Film

Woman-centric Berlinale line-up includes a couple of gems from the Region

While the programme just announced for Competition films and Berlinale Special feature many women's stories, and tons of Diva-power, the selection of MENA titles includes just a few choice titles.
Woman-centric Berlinale line-up includes a couple of gems from the Region

Berlinale Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian beautifully said, in his introduction to the 2022 edition of the festival, "if films claim and aspire to depict human beings and the world in which they live, they must address a community, an audience, and not a collection of users each with their own login." In his short statement, the reason why the festival will take place in real life is obvious. A festival, he goes on to point out, should act "as the guardian of a space that is at risk of disappearing. Seeing a film in a theatre, being able to hear breathing, laughter or whispers next to you (even with correct social distancing), contributes in a vital way not only to the viewing pleasure, but also to strengthening the social function that cinema has, and must continue to have."

Berlinale Executive Director Mariette Rissenbeek explained the choices made in the programme: "This year, all of us who are shaping the Berlinale are particularly motivated. We want to create a platform for social issues. We want to give people a voice, we want to think about and discuss diversity, gender equality, sustainability and the promotion of young talent. These topics of social and ecological sustainability, which are enshrined in the UN’s 2030 Agenda and its #17goals, have always been close to our hearts. They are of great importance to the Berlinale and to audiences: they form the basis for our work and for the festival’s impact, both in this city and in the international film scene."

This edition of the Berlinale will feature more women filmmakers and women-centric stories than ever before. And that's saying a lot from a festival always at the forefront of the movement to create equality in cinema. But also, there will be loads of Divas present in the oeuvres presented, from Juliette Binoche, who stars in Claire Denis' Avec amour et acharnement (Both Sides of the Blade), to Sigourney Weaver, featured in Phyllis Nagy's Call Jane, from Valeria Bruni Tedeschi in Ursula Meier's La ligne (The Line), to Charlotte Gainsbourg starring in Les passagers de la nuit (The Passengers of the Night) by Mikhaël Hers, which also features Emmanuelle Béart. The list goes on and on, with Isabelle Adjani, Hanna Schygulla, Isabelle Huppert, Emma Thompson and more.

As far as titles from the MENA and SWANA region, there are a few choice titles, including those already announced in the Panorama and Generation sections.

In Competition, I guess we could stretch the envelope and claim ownership of the themes behind Rabiye Kurnaz gegen George W. Bush (Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush) by Andreas Dresen, which tells the story of Murat Kurnaz, a Turk born and raised in Germany, who is arrested during a routine check while in Pakistan and, suspected of being a terrorist, ends up in the notorious U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo in early 2002.

And of course, documentarian Rithy Panh is an honorary Qatari by now, as he's mentored many documentary labs for the Doha Film Institute and continues to inspired generations of great future filmmakers with his work in the Region. His latest documentary Everything Will Be Ok will world premiere in Competition at the Berlinale.

In the Encounters section, a cool sounding project is the documentary À vendredi, Robinson (See You Friday, Robinson, pictured in the header above) by Mitra Farahani, set around a conversation between legendary filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Ebrahim Golestan. The film's summary says it all:

"We should start with a correspondence, maybe we will not correspond to one another. Ebrahim can send me a letter this Friday, and I'll answer him next Friday. So, see you Friday, Robinson!" And so, Jean-Luc Godard stages himself in his daily thought, wisely desperate, and sends images and words from Switzerland to the other side of the Channel. In his mansion in Sussex, Ebrahim Golestan tries to decode these UFO-messages and skilfully seeks to bring them back to the appearance of reason. And so on, until the day a veil falls over the two Gods on the run. Does the existence of poets still have any meaning in these times of distress?"

Law Wallner and Melina Benli in 'Sonne'

Also in Encounters is Iraqi-born Kurdwin Ayub's Sonne, which has an intriguing description as well:

"Three teenage girls from Vienna twerk in hijab and sing a pop song. A YouTube video of it makes them famous overnight, especially among Kurdish Muslims. Yesmin, the only one of the friends who is Kurdish herself, begins to distance herself more and more from her culture. Nati and Bella, on the other hand, seem fascinated by a world that is strange to them. When the girls meet two young Kurdish patriots, the situation threatens to escalate. A film about young people caught between social media and self-discovery, a story of rebellious young women."

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi with Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn is part of the Berlinale Special Gala films programme, while Israeli filmmaker Ran Tal's documentary 1341 Framim Mehamatzlema Shel Micha Bar-Am (1341 Frames of Love and War) world premieres in the Berlinale Special section.

In the Panorama programme, which was announced on January 18th, Cem Kaya's Aşk, Mark ve Ölüm (Love, Deutschmarks and Death) is a "dense documentary essay celebrates 60 years of Turkish music in Germany. An alternative post-war history that is at the same time a musical Who’s Who – from Yüksel Özkasap to Derdiyoklar and Muhabbet," as the Berlinale write up mentions.

Of course, there is Ali Asgari's Until Tomorrow, which we chatted with the filmmaker about here on MIME.

Baqyt (Happiness) by Askar Uzabayev from Kazakhstan, has the following description, "For her job as an influencer, she wears orange and a broad smile. The “Happiness” brand is her doctrine, but her home is a dark place where brute force has ruled for years. This film shows us what it costs to escape the trap of misogyny."

Concerned Citizen by Idan Haguel and featuring Ariel Wolf and Shlomi Bertonov is an Israeli narrative: "Ben and Raz are painstakingly pursuing their desire to have a child, and the migrant neighbourhood where this gay couple has set up their new flat is on the up. But a conflict over a newly planted tree in the city brings deep-seated prejudices to light."

Produkty 24 (Convenience Store) by Michael Borodin and featuring Zukhara Sanzysbay, Lyudmila Vasilyeva, Tolibzhon Suleimanov and Nargiz Abdullaeva is the story of "a supermarket in a Moscow suburb is the heart of darkness for the Uzbek “employees” who work there around the clock and are threatened, abused and imprisoned. Mukhabbat escapes and reveals the vicious circle of modern slavery. A truly surreal real-life trip."

In the Berlinale Series Market, there is a Keshet 12 series directed by Oded Raz titled Kfulim S3 (False Flag S3) which deals with what happens "following a chemical attack at a party for an Israeli high-tech company in Cyprus, Eitan Koppel flies in to investigate. Sophisticated software quickly identifies three suspects who all have something to hide, but can the data be trusted?"

And finally, as part of the Berlinale Talents, which this year turns 20 and is the Berlinale’s multidisciplinary talent initiative, that has grown to nearly 10,000 alumni and has actively shaped the industry with this community of thirteen film trades. This year, from 12 to 17 February 2022, a new cohort of 200 Talents from over 70 countries joins the fold: connecting them digitally worldwide, we count on them to broaden our horizons and to inspire the wider film community.

In the line-up for this edition is a meeting of the minds that sees Iranian documentary filmmaker Mina Keshavarz, whose film Silent Scream is worthy of our attention, participate alongside Rand Abdul Nour, a Jordanian production designer and artist, and an outspoken advocate against gender-based violence in the Arab World.

For the Berlinale full programme and all info check out their website.

Header photo by © Écran noir productions, used with permission.

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