Berlinale 2018 was one of my first highlights of the year. There’s nothing more satisfying and rewarding than getting lost in another world, and there’s no better time to get lost than during the annual Berlin International Film Festival. As one of the great masters of cinema put it:

Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.

Ingmar Bergman
(As quoted in EV'RY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by John Berger, Sight and Sound, June 1991)

Despite all the discussions about its future direction and about its relevance among Europe’s three most important film festivals next to Cannes and Venice, despite the criticism about weak competition years and the festival’s exuberant program of more than 400 films, I’m still totally in love with the Berlinale. 

It’s a melting pot of the most diverse artistic visions and an endless pool of inspiration. I would argue that especially since it doesn’t focus on the biggest productions and mainstream cinema, there’s much more room for experimentation and new ideas. 

Like the winner of the Panorama Audience Award for Best Fiction Film 2018: Timur Bekmambetov’s PROFILE – a movie that the online magazine IndieWire described as “the best and most harrowing addition to the quickly growing sub-genre of movies that take place entirely within the space of a computer screen.” The movie is based on the true story of French undercover journalist Anna Erelle’s investigation into the recruitment of young women by ISIS and her book IN THE SKIN OF A JIHADIST. It’s a gripping thriller that probably makes an even bigger impact when watched at home on a laptop. Observing pretty much in real time how the main character Amy makes contact with Bilel, and how she tries to switch between programs and identities without losing herself creates “a terrifyingly immediate sensation, and one that points to a new kind of interactive storytelling.”

Another good example for a typical Berlinale surprise is the controversial winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film: TOUCH ME NOT by Romanian director Adina Pintilie. How the German film critics came up with the idea that they’ve seen a shocking sex documentary, a sexperimental film or a lousy art porn movie is beyond my understanding. One can argue if TOUCH ME NOT is a worthy winner of the festival’s main prize but what it is for sure is a daring and thought-provoking film about intimacy. Blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, Pintilie’s first feature challenges audiences to reassess what is and isn’t attractive and how we perceive beauty. 

 

We wanted to award prizes not just for what cinema can do and where it is, but where it could go in the future.

Tom Tykwer
President of the International Jury - 68th Berlinale International Film Festival

 

Other personal highlights were ÁGA (a melancholic but beautifully filmed story about an isolated Inuit couple), TWARZ (a blackhearted fable about consumerism, Catholicism, bigotry, and parochialism in small-town Poland), LA ENFERMEDAD DEL DOMINGO (a superbly crafted and emotionally punchy mother-daughter drama), LEMONADE (a film about the hostility of the U.S. immigration system towards an unprotected Romanian woman) and JOURNAL DE MA TÊTE (one part of a series of four films, commissioned by Swiss TV, inspired by real criminal cases).

Here is a list of all the movies I had the opportunity to see during this year’s Berlinale. Go ahead and watch any of them if you got the chance. Maybe you’ll find your own personal gem…

 

COMPETITION

ÁGA (Out of Competition)
by Milko Lazarov (Bulgaria / Germany / France)

BLACK 47 (Out of Competition)
by Lance Daly (Ireland / Luxembourg)

DAMSEL
by David & Nathan Zellner (USA)

DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
by Gus van Sant (USA)

DOVLATOV – Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution
by Alexey German Jr. (Russian Federation / Poland / Serbia)

EVA
by Benoit Jacquot (France / Belgium)

IN DEN GÄNGEN / IN THE AISLESPrize of the Ecumenical Jury & Guild Film Prize
by Thomas Stuber (Germany)

KHOOK / PIG
by Mani Haghighi (Iran)

LA PRIÈRE / THE PRAYER – Silver Bear for Best Actor
by Cédric Kahn (France)

TOUCH ME NOTGolden Bear for Best Film
by Adina Pintilie (Romania / Germany / Czech Republic / Bulgaria / France)

TWARZ / MUGSilver Bear Grand Jury Prize
by Malgorzata Szumowska (Poland)

PANORAMA

HOJOOM / INVASION
by Shahram Mokri (Iran)

HORIZONTI / HORIZONS
by Tinatin Kajrishvili (Georgia / Sweden)

INKAN, GONGKAN, SIKAN GRIGO INKAN / HUMAN, SPACE, TIME AND HUMAN
by Kim Ki-Duk (Korea)

LA ENFERMEDAD DEL DOMINGO / SUNDAY’S ILLNESS
by Ramón Salazar (Spain)

LEMONADE
by Ioana Uricaru (Romania / Canada / Germany / Sweden)

MALAMBO, EL HOMBRE BUENO / MALAMBO, THE GOOD MAN
by Santiago Loza (Argentina)

ONDES DE CHOC: JOURNALE DE MA TÊTE / SHOCK WAVES: DIARY OF MY MIND
by Ursula Meier (Switzerland)

PROFILEPanorama Audience Award: Best Fiction Film
by Timur Bekmambetov (USA / United Kingdom / Cyprus / Russian Federation)

YARDIE
by Idris Elba (UK)

P.S.: If your appetite is whet, if you already sense the infamous Berlinale fever coming, you should mark the following dates in red: The 69th Berlinale will be held from 7th to 17th February 2019. Save the Date!

More information and updates on next year’s edition on berlinale.de.

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