship, which they don’t remember in exactly the same way. Çevik’s visually stunning essay uses their conversations to forge a pensive treatise on what it means to forget, where word and image play an equal role."
Borrowing a Family Album by the Egyptian filmmaker Tamer El Said is instead a world premiere in the Forum Expanded section. El Said "appropriates another family’s amateur footage to reclaim a memory of a lost sibling. The installation invites visitors to look for their own recollections in the same footage, creating an act of collective remembrance in the process," as the film's short synopsis states.
Desert Dreaming by Abdul Halik Azeez is a Sri Lankan title enjoying its European premiere in Forum Expanded. Still from it betray a visual creativity that has un intrigued and the short synopsis reads: "A collage film about Sri Lankan labor migration to the Middle East, using popular culture and anecdotal, intimate recollections by the filmmaker’s relatives to challenge monolithic narratives of personal history and middle-class Muslim upbringing."
Sahnehaye Estekhraj (Scenes of Extraction) by Sanaz Sohrabi is another title with roots in Iran and it world premieres in Forum Expanded. Sohrabi "creates an archival constellation from the still and moving images of the British Petroleum Archives, documenting the expansive colonial network behind the British geophysical expeditions that spanned across Iran in the early 20th century," as it reads on the Berlinale site.
Simia: Stratagem for Undestining by Assem Hendawi is an Egyptian title which will have its European premiere in the Forum Expanded section. Collectively, the works respond to the manifestation of Project Simiyaa, a fictitious artificial intelligence program that aims to create a planned economy and manage infrastructural commons across Africa and the Middle East. In SIMIA: Stratagem for Undestining, Assem Hendawi uses speculation as a method for worldmaking, setting the stage for other forms of becoming.
The Time That Separates Us (pictured in the header above) by Tehran born and Canada based artist Parastoo Anoushahpour was shot in Jordan and Palestine and is an essay film which takes inspiration from the Sodom and Gomorrah tale of Lot to examine questions of family, geography, and the fraught ownership of narratives. The film will have its European premiere in the Forum Expanded program.
Screening 2 out of its 8 episodes in the Series program at this year's Berlinale is the Zoya Akhtar conceived Dahaad (Roar). The Indian series is by Reema Kagti, with Zoya Akhtar (Creator), Reema Kagti (Showrunner), Reema Kagti, Ruchika Oberoi (Directors) | and stars Sonakshi Sinha,Vijay Varma, Gulshan Devaiah, Sohum Shah. The synopsis reads: "Women are disappearing without a trace in Rajasthan and nobody seems surprised. But police officer Anjali Bhaati notices a similarity in the cases: long nightly phone calls and a boyfriend that no one in the neighbourhood has ever seen."
For more titles, check out the Berlinale website.
Top image by © Parastoo Anoushahpour, used with permission of the Berlinale