My Virtual Berlinale – 2015


Two dozen from the 65th Berlin International Film Festival (with a focus on Forum and NATIVe).

Many excellent films screening at Berlinale aren’t included here, but these 24 stand out from my idiosyncratic perspective, looking for under-reported movies. With luck, many will receive theatrical release in New York.

UPDATE: Award winners included Balikbayan #1, Il gesto delle mani, and Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir. The Hollywood trades reviewed Eco de la Montaña, Hotline, Koza, La maldad, Las Niñas Quispe, Rabo de Peixe, La sirène de Faso Fani, Violencia, and Yvy Maraey (either from Berlinale or previous festivals).

201511069_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Balikbayan #1 (Memories of Overdevelopment Redux)*
By Kidlat Tahimik, The Philippines
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Language is the key to the empire. Enrique is the slave of Ferdinand Magellan, who circumnavigated the globe. Aside from bathing Magellan every evening, Enrique also has to translate Filipino languages into Portuguese and Spanish. The film opens with a cardboard box containing film rolls being dug up from the ground”… [more at] [IMDb]

*Balikbayan #1 won the Caligari Film Prize.

201510896_3_IMG_FIX_700x700Bankilal (Eldest Brother)
By María Dolores Arias Martínez, Mexico 2014
“In his role as Bankilal (the older brother), Manuel Jiménez strives to reconcile the contrasting beliefs that surround him through vivid prayer and public involvement in the day-to-day activities of the community. This quiet observation illustrates the situation as contemporary lifestyle versus cultural permanence and shows how elders have adapted to syncretic forms of worship since the introduction of Catholicism”… [more at]

fc09mainDari Marusan
By Izumi Takahashi, Japan
(Forum – International Premiere)
“Dari works for an agency that tracks down missing pets, and is given the assignment of finding the parrot that Yoshikawa lost two years previously. She will have to figure out what her client has really lost and find her own dignity in the process”… [more at] [IMDb]

201507925_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Le dos rouge (Portrait of the Artist)
By Antoine Barraud, France
(Forum – International Premiere)
“In Le dos rouge, a famous filmmaker played by Bertrand Bonello searches for an image of the uncanny. An eccentric female art historian accompanies him through museums, where they examine and discuss numerous works of art. A metamorphosis gradually takes place, as red marks appear on the filmmaker’s back”… [more at] [IMDb]

MV5BMTgyNjUxMDI2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ5MTUzMTE@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Eco de la Montaña (Echo of the Mountain)
By Nicolás Echevarría, Mexico 2014
“Artist Santos Motoapohua de la Torre lives as isolated and forgotten as his Huichol village in Jalisco. His colourful work has catapulted him into the Western art scene, yet Santos does not let this world encroach on his people’s heritage”… [more at] [IMDb] [Variety review (Abu Dhabi)] [THR review (Cinema du Reel)] [film website]

Exotica, Erotica, Etc.
By Evangelia Kranioti, 201506545_1_IMG_FIX_700x700France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Alone among men on board gigantic freighters, the director travelled to 16 countries and lived with prostitutes in various harbour towns. From these experiences she has created a film whose impressive images and haunting soundtrack merge into a maritime symphony, a narrative of freedom, longing, love, and desire”… [more at]

Flotel_885796yFlotel Europa
By Vladimir Tomic, Denmark / Serbia
(Forum – World Premiere)
“When this film’s director was still a boy, he stood in front of “Flotel Europa“ and was hugely excited about the prospect of this gigantic ship moored in the port of Copenhagen becoming a new home for him, his mother and his older brother. Together with about 1000 other refugees from the former Yugoslavia, they started life anew on the ship.” [more at]

201505705_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Freie Zeiten (After Work)
By Janina Herhoffer, Germany
(Forum – World Premiere)
A girl band makes music. Women at a slimming course talk about successfully losing weight by controlling what they eat. Teenagers dance or go shopping. A role-play on conflicts at work is performed at a meeting of a men’s group. Other people do yoga, meditate to the sound of Tibetan singing bowls, limber up by babbling gibberish or run laps in a gymnasium”… [more at]

il_gesto_delle_mani_hand_gestures_locandina_berlinale2015Il gesto delle mani (Hand Gestures)*
By Francesco Clerici, Italy
(Forum – World Premiere)
“A bronze foundry in Milan. Hands that shape, knead, model, mix, repair, sand and polish. Work carried out on matter and fire, out of which the bronze figure of a dog by artist Velasco Vitali will ultimately emerge. The Fonderia Artistica Battaglia was founded in 1913 and is one of the oldest and most important artistic foundries in Italy. It produces bronze sculptures using lost-wax casting, a founding technique that dates back to the 4th century BC and is still done in much the same way today”… [more at] [IMDb]

*Il gesto delle mani won a Fipresci Jury Award and the Tagesspiegel Readers’ Jury Award.

10513606_detHamaca Paraguaya (Paraguayan Hammock)*
By Paz Encina, Argentina / France / Netherlands / Paraguay / Spain 2006
“Set in a remote Paraguayan village in the 1930s, Ramón and Cándida are an ageing couple of Guaraní peasants who are waiting for better times to come. They go about their daily chores, meeting at regular intervals at a clearing to sit in a hammock and talk about seemingly trivial things: the nuisance of a dog’s barking, the overwhelming heat, the rain which teases but doesn’t come”… [more at] [IMDb]

*Hamaca Paraguaya was released theatrically in New York in 2008.

By Silvina Landsmann, Israel / France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“The women from the Tel Aviv hotline for refugees and migrants work around the clock. They look after the rights of people without papers, give legal advice, go to government offices on their behalf and do public relations for their cause”… [more at] [THR review]

By Ivan Ostrochovský, Slovakia / Czech Republic
(Forum – World Premiere)
“They call him Koza, the goat. His best days as a boxer are behind him. Sometimes he re-watches the video of his fight at the 1996 Olympics. Now he needs money because his girlfriend is pregnant. That’s why he decides to return to the ring”… [more at] [IMDb] [THR review]

201510668_2_IMG_FIX_700x700Lo que lleva el río (Gone with the River)
By Mario Crespo, Venezuela, 2014
(NATIVe – World premiere)
“For Dauna, life on the Orinoco delta cultivated a strong curiosity for what lay beyond the river. Her natural talent for language and learning was always nurtured by her family and Father Julio. Tarcisio, her childhood sweetheart, also patiently supports her, but doesn’t know how to deal with social pressure in the Warao community. Dauna is sure of her love for Tarcisio but fears he will succumb to what tradition dictates, thwarting her ambition for academic development. The ever-present sepia river symbolises the divergence and convergence experienced throughout the story”… [more at] [IMDb]

201511054_1_IMG_543x305Madare ghalb atomi (Atom Heart Mother)
By Ali Ahmadzadeh, Iran
(Forum – World Premiere)
On their way back from a wild party, Arineh and Nobahar cause a car accident. A mysterious stranger by the name of Toofan offers to cover the costs. This won’t be the last time they’ll cross his path over the course of the night”… [more at] [IMDb]

7266749_300x300La maldad (Evilness)
By Joshua Gil, Mexico
(Forum – World Premiere)
“An old man in the country wants to make a film, the story of a whole life told across twelve songs, of a love lost and a family torn asunder, all guided by the logic of dreams. But even if the script is the best in the world, this film won’t be easy to make, as actors aren’t cheap and Mexico City holds the purse strings”… [more at] [THR review]

quispe girlsLas Niñas Quispe (The Quispe Girls)
By Sebastián Sepúlveda, Chile / France / Argentina 2013
“Secluded in the arid mountains of the Atacama Plateau, sisters Justa, Lucía, and Luciana are committed to their work as goat herders, but are also plagued by the isolation they suffer being the last of their kind. They repress their feelings and femininity in order to survive. The news that Pinochet has given an official order to prohibit herding in their region becomes the turning point in their quiet struggle to preserve their way of living. The imminent threat of the authorities coming to alter their whole existence is unbearable for the sisters, and all options seem bleak”… [more at] [IMDb] [Variety review (Venice)] [THR review (Venice)]

201506034_1La nuit et l’enfant (The Night and the Kid)
By David Yon, France, Qatar
(Forum – World Premiere)
“A child throws stones at the moon. They say the sun has gone and will only return when anxiety has disappeared. Until then, the stars are there to offer comfort. So the child counts the stars in the night’s endless expanse on the slopes of the Algerian Atlas mountains. Aness, the child, is the companion of Lamine, a young man on the run. Both are being pursued by nameless people carrying arms. Who are these criminals? Why must the two of them hide and sleep at night with weapons in their hands? Is the child merely a figment of Lamine’s imagination? A desire made flesh?”… [more at]

201510401_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Rabo de Peixe (Fish Tail)
By Joaquim Pinto, Nuno Leonel, Portugal
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Rabo de Peixe is a village in the Azores that is home to the largest collection of artisanal fisheries on the whole archipelago. Joaquim Pinto and Nuno Leonel first came here at the end of 1998 to see in the New Year. After befriending a young fisherman named Pedro, they decided to make a film with him over the following year, a TV documentary later tampered with by the broadcaster and shown only once. They have now edited the same material into something new, a tender essay rooted in friendship and fascination”… [more at]  [THR review]

SipOhi-El-lugar-del-ManduréSip’ohi – El lugar del Manduré (Sip’ohi – Manduré Place)
By Sebastián Lingiardi, Argentina 2011
“Gustavo Salvatierra returns home to Sip’ohi, in the impenetrable Chaco forest region in north-western Argentina, to capture Wichí culture and spirit through their ingrained tradition of storytelling. With great respect and from a certain distance, he approaches the bearers of local tradition – and listens. These tales and legends have an expressive strength that triggers the imagination far beyond the filmic imagery”… [more at] [IMDb]

ZONGO_Michel_2015_Faso_fani_00_ban_BerlinaleLa sirène de Faso Fani (The Siren of Faso Fani)
By Michel K. Zongo, Burkina Faso / France / Germany / Qatar
(Forum – World Premiere)
“After it was shut down in 2001, the Faso Fani textile factory in Koudougou, Burkina Faso’s third-largest city, was left to rot. It probably figures in the World Bank and IMF archives as one more piece of collateral damage, yet another write-off in a West African sideshow. Michel Zongo, who grew up in Koudougou, reopens the case of this legendary factory. He visits relatives and former employees, including his uncle, who once owned a much admired modern cult object thanks to Faso Fani: one of the first refrigerators in town. Zongo digs through radio and TV archives and pieces together the factory’s proud history, which produced so much more than just textiles”… [more at] [IMDb] [THR review]

Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir (Twenty-Eight Nights and A Poem)*
By Akram Zaatari, Lebanon / France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“The song ‘Fil bahr’ (At Sea) extols the moon in twenty-eight different ways before finally making its point about the fleeting nature of love at the end. Different variations on one and the same thing, each an original: 28 Nights and a Poem is an interpretation of the archive of the Sheherazade photo studio. Photographer Hashem el Madani opened the studio in 1953 in the Lebanese city of Saïda after spending years photographing people in front of their shops, in public squares or at the beach to satisfy their wish to appear before the camera”[more at]

*Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir won a Special Mention for the Think:Film Award.

poster01_en_bigÜber die Jahre (Over the Years)
By Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria
(Forum – World Premiere)
“When we see nappies being packed in cellophane by hand, we already suspect it will all soon be over. Taking the demise of a textile factory in Austria’s Waldviertel region as its starting point, with the antiquated manufacturing plant initially shown in full operation, this film poses the question of what work means for people’s self-image and character. After the factory goes bankrupt and closes, the filmmaker accompanies some of its employees as they continue to make their way, questioning them about their daily routines, the circumstances in which they live, about looking for work or the new jobs they find”… [more at]

201506680_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Violencia (Violence)
By Jorge Forero, Colombia / Mexico
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Cicadas and birdsong, a black screen, the jungle floor coming into view at the start of day. A leisurely tracking shot: roots, moss, a metal chain, a sleeping man shackled, hands clasped together, feet caked in mud. A silent captive whose captors’ faces remain unseen, a daily routine in the forest as helicopters rumble above. Pleasurable moans in a dark bedroom, a white curtain with black flowers that keeps out the morning light. A teenager making his way through the city, CV in hand, the camera his constant companion: bustling streets, bright colours, huge intersections, a skate park. But he only finds a job in the countryside”... [more at] [IMDb] [THR review]

MV5BMTQ4NzE3ODY2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQyNTY1OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Yvy Maraey (Land without Evil)*
By Juan Carlos Valdivia, Bolivia / Mexico / Norway 2013
“Andrés, a ‘karai’ or white man, has lost touch with his inner self and is going through a creative and spiritual crisis. He becomes obsessed with the existence of an uncorrupted and secluded Guaraní population, which might hold the answer he needs. Andrés hires Yari to guide him on a road trip deep into Guaraní lands in modern-day Bolivia, where the white man is the minority. Their journey is one of self-discovery and intercultural understanding.”… [more at] [IMDb] [THR review (VLAFF)]

*Yvy Maraey screened once at the King Juan Carlos I Center, New York University, on 3 May 2014.